This is a guest post by my husband, AKA Mr. Whalen. He attended a preview screening (his ticket was provided for free) of After Earth this week and shares his review below. I’m excited to have him blog, so please show him some love. 🙂
After Earth is an entertaining movie, but misses the mark of pure adventure that the trailer projects for this summer block buster. Will Smith’s performance is entertaining and science fiction fans will enjoy the eye candy and beautifully detailed future world created by M. Night. Overall the film’s dramatic story and under developed themes detracts from the awe inspiring visuals and action sequences.
Should you take your kids?
No. M. Night did a nice job filling this adventure with suspense and tension and the traumatic backstory of Kitia is revisited again and again in increasingly graphic detail. The movie is at times is dark and terrifying. Even with parental guidance keep your children under the age of 13 at home.
After Earth Review
The Movie’s Premise:
After Earth shows us a not too distant future when humanity is faced with a growing number of natural disaster stock footage clips. To combat these disasters and save the planet the United Ranger Corps is formed, created out of the best and brightest of the nations of Earth. They must have come up short because next we see the Rangers loading everyone into spaceships and putting a condemned sign on the planet. The Rangers evolve into a organization of elite soldiers that protect the human race from aliens that are not worth hearing about. The greatest Ranger is the legendary and fearless Cypher Raige, played by Will Smith, who makes all other rangers weak at the knees.
While accompanied on a mission by his son, the Ranger in training Kitai, played by Jaden Smith, Kitai and Cypher are stranded on an Earth a thousand years after humanity left. It looks a lot like Oregon with a volcano and what I must assume are scarier versions of Oregon animals (I don’t know much about Oregon). They must work together to survive this ordeal.
Will Smith gives one of his best performances as an actor. He plays the commanding solider perfectly and is still able to convey his discomfort with being the parent of a struggling son who constantly seeks his attention and approval. He plays a supporting role to his son’s adventure but I was left wishing I could have seen a movie about Cypher Raige Space Ranger in the much more fascinating world of Nova Prime, where the movie begins.
What Didn’t Work
Jaden Smith’s portrayal of Kitia didn’t work on any level. While he is a solid young actor, he had too much going against him. His character is introduced as a brilliant ranger student with outstanding promise who needs to ‘get it together’ when working in the field. In almost every scene we see a whiny kid who doesn’t appear to have much of any training or common sense, hardly the model student the film suggests early on.
The film doesn’t explore how Kitia transforms from inept and whiny trainee to strong and capable soldier-it just happens. A better story might involve some demonstration of the challenge of survival and the difficulties that he faced in the field. How he learned and grew into his Ranger role is a mystery.
I suspect the reasons for this are has much the direction he was given by M. Night and the fact that he is just at an awkward stage of life- young teenager. If Jaden was cast in this role two years from now I expect he would be able to play a much more convincing Ranger cadet and with more depth and range.
The movie is about a uniquely talented and legendary figure and his son who shows equal promise in the same career. The son is having trouble living up to his father’s reputation, and is in his father’s shadow. This film was based on a story by Will Smith, and is something that likely grew out of his own relationship with his son. There was a possibility for a subtle metaphor for Will and Jaden’s own relationship in the film, but fear not M. Night Shyamalan still has his trademark gift for removing any subtlety from the narrative.
Three Things I Learned From This Movie:
1. Frost is super deadly but you can camp out by Lava.
2. In the future the anti-gun lobby wins and all projectile technology is abandoned. All our fighting is done with super knives!
3. The amount I enjoy a Will Smith performance is inversely proportional to the number of A’s he pronounces while saying the word “DAmn” in that movie. I am fairly certain he says “DAmn!” in every movie. In the event that he does not I can simply imagine that character saying the word “DAmn!” to judge how much I liked it. It is possible that he is simply learning to say “DAmn!” faster with each movie and progressively becoming a better actor. This concept merits further research.
Who Shouldn’t See This Movie
Small children or adults that are easily frightened. NRA members, Buzz Lightyear Space Ranger (he will be upset with the lack of lasers and helmets!), Geologists, Meteorologists, Biologists, physicists, really anyone with “ist” in their title and that lacks a really healthly suspension of disbelief.
Who Should See This Movie
Will Smith. I think he would really relate to it.
Disclosure: I received a complimentary ticket to the screening.