“Take A Knee, Kitai”
When going to the cinema you can usually rely on Will Smith as a pillar of quality when it comes to good films, where they may not all be groundbreaking they are always entertaining and suspenseful and The Fresh Prince always knows when humour is needed in a role to make the character likeable and early on in the production of After Earth where Will and Jaden reunite for another father/son movie after the momentous success of The Pursuit of Happyness that offered some of the most dramatic and heartbreaking scenes in modern cinema and tugged on your heartstrings every baby step of the way an onlooker could be easily fooled into believing (even though the content of After Earth is very different) that this was sure to be another quality outing for the pair… in short… It is not.
There are many reasons why M. Night Shyamalan’s After Earth fails to reignite his once promising career but after an interview I watched with Will Smith himself the major flaw with the film becomes clear, from early on in production Smith was looking to make After Earth something of a francise and having heard this before watching the film it was very easy to spot moments, icongraphy and quotes that could be splattered across t-shirts, mugs and posters as well as comic books and tv spin-offs. Instead of making a genuinely respectful film that was good (which, with the budget and cast it had it could have surely achieved) After Earth decided to take itself very seriously and aimed for… well, that’s not quite clear, most big budgets just want to dominate the box office as a primary objective… Smith and Shyamalan on the other hand look as if they have their sights set firmly on reinventing/taking over the whole sci-fi genre that many may regard Star Wars or perhaps the Alien francise to hold the throne to, because of this it becomes painful to watch.
It is true every film needs it’s iconic moments and phrases, The Dark Knight had ‘why so serious’, Star Wars has ‘may the force be with you’, Harry Potter has numerous words of wisdom peppered throughout the series and even The Hunger Games has that whistle thing that becomes as annoying as it is recognisable but After Earth seems to struggle when it comes to this and almost ends up feeling like the whole film was written around this one phrase gifted to Jaden by father Will’s character ‘Cypher’.
Where it is good and does feel a little epic in the trailer surrounded by marvellous CGI moments and Jaden Smith running round with a futuristic blade it feels sour knowing the wider plans the team behind the film had. Other iconography that therefore annoyed me were the human bodies left to rot on pointy trees (very similar in style to the Dead Island logo) and the stupid theme of blame put onto Jaden’s character through flashbacks because his sister got killed by one of these man-hunting aliens. The second one especially annoyed me seeing his character at the time his sister died was what? Surely no older than 4, what did his father want him to do? Against a huge alien, also there was more than enough room in the dome for his sister to hide in there with Kitai, she deserved to die for that movie flaw.
Why did this alien just kill humans and leave them on pointy branches of trees? Most aliens kill for a reason in film, I mean if they are sophisticated they kill in war like humans and therefore do nothing with the body but aliens like in the film which are more animalistic often just kill to eat or to feed their young… So, why kill them, then leave them on a tree pointlessly? This annoys me and I don’t even know why.
It’s more than fine to set out on production with the idea for a series of films, I like film series but the problem I have is that the first one always has to stand alone because if it does flop at least you kind of have an ending. After Earth does succeed here but it’s the way the film is constructed that you can just tell by there being so many pointless scenes that the trilogy was there, the trilogy and beyond. It was full of itself before it had even begun and Jaden Smith’s (as much as I feel he has the potential to be great in film) accent is just humiliating and hard to watch as is his acting throughout the majority of the film. Mistakes made from The Karate Kid could be looked over when he was much younger but now, three films on and his best performance still lays in The Pursuit of Happyness, which, strangely also signals somewhat of a downhill turn for Will’s film career with an onslaught of sequels on the horizon after this outing.
I won’t go into the plot-holes but the weirdest was why Will could breathe on earth but Jaden couldn’t and needed to take these inhaler things to stop himself from dying… I know it’s fantasy but come on… keep some stuff a bit water-tight yeah?
To put it lightly, the script has it’s legs broken even earlier than Will Smith does in the film. It takes itself way, way, way too seriously which wastes Will and even Jaden’s natural charisma and usually easy going screen presence. Will Smith recently said he turned Taratino’s Django Unchained down because he didn’t feel Django was he main character… then why did he do this? To push his son’s career perhaps? Whatever it was it was the wrong reason because even in Independence Day that is serious he isn’t afraid to push a little humour but in After Earth it is painfully horribly serious, something I’m not used to with Smith in a film so much so most of his lines are life-lessons to Kitai and end up feeling like a motivational seminar.
It’s bearable, just. For the kids they might think it’s exciting, if you are going thinking, like me, ‘Will Smith always does a decent film’, you will be disappointed. I decided to ignore reviews, but kind of wanted to go to see why it was bad… and I kind of want that 2 hours back.