After Earth is Property of Columbia Pictures.
Hello, Spongey here.
Well, it’s time once again to dive into he bowels of 2013 cinema, with a film that ended up on a lot of people’s worst of the year lists. And this one comes to us from director M Night Shyamalan.
Oh, poor M Night. Seriously, what the hell happened? Pretty much everyone has gone over his decline, so it’ll keep this brief. He wrote and directed the acclaim horror film “The Sixth Sense” and that was followed by the well reviewed Unbreakable. And the even more acclaimed alien film Signs.
These were all critcil hits, but then something. He started making crappy movies that took the style people praised in his earlier films, and showed he was kind of a one trick pony. The Village, Lady In the Water, The Happpening, and The Last Airbender, (The former two will be reviewed some other time
Because of how bad these movies were, M Night has become a laughing stock. Normally, this where I’d go “stop having fun guys” but he has shown to have a bit of an ego. Lady in the Water is proof of that, but again, another time. So I can’t defend the way I can Micheal Bay or Seth Macfarlane, though his good films have shown he has more talent than both of them.
Where am I going with this? Well, after the critical failure of TLA (which I reviewed last April), M Night didn’t do another movie for awhile. But finally in 2013, we found out about his next project. It was was yet another 2013 end of the world movie (Seriously, what was up with that?) and people were skeptical.
I was half and half. M Night hadn’t made a good film in awhile but I thought this looked like a decent Sci-Fi movie. Maybe it would FINALLY get his career back on track? Needless to say, I was wrong.
Boasting an 11 percent on Rotten Tomatoes, this was slammed by the Critics. I should be used to it by now but given how interested I was, this was disappointing. Plenty of the reviews made sense, but it did seem like they were picking on because of M Night, and that’s it. Then it started making tons of Worst lists.
It even topped Jeremy Jahns worst list, which had classics like Grown Ups 2 and Movie 43! Of course, said list didn’t have Getaway which automatically renders it invalid. Now, the interesting thing is that this is the first M Night directed movie where he wasn’t the only writer!
That’s right. The other right is Gary Whitta, whose only notable script credit is the Book of eli. I think we should blame him as this seems very M Night, from the premise. ANYWAY, with that intro out of the way, let’s just dig in.
Is this movie as bad as everyone says it is? Something tells me no, but let’s find out.
This, is After Earth
The movie opens with a dead looking Jaden Smith narrating to us. He tells us that we trashed Earth up so much that we had to leave. Man, between WALL-E, Oblivion, Astro Boy, and now this, we REALLY suck at taking care of the planet.
Which isn’t too different from real life.
We settled on a new planet called Nova Prime. But then we bumped into some aliens who wanted that planet and decided we were better off dead. The “Ursa”, as they call it, can smell fear but there was this one badass who had no fear. His name is Cypher Rage.
Cypher Rage. I can’t tell if that name is dumb or awesome.
So our real story begins on Nova Prime, after a good chunk of the Ursa’ were taken out by Cypher. We join our narrating hero, Kitai who I will just call Jaden. And yes, his Dad is Cypher, and he’s played by Will Smith.
I didn’t mention this in the intro cuz I was saving it for here. Yes, this is another “Will Smith is trying to make his kid a star” movie. Previous efforts include The Pursuit of Happyness (Which I’ve seen and it’s pretty good), and The Karate Kid, which I haven’t seen but i’ve heard is good).
This movie actually came from the mind of Will and M Night just took up the writing and directing job. So the real reason people mock it is that Will and Jaden are punching bags. I’ve only seen Jaden in POH and he was fine, for his first role.
But here? Well, his narrating was pretty stiff. I mean, he’s talking about invading aliens. Put a little emotion into it!
But yeah, I don’t think it’s fair to mock Will and Jaden when many known actors/directors have put in their loved ones in film and no one bitched then. Either way, let’s get back to the movie.
Jaden goes home, as Will is returning after being gone for awhile. During dinner, Jaden tells Will that he wasn’t advanced to ranger in fighting school or whatever.
“You were not advanced to Ranger…”
“I was not advanced to ranger, Sir”
Actually Jaden, your acting was just so bad Will couldn’t understand you.
Will sides with the school,because he thinks Jaden isn’t ready.
“May I go my room sir?”
“DENIED, sit down!”
Whoa, someone just showed emotion in this movie!
That is quickly fixed, as Will tells his wife he will be announcing his retirement soon. Well, he’s a goner.
“I want my family back”
You can tell because I sound so emotional.
Okay, it’s a little early to to judge their performances but come on. I know Will’s character is supposed to cold and all that but No ear doesn’t equal bad acting! Besides, if you want a cold character, then don’t get an actor known for being charming and charismatic!
Though to be fair, I buy that he is an emotional less dude, which means he’s better than his son. We find out through exposition that Jaden’s sister was killed by an Ursa. and he blames himself for it. He’s all sad because the movie says so. M Night has become the master of exposition over emotion at this point.
“He does not need a commanding officer. He needs a father”
Okay, I like this idea. This could lead to a sweet father/son movie. But, it’s M Night so who knows.
With that, Will tells Jaden he can tag along to Will’s last voyage before retirement. Like I said, he’s a goner. So the next day, they get in their ship and head out.
During the long voyage, everyone goes to sleep but Jaden gets up and tries to open a door that has a “get out” sign. Why he so curious? I don’t know. Some dude catches him and after some banter, he lets him in. Why? He’s their commanding officers son which means….he can see stuff.
As it turns out, an Ursa is behind that door, taken for training. See, Will has been teaching the army how to use his elite “No fear” skills, known as Ghosting. So right on the spot, this dude tries to teach it to Jaden.
It doesn’t work. Will catches him and they all go back to their seats. After that, Will talks to the Captain of the ship because he thinks an asteroid shower may be coming.
“How often are you wrong?”
“My wife would give a very interesting answer to that question”
Okay, that was funny.
Naturally, he ends being right. Long story short, their shop is fucked up and they are forced to crash land on the now quarantined Earth. The only survivors are Jaden, because he was strapped in his seat, and Will because….he came up for the movie’s story.
But not even Will is perfect, as both of his legs are broken and quickly discovers that back of the ship is gone. Which is bad because that tail section has a beacon they need to contact some help.
Will figures out that the tail is over on earth. Now Jaden must go get by himself, since Will can’t get up. Okay, this entire set up is actually pretty interesting. This is just setting itself up for a complex, sweet father son, sci fi, action story!
…The twist is that it sucks, right?
Will warns Jaden that this newly evolved Earth is pretty deadly. Jaden hugs his father, in the first emotional scene in the movie. I REALLY hope it’s not the last.
So Jaden heads out, with Will on some thingy, so they can talk. Remember how I said Jaden’s sister died and all that? Well, we randomly get a flashback with her and Will. It’s pointless as it lasts a second before we move back to the present. It added nothing so….whatever.
One thing I will say is that the movie at least looks good. The scenery on Earth is pretty, and the effects are pretty solid. At least M Night has learned how to make movies LOOK good, even if his writing has taken a nose dive.
Anyway, Jaden gets in danger runs into wild, evil…baboons. …Really? That’s the best you could come up with? No Bear, tiger, or anything like that? That’s your big scary creature? Lame!
Either way, these baboons are pretty damn vicious as they chase Jaden. Eventually, he outruns them. He is then bitten by poisonous leech and tries to use some toxin thing to get the poison out.
He does so but he has to stay there for a bit while the anti-toxin does it’s job. This leads to the image the movie opened on, which I kind of mentioned. But Jaden wakes up later, perfectly fine.
“That is correct”
This is what they said when they watched the final film.
This is followed by another pointless flashback with the sister. I get that they want to show more or Will’s home life or whatever, but all it tells is that…he hung out with them, kind of.
Anyway, upon asking him how many breathing capsules he has left, Jaden lies to Will, not informing him that two of the capsules were damaged in his escape. I’m sure that pointless fact will be important later.
A bit later, Will tells Jaden the story, all about how, his life got flipped turned upside down, by an Ursa. Basically, Will almost drowned by one and during this whole thing, he realized something.
“Fear is not real. The only place that fear can exist in our thoughts of the future., It is a product of our imagination, causing us to fear things to do not, at present, or may not ever exist. Do not misunderstand me. Danger is very real. But fear is a choice.”
All jokes side, this scene is…not that bad. Actually, I kind of…like it, almost! It’s an interesting moment as we find out why Will is the way he is, and it provides us with an interesting theme to think about. It’s not quite as tender as it could be but it is interesting. Will’s actor works in his favor this time.
Seriously, this is the movie Honest Trailers quit on? They got through Grown Ups just fine, but this is the one that broke him?
Anyway, the next day, Will finds about those broken capsules. This actually impacts the plot, as Will asks him to abort the mission as there is no way he can get the tail with only two breathing thingys.
“No, Dad I can got it”
Only Jade can a make a simple line sound so forced. And his acting was improving up to this point!
“What was your mistake, trusting me?!”
Close. It was thinking you could act.
Then Jaden snaps, and blames Senshi’s (the sister) death on Will’s absence on the day of the attack Jaden was told to hide while she got attacked.
“She gave me an order. She said no matter what, don’t come out of that box. Was I supposed to go out and die?’
JOHNATHAN KENT: Maybe.
“I’m not a coward. You’re the coward”
Was he hiding a box? I don’t think so.
I’m overall mixed on this scene. On one hand, it does a bit of depth to this relationship and is part what I wanted out of this movie. On the other hand, Jaden’s acting didn’t exactly sell that scene and it’s…kind of cliché the more I think about it.
I mean, let’s go over it: He blames his never-there father for the death of someone when it was really no one’s fault. Strip away the Sci Fi thing and we get a pretty basic story there where the added elements aren’t there to help this speech.
It just makes the son come off as…kind of whiny. Sure, he has good reason to say this, to an extent, but it’s just the way it’s written that kind of kills it. But we’ll see what happens/
So Jaden jumps a waterfall with a glider thingy, hoping he can reach the other side of this gap. He gets attacked by a big ass bird and wakes up in it’s nest. Gee, that was a great idea, Jaden.
He quickly jumps out of the nest and hides in a cave. He’s lost communication with Will but he marches on as he calculates how long it will take him to get to the tail. We get a few minutes of Jaden walking until he gets on a raft and goes down a river.
Then he starts hallucinating that his sister is there and he talks to her. Cuz we need some way to get some forced emotion in there! Really, she just says some crap and Jaden wakes up. Pointless?
After that, it starts getting really cold, because that shit is happening in my movies. Jaden starts to freeze over-
“I WAS FROZEN TODAY!”
-sorry, I had to-
and it looks like he’s dead. This is where I would MOVIES OVER BYE but it’s not, sorry. Someone, or something, drags him away to safety. Who did that? The big ass bird, who built a thingy around him to keep him warm, and also it died in the cold.
….What the hell?! That’s the stupidest thing I’ve seen all day! I get that this is supposed to be a serious, sweet moment, and it would be….if this was a cartoon! But no, this is supposed to a serious movie!
I mean, Jaden is a bird’s nest for a few minute and flat out escapes, implying he didn’t like it there,and the bird SACRFICES it’s life for him because….I don’t know!
The whole bird’s nest thing is something I see in cartoons and kid’s shows all the time. What is it doing in this movie?
I guess at some level it almost works, but it’s so out of nowhere and stupid, that it just falls apart. But hey, I got a good laugh out of it. And it’s not the stupdiest thing to appear in a “serious” M Night movie.
Sorry, but Mark Walberg talking to plants and Penis hair, beat this out.
Back to the plot, Jaden conveniently finds the tail of the ship. He finds the homing beacon and uses it to contact Will. However, the beacon doesn’t work for contacting their planet because of some plot convenience shit.
So now Jaden must go to the peak of a mountain so he can fire the beacon. Hey, anything to pad this out for another 10 minutes. By the way, that Ursa from way earlier escaped and Jaden has to make sure it doesn’t get him.
“It has found you”
Oh shit, too late!
Short story shorter, Jaden ends up in a battle with the Ursa. The action in this scene is kind of decent, thanks to the music but the dark lighting kind of makes it hard to see at times. But eh, that’s nitpicking.
Then it gets funny again when the Ursa starts throwing Jaden around like a rag doll. With the power of the “clips from earlier playing in character’s head” cliché, Jaden is able to control his fear and finally “Ghost” himself from the Ursa. Yeah, I guess I could have done nitpicking earlier about how creatures like this can exist, but we’re almost done.
With that, he kills the Ursa and fires the beacon. Then literally after, a rescue team shows up to get Will. Jesus, that was quick! Were they looking for him this whole time, or are they just that fast? Neither really makes sense when you think about it!
Anyway, a bit later the two reunite at some medical place and we see that Will is alive and well. The two hug it out in a display of emotion from both sides. Yes, Will clearly shows emotion and he kind of smiles!
So yeah, the character changed, boom. Will lies back then, Jaden smiles again and their ship blasts off back to their home. Roll credits.
….I’m really not shocked by now. But really, this is just an empty ending. What’s the moral? I don’t know. How they did change? I don’t know. Is their perspective of Earth changed? I don’t know. Did this movie have a point? …Kind of.
Was there a twist? Nope! Looks like M Night is learning…very very slowly.
I guess I’ll start off with this comment: THIS is the movie that ended up on worst of the year lists?!
Overall, this was very….eh. Not good, not terrible…just…eh. It’s better than The Last Airbender but that’s a given. I don’t know, this was just a….”there” film. A movie that just kind of exits without being really awful or great. The same goes for Free Birds that that’s a review for another day.
I’m not sure what to say, really. I guess I’ll just say that this movie is mostly just disappointing. Like I said, I really like the themes and ideas present in this film. The theme of ear and whole it ties into the story sounds really cool.
This should have been an awesome father/son story but it….wasn’t. Where I did it go wrong? I have no idea. It’s not that they didn’t go through with these ideas. They…kind of did. Jaden learned how to control his fear and they go out fine, and they hugged.
So why does it still feel empty? I think I got it: It’s only half done. We get Jaden being fearless…but that’s it. Will didn’t seem to change much except now he if with his son more. I’m sure he kind of changed, but I don’t FEEL like he did.
Did Will learn that fearless shouldn’t equal emotion less? Did he learn all this stuff? Not really, it just kind of …ends. I don’t know, it just feels…empty. It’s like M Night had all these ideas but forgot to write in an actual ending for this story. It’s like if I took over the script, it’s that lazy!
But it’s still not bad, because at LEAST the ideas are there and we get a…tolerable experience out of it. The acting is a mixed bag. Will is hit or miss, but I feel he works because he sells his character without being too boring. Jaden…is another story.
Sometimes he’s…fine, but other times he just really sucks. He just isn’t ready for this kind of movie yet. I think picking actors more suited for this kind of film would have improved it. The story itself is …okay. Half of it is kind of fresh but the other half Is stale and predictable.
I think what happened is that they took a great, deep script and mixed it in with a really dull, lazy one. Neither one wins out, so the final film is there…there. I guess I almost liked it, because the good moments showed that it had a point to it, which is more than I can say for most of the crap I’ve watched.
There’s nothing about the script that veers into “awful “territory. The idea are interesting and while the story veers into generic fluff, it’s still better than the last few M Night films. There isn’t a ton more to say. On the bright side, it has some decent themes and scenes, and it’s rarely painful. But it rarely goes into “good”.
It’s mostly just dull, but not too boring. I’d say it’s…watchable-ish. It has enough substance to make me pay attention and even the bad parts are HILARIOUSLY bad. I think what we learned today is that M Night just isn’t ready for big movies. Stick to smaller scale stuff, dude.
His next movie (with Bruce Willis) is supposed to smaller so maybe it will be better. But as weak as this film is….it didn’t have a twist. Unless you count the fact that I wanted this movie to be awful and it wasn’t.
So yeah….how did this get an 11 percent again?
After that, I think i’ll do something more…badass next time. See ya!