After Earth $$
Starring: Will Smith, Jaden Smith, and Sophie Okonedo.
Director: M. Night Shyamalan.
Science Fiction. Fiction that is based on, or built around, scientific principles. Of all the genres this one suffers the most from stories that have too much fiction and not enough science. The suspension of disbelief in science-fiction does not tolerate logic flaws very well.
Let me give you an example based on the old saying that you don’t bring a knife to a gun fight. In a story set more than a thousand years in the future, why would humans elect to fight monsters with swords? Why wouldn’t they continue to develop ranged weapons with even greater destructive capabilities? Well, the science of it says that mankind would do exactly that.
The list of scientific offenses was pretty long for this film. However, I think I have said enough about that already. While annoying, I don’t feel that this is what doomed the movie; more about that later in the review.
Humans polluted the Earth and left to find another place to live. In the process they ran into an alien species who have resorted to dropping monsters on the planet in order to hunt the relocated Earthmen. These monsters sense fear and the humans have developed Ranger training that dampens fear and makes the “Rangers” invisible to the monsters.
Kitai (Jaden Smith) is the son of legendary Ranger Cypher Raige (Will Smith). After Kitai fails to qualify for Ranger training, Cypher decides to take his son along with him on an inter-planetary trip. The ship runs into trouble amid an asteroid field and crashes on a nearby planet.
As it turns out, the planet is Earth. The pollution is gone, but all life forms now have an instinctive drive to kill humans and the entire planet freezes over each night. In order to be rescued Kitai has to travel to where the second half of the ship crashed and launch a beacon that will bring help.
And . . . they had one of the monsters on the ship which is now loose on Earth and ready to tear apart any humans that it runs across.
Since Mr. Shyamalan is responsible for both the directing and part of the writing, the failure of this movie rests squarely on his shoulders. The story is not believable and there are a lot of poor choices made in the direction of the film. Will Smith, in his attempt to give us a man without fear has instead given us a man without emotion and consequently a man without any interesting features. Jaden Smith may turn out to be a fine actor, but he lacks the experience that is needed for a lead role. The combination of an inexperienced lead and an emotionally restrained veteran actor leaves us without any chemistry that makes us care what happens to either of the characters.
On the positive side, the landscape was beautiful. I really enjoyed the panoramic views that were part of this film. And the special Ranger sword was pretty cool. Too bad there weren’t more scenes of Rangers whipping one around in a weaving wall of death.
I struggled with the rating I should give this film. The friend who saw the movie with me threatened to leave me to watch future movies by myself if I gave it a rating higher than one Movie Buck. I’m going to give it two MBs simply because I think it is worth seeing on the big screen. Although, there is a strong argument for not seeing the movie at all.
Randy’s Rating System
$$$$ = Full Price See this movie right away and pay full price, it’s worth it.
$$$ = Matinee Catch this as a matinee or other discounted showing.
$$ = Discount Wait until this movie reaches a discount theater near you.
$ = Rental Wait until this movie reaches your local video rental outlet.
0 = No Sale Don’t see this movie at any price.