It’s seems like every month there is a new television show, book, or movie that involves pitting man against the elements. In an already exhausted supply, the entertainment world continues to try and rope the public in to view another take on this tried and true tale of self-discovery. This weekend, Hollywood brings Will Smith and his rising star son Jaden Smith into the world in another attempt to entertain and amaze us with modern day technology. Yes my friends, my review is on M. Night Shyamalan’s latest directed work, After Earth.
I’ll admit I was a bit excited when I saw Mr. Smith senior starring in another movie, but I had my doubts with the director after some of the recent disasters he has made. Still I trekked on thinking I was in for an action packed treat, where father and son tackle a long forgotten world that has renewed itself after once again being destroyed by humans, apparently we really suck in the future. Well I got about half of what I expected in this movie. The action is okay, with many of the stunts being nothing more than Jaden running through the woods as he is chased by some computer image animal designed to kill anything it sees. While it is impressive at how fit Jaden is, I wanted something more. Luckily the team had a few more tricks up their sleeves. The air suit scene where he fights the hawk had some rather impressive visuals, and the few times he uses his sword, other than just drawing the blade for show, started approaching what I expected going in. The real fight though came at the end of the movie, which although still not as adrenaline fueled as I would like, wasn’t half bad. Action fans like me though should lower your expectations before coming into this movie, or you might be disappointed.
Okay so the action isn’t quite up to speed, surely Will Smith though has some drive in the movie right? My answer to that question is kind of. Will Smith still has his acting down, and continues to show off his rugged, fearless, quality that he portrays in countless pictures. Yet in this movie he sort of takes a back seat, merely sitting in a ship and giving orders to his fear filled son. While his acting is still top notch, the character isn’t as memorable or impressive as those we have seen in the past. In fact if it wasn’t for a flashback, you wouldn’t have seen Will do much of anything but get orders and reminisce. Jaden on the other hand is really starting to rise into his father’s role. Although not as funny, or entertaining for me, he didn’t do a bad job playing the action role. He definitely captured the emotions and gestures of a boy bridging the gap from frightened child to young adult, and definitely had chemistry when it came to arguing with his dad. However, the way he delivered most of his lines made me think he had a cold, and the fact they made his character incredibly whiny didn’t help either. There are many times in this movie where we see Jaden’s character make the same arguments and cries, which started pushing my annoyance buttons about halfway through the movie.
Speaking of repetition let’s talk about the story the Smith’s have presented us. While it definitely isn’t the most original, the story isn’t half bad. After Earth has strong emphasis on duty, responsibility, facing your fears, and cherishing the sacred treasures of family. The presentation is solid in most of the dialog, especially when it comes to the arguments between father and son. Combine this with the orchestra soundtrack and you further bring out the emotions that tug at your heart strings and strike some things deep down. Yet the flashbacks the two have are repetitive, often being the same scene playing over and over again with small tidbits added. I would say that kept the story going, but the fact you figure out the endpoint of these memories within the first two, just make this repetition rather pointless. I would have rather seen more memories of the father interacting with his son, and seeing how the emotional tension built up over the years after the incident occurs. Despite this though the present day story has some drive to it, but the fact that the memories result in the same emotional outbursts again leads to endless repetition that gets boring. Fortunately there are still some scenes that are entertaining, fun, and actually worth watching the movie. As a warning though, there are a lot of sad parts that although are very moving, also are depressing and rather frequent to keep you in a somber mood.
My final thing to talk about is the world of After Earth. Once again I’m impressed with how far computer animation has progressed in the last twenty years. The evolved monsters of the savage planet are incredibly detailed, with a primal nature embedded in their movements, savage snarling, and realistic growls. The animators certainly studied up on how their modern day counterparts act. From the curiosity of the monkey, to the doting protection of a mother bird, all of these behaviors are brought to life on the screen. However, for those thinking of bringing younger audience members, I warn you there is some rather graphic displays in this movie that might scare them if you are not careful. The animals weren’t the only impressive part though as the flora of Earth was cool too. Watching the leaves react to the fluctuating temperatures was impressive, and seeing the transition of the temperate forest into a winter wonderland was awesome as well.
My final verdict is After Earth is okay, but I expected a lot more from what the trailers promised. The chemistry between the father and son is rather good, and the message it delivers is very inspiring and something many can take the heart. However, it just doesn’t have enough gusto to make up for some of the rather slow parts and repetitive plot elements Shyamalan throws at us. Throw in the fact that the action is only okay, well you get a movie that is fun to watch via Redbox or Netflix. For those who really want to see an impressive world though, I strongly encourage you going to see what they have done in this film. Those who also want to see the passing of the torch from Will to Jaden should also check this out as well in theaters. My scores are the following:
Movie Overall: 6.0