Movies/Entertainment,  Reviews

G-S-T Review…After Earth

AfterEarth_BannerI remember sitting the a crowded ballroom during the 2012 San Diego Comic-Con and listening to the panelists talk at length about the effort they put into the history of After Earth. They even went so far as describing a “bible” they created, so that they could put down any answers to various questions of who did what and why. Some 1,000 years into the future is when After Earth begins, where an elite military force known as the Rangers are the trailblazers after we left Earth. Ravaged, the planet was no longer inhabitable by our self-destructing human race so we fled and found a new planet to live on. Trouble was, that planet was already inhabited by a species that didn’t take kindly to us. That’s pretty much the information we get. Throughout. We learn a little bit more about Cypher Raige (Will Smith) and what “ghosting” means, but beyond that we learn very little about this new world.

As I watched, I kept thinking, “why create a bible for what can be contained in a paragraph or two?”. They also downplayed how much influence writer/director M. Night Shyamalan had on the project, and After Earth_Theatricalconsidering the loud boos that rained down when it was revealed to the audience at Comic-Con that he would be co-writing and directing this film, it seemed to be a smart play. However, the film simply can’t escape Shyamalan’s fall from grace. For a while, Shyamalan had a Midas touch of sorts. He had come from nowhere and given us The Sixth Sense and followed it with Signs. But audiences cried foul after The Village (a personal favorite of his films), and it snowballed from there.

With a story idea originally pitched by Will Smith to screenwriter Gary Whitta, a film was born. Yet, I can’t help but feel most of the enormous effort those panelists described were all for naught. The fruits of their labor have resulted in a film that is stilted, overly serious, and at times even boring. There’s also an obvious lack of other characters in the film. Here, we rely almost solely on young Jaden Smith, who has been a rising star in cinema. He plays Cypher’s son, Kitai, who dreams of becoming a Ranger like his father. When they crash land on Earth, Kitai gets that chance to prove his worth while his father is made immobile by his injuries and must rely on his son to save them both by sending out for help some 100 kilometers away.

After Earth_Jaden Smith

Standing in Kitai’s way is a world that has evolved to kill humans. Though, how it evolved to kill us without us being there is just one of the many head-scratchers. A lot of the planet doesn’t even seem to have changed. There are some large tree-climbing cats, and dramatic changes in weather, but overall things seem pretty normal, just significantly less human-centric. Then there’s something called Ursa (still don’t know why it’s called that). This creature is what had been battling the colonists in the new planet we populated and it’s ferocious. Set loose, the thing is a looming bad omen on Kitai’s journey to retrieve the device that can save them. Naturally, we are given a big showdown as well.

After Earth_Will Smith

There are moments of awe within After Earth. The buildings the colonists use on the new planet are stunning. What purpose they serve, I don’t know. There’s also some neat fabrics that Kitai wears which reacts to motion and attempts to camouflage the wearer. Even some of the technology, including a scroll-looking device that can extend into numerous blades, are fascinating. Yet, far too often, they are treated as background. That would be fine if the story it focused on instead was more compelling.


Unfortunately, when you insert the father-son dynamic we have in After Earth, and strangle the focus to just Kitai trying to prove himself to his father throughout, we are given a film that rarely has fun and instead becomes dire and bland. The rolling score and beautiful cinematography can only do so much. In the end, I can help but feel that if After Earth is the future, I’m glad I live in the present.



  • Steve

    You left out ‘Unbreakable’ from M. Night’s list – which I would consider to be his real triumph at the helm. Regardless, I too found it funny how much they downplayed M. Night’s role in this film – I don’t recall ever seeing “From the Director of Signs” in the TV spots. Have to wonder how he got this gig in the first place – I doubt he’d suffer the humiliation of taking a pay cut.

    • cablebfg

      Ah, Unbreakable! I forever forget to include that film in his list of triumphs.

      Also, he was approached very early on by Will Smith, who was supposed to make a movie with him in the past that never materialized. Shyamalan even set aside something in pre-production to focus on this film.

  • RidgeRacer4

    I have to say it wasn’t what I was expecting but while it was kind of slow and dragged in parts there’s a little more to take away now that I’ve had a few days to ponder it. The beginning narration was a little to unnecessary, it could have been edited a lot better and the whole thing played out like a live action video game but it had its moments. It’s more of a kids adventure movie than anything else but still might be too slow for them to think much of it.

    Also it’s a pity we only got a glimpse of this kind of intriguing, kind of unique future. But the whole organic tech is kind of cool after you got used to it and kind of brilliant as opposed to yet another ultra sleek, metallic future.

    It certainly isn’t an M. Night movie, one of the handful of reasons they downplayed him in the advertising. I get the feeling it was more of a director for hire gig than something he really wanted to make. It’s also an adventure movie that kids might enjoy. I’d actually see it again even with its hefty share of problems.