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Monday, June 17, 2013

AFTER EARTH REVIEW


About The Movie:

A crash landing leaves teenager Kitai Raige (Jaden Smith) and his legendary father Cypher (Will Smith) stranded on Earth, 1,000 years after cataclysmic events forced humanity’s escape. With Cypher critically injured, Kitai must embark on a perilous journey to signal for help, facing uncharted terrain, evolved animal species that now rule the planet, and an unstoppable alien creature that escaped during the crash. Father and son must learn to work together and trust one another if they want any chance of returning home.

What Is Good/Bad About The Movie:

Despite the inclusion of fan-favorite Will Smith, this is Kitai’s story (and Jaden Smith’s movie), pushing the father-figure out of the action spotlight into a subdued support role, left as little more than an onlooker as his son faces one dangerous situation after another. For that reason, the plot point could be a disappointment to viewers hoping to see Smith take center stage, battling evolved Earth animals and alien creatures. Still, his incapacitation has been an essential aspect of the After Earth story from day one, given that the story has always centered on a reluctant son who must overcome his fears to save his father.

Fortunately, Jaden (The Karate Kid) is competent in the role of Kitai – in spite of some awkward voice-over exposition and a few scenes where it’s clear the young actor is still finding his footing. Considering that much of the movie follows Kitai alone in the wilderness, battling CGI creatures, and talking to an off-camera Cypher through a video screen in his suit, Jaden handles the challenges well-enough to ensure that key action scenes are exciting and emotional moments deliver some cathartic payoff.

Smith, on the other hand locks away his whit and charm, dusting off his grim Seven Pounds and I Am Legend demeanor, to play the fearless (and seemingly emotionless) Cypher. The performance is fitting for the film’s subject matter and world but, coupled with his subdued role, the lack of magnetism and trademark one-liners is sure to be a sticking point for fans that were expecting to see a new “Will Smith movie.” Instead, like Jaden, Will has to sell the performance in solo scenes instead of sharing exchanges with another performer – further complicated by the hurdle of being stuck in one place for most of the runtime. Ultimately, a few of Will’s scenes are forced and melodramatic, but overall, the character (and the actor) present worthwhile contributions to the larger After Earth story – elevating what could have been a bland exposition machine or sound board for Kitai into a empathetic and effective addition.

Even though Will handed leading-man duties to younger and nimbler Jaden this round, adrenaline junkies will likely be underwhelmed by the amount of large-scale action in After Earth. There are a number of cool CGI sequences and genuinely tense encounters but most of the Kitai versus nature fights are very brief, relying heavily on one or two slow-motion shots to sell each sequence. Similarly, the camera work in a few of the more high-energy scenes is too frantic to fully appreciate the actual threats that Kitai encounters – especially since, despite Cypher’s numerous warnings, the film never really depicts an interesting example of how the Earth creatures have evolved. Unless by “evolved” Shyamalan just means “bigger” and “angrier.”

Overall Grade: B-

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