After Earth (2013)
Here we have a father and son tale in which a simple “fishing trip” goes terribly awry. With the fantastical backdrop of taking place over a millennium into the future we get one of the purest turns into Sci-Fi from director M. Night Shyamalan. Of course, Mr. Shymalan is famous for his “unsuspecting” and intense plot turns and being less reliable for hitting one out of the park than Michael Jordan. With a story concept from will Smith, Shamalayn co-wrote and directed this Sci-Fi adventure, thriller After Earth.
The story supporting this flick is actually a very interesting one. Earth has been abandoned for centuries and the animals on it have since evolved into extremely dangerous creatures. Jaden Smith plays a young man training to become a Ranger and thus follow in the footsteps of his famous Ranger father, played by Will Smith; notice the subtle symbolism there!! They travel together, headed for training, and end up stranded on Earth. Obviously, danger ensues and what follows is a tale of trust, sacrifice and the rectification of a tenuous relationship between a father and a son as the son becomes a man. The science fiction elements in this film are one of the strongest elements it has going for it. A very logical world is established with the premise of the Ranger corps being an excellent spring-board for the main characters to jump from. However, what was set up in the movie lacked a certain depth to really show how immersive the setting could be. Once the characters find themselves stranded on the long forgotten earth, the action has a very effective pace. The threats present on the planet’s surface make for some consistent tension that lasts throughout the flick. There are also some dramatic and revealing moments between the father and son that lend to some exposition and depth to their characters; unfortunately, as strong as few of the story elements may be, the whole piece falls somewhat short of being an overwhelmingly enthralling tale.
It’s quite conspicuous going into this thing that we will be getting lots of Jaden Smith and Big-Willie-Style Will Smith which we absolutely get. The relationship between the two is almost palpable as if the connection there is real….oh, wait that’s right, they ARE related. It’s not as though the two don’t act well in the flick or, especially, against each other (STILL haven’t seen Pursuit of Happyness) but, as with the story, there seems to be something slightly off with them. And the accents they are attempting to pull off are completely indecipherable. It sounds like some sort of hybrid between a Bostonian accent, with a slant toward the Kennedy dialect, and an overly Southern accent. The acting choice of going there is brave to say the least but the result is not very effective and a little unsettling. Though the main focus of the film centers around the Smiths’ characters, there is a non Smith relation whose performance is worth high commendation. Zoë Kravitz plays Senshi, Jaden’s character’s sister, and gives it an inexplicably magnetic performance. Kravitz steals every frame of the regrettably few scenes that she is in. While Kravitz’ performance carries a lot of weight behind it, it is still worth mentioning Jaden Smith’s performance, for the most part, is able to withstand the pressure of carrying a significant weight of the film as his character must do; however, its clear he’s got some growing to do before he becomes a full-fledged leading man like his Pop.
Visually speaking, this film works remarkably well. The style of the sets and props accent the futuristic tone of the film and the effects work well to amplify the narrative. Although a somewhat effects heavy film, the CG didn’t distract from what was going on with the plot. The fluctuating effects of the environment on Earth were one of the strongest elements of the visual stylings of the flick and the few creatures seen, while clearly fantastic, had a sense of realism and logic to them. On the whole, while clearly going for the visually dynamic, summer blockbuster angle, After Earth has a very strong premise that it’s derived from but its execution is somewhat lacking and causes the film to fall short of the engaging thrill ride it could have been.
- When After Earth, “That’ll do, pig. That’ll do.”