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After Earth is a movie that promised so much when I first saw the trailer a couple months ago. Jayden Smith stars as Kitai Raige, son of the legendary Rangers General Cypher Raige. Kitai dreams of nothing more than living up to the expectations of the man who was the saviour of the human race on their new home planet Nova Prime after being attacked by the ursa. Cadet Kitai joins his father on a routine training exercise at the urging of his mother Faia(Sophie Okonedo). Predictably something bad happens in space and they somehow end up crash landing on Earth, which is a quarantined planet after catastrophic events 1000 years before. Kitai is then tasked with retrieving the emergency beacon in the tail unit which is 100km away from the rest of the ship. It’s a journey that spells adventure and danger as he has to cross unknown lands filled with murderous creatures.
And in this predictability lies my main problem with After Earth. There was never a moment of true suspense or of being unsure of what was too follow. M. Night Shyamalan who was responsible for such gems as The Sixth Sense and Signs truly fails to deliver and continues his run of disappointing movies(following The Happening and The Last Air Bender). In The Sixth Sense he truly managed to intrigue and surprise viewers. Unfortunately it seems he used up all his suspense and creativity when making those films, as After Earth has none of the qualities to make it a successful box office blockbuster.
The special effects are truly wonderful and the earth they have created is rich in colour and depth, truly immersing the viewer in the world. Unfortunately that’s about as good as it gets. A script that limits the characters in such a way that you never truly feel involved in their struggle, even a couple of flashbacks to tragic events in their lives does nothing to drum up any emotion from the viewers. The writers and directors had a wonderful opportunity to create something truly beautiful, unpredictable and dangerous. Instead they stuck with a familiar story that won’t draw any ooh’s or aah’s from the crowds. The danger that supposedly is so prevalent on earth never materialises. Any and all opportunities for suspense and drama are deftly dodged by the director.
It seems clear that this was an attempt to stick Jayden Smith at the helm of a huge project and that, in itself should’ve been enough to make it work, after all The Karate Kid can be considered a pretty successful movie. Unfortunately he doesn’t seem to be quite ready for such a responsibility. To his credit, he is a better actor than most other 15 year olds, but that is to be expected from the son of not one but two major Hollywood stars. Simply put he couldn’t carry the movie. Will Smith’s role was written in such a way that he was merely a bystander in the greater scheme of things.
Fortunately After Earth was only 100min long, because had it been much longer I might well have dosed off. Bluntly stated, it was boring. They had the premise to make it truly thrilling and exciting and instead it was a yawn fest that looked pretty.
If you really have nothing better to do, then you might as well go see it as it is a pretty movie that can only really be done justice by a big screen. But if you actually want to enjoy something you spend money on, then don’t waste your time.
After Earth scores a measly 3 out of 10 from SamuiTimes.