After displaying a steadying quality decline with The Village, The Happening and The Last Airbender, one expected M Night Shyamalan to next make the worst, most unintentionally funny movie of his career. After Earth is a disappointment, because it is only bad, and not terrible enough to be entertaining.
On fears that Shyamalan could be box office poison, the poor guy was kept hidden during the marketing and promos of the film. However this time, the overall dreadfulness of the film isn’t attributed to Shyamalan, that honor goes to Will Smith, who wrote the story and actually believed that shoving his untalented kid and a Scientology based film down our throats would be tremendous entertainment. The last time a film with Scientology overtones hit theaters, John Travolta’s career ended, hopefully After Earth won’t be to Smith what Battlefield Earth was to Travolta.
The premise sounds interesting on paper - Smith and his son Jaden play Cypher Raige and Kitai, a father-son duo who crash land on a futuristic Earth that is inhabited by ‘creatures that have evolved to kill humans’. As Cypher nurses his wounds in the ship, Kitai is sent on a mission to travel 100 kilometers to a volcano to send a distress signal back to his colony. With the plot firmly placed, one expects some epic action sequences with the futuristic terrifying creatures that have evolved to kill humans, what we get is one sleepy oversized eagle and one clumsy sabre tooth tiger. There are also a bunch of monkeys who are pissed off because our hero throws a rock at them. As if to make up for the sheer lack of thrills, the film also offers a badly rendered CGI alien in the final two minutes of the film, leading to a climactic battle that is as exciting as a paint drying contest.
Apart from the characters, most of the futuristic technology doesn’t make any sense either. Kitai’s suit has a POV camera that lets his father see what he sees, but in some instances the dad accesses movie camera vision and sees Kitai on his monitor filmed from a few feet away. Moreover, we’re told that a race of blind aliens who smelled fear had almost wiped out the cowardly human race on Earth, but how the blind aliens walked around without bumping into a rock or a tree is left untold. Will Smith is shown as the heroic warrior who felt no fear and got rid of the aliens, but After Earth would’ve been more fun had the aliens resembled Jazzy Jeff and were thrown out the mansion by Uncle Phil.
(First published in MiD Day)