Thursday, May 30, 2013

Awful AFTER EARTH Is More Will Smith's Bad Than M. Night Shyamalan's

Opening today at nearly every multiplex in America:

AFTER EARTH (Dir. M. Night Shyamalan, 2013)

“Together we will survive.” Will Smith, as some sort of intergalactic General, declares this to his son Kitai, played by his real son Jaden, after their spaceship has crash landed on a hostile abandoned Earth, 1000 years in the future in M. Night Shyamalan’s newest.

Thing is, these could be the real-life words of Smith re-assuring his offspring that he can carry a summer sci-fi action vehicle of his own, but, don’t worry, Daddy will be there on the sidelines to talk him through it. You see, Smith’s character broke his legs in the crash, and he’s determined not to smile, make a wisecrack, or do anything that would draw attention away from his kid’s screen-time.

Jaden looks worried and overwhelmed at this prospect, and he should be as he’s far from a polished actor, but his father, who had the story idea (writer/game designer Gary Whitta and Shyamalan fleshed it out somewhat into a screenplay), surely talked him into it with the selling points that sci-fi and the start of the summer movie season have paid off for their family many times in the past.

Well, in this tedious tale decorated by unspectacular CGI (I’ve seen episodes of Battlestar Galactica from five years ago that had more impressive special effects – hard to believe this reportedly cost $150 million), nothing pays off as nothing interesting happens at all.

Jaden is haunted by memories of his sister (Zoe Kravitz) being killed by some monstrous alien beast, and now has to fend off all kinds of crazy creatures (“everything has evolved to kill humans,” Smith explains) as he makes his way to retrieve a beacon in the far-off wreckage of their ship so they can return home to Nova Prime (the planet Earthlings relocated to).

To make the trip, Jaden needs a supply of inhalers to help combat the poisonous air. This means time is of the essence, which doesn’t make sense that they would stop for a lengthy dramatic speech by Smith to his son through whatever they call Skype in the future. I mean, sure it was dark and rainy, but it seems like Jaden should’ve kept moving. Sure wish the movie did.

It all leads up to what’s supposed to be a big ass climatic battle with another alien beast (which again, is crafted from un-compelling CGI), in which Jaden finally heeds his father’s advice and conquers his fears. Yawn.

This family vanity project (it’s co-produced by Smith, his wife Jada Pinkett Smith, her younger brother Caleeb Pinkett, and Smith’s long-time business partner James Lassiter), recalls how Shyamalan based his much reviled flop LADY IN THE WATER on a bedtime story he told to his children.

These big budget acts of nepotism may boast their family’s morale, but they contribute nothing to the art of cinema, nor do they make for anything close to passable entertainment.

With its poorly acted protagonist, complete lack of narrative or thematic drive, and sluggish pacing, AFTER EARTH joins the string of failures that Shyamalan has produced for now over a decade. Even what used to be a sure thing, i.e. a Will Smith summer sci-fi project, couldn’t reverse the filmmaker’s downward spiral.

To be fair, the blame of how bland this movie is should rest more on Smith’s shoulders than Shyamalan’s. It’s Smith’s glorified bedtime story starring his son; M. Night is just laying in it.

More later...

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