Title: After Earth
Year of Release—Film: 2013
Year of Release—DVD: 2013
The year is 1000 AE, which stands for "After Earth," a time when Earth, ravaged by pollution, has been rendered uninhabitable for human life. General Cypher Raige (Will Smith), the emotionally void legendary head of the Ranger Corps, is heading out on his last mission before retirement. Cypher's wife Faia (Sophie Okonedo) convinces him to take their petulant son, Kitai, who recently failed his promotion to Cadet, along for some father/ son bonding. During the flight, the ship encounters a meteor shower and, although warned against flying through it, Cypher orders the crew to stay the course. The badly damaged ship crash-lands on Earth and all aboard are killed. Except Cypher, who has two badly broken legs, and Kitai, who is unhurt.
Discovering their rescue beacon has been damaged, Cypher orders Kitai to walk to the rear of the broken-in-half ship, now lying 100 kilometers away, and retrieve the other rescue beacon. If Kitai fails this mission, they will both die. So begins Kitai's dangerous journey through uncharted land and past the blind but fear-pheromone smelling combative alien creatures called "ursas" where he battles apes and giant eagles to save his father and prove his worth.
Knowing before-hand that After Earth had won the Razzie for Worst Actor (Jaden Smith), Worst Supporting Actor (Will Smith) and Worst Screen Combo (Will and Jaden) and having read a multitude of scathing reviews, I tried not to let those influence my opinion. Now I am left wondering if After Earth deserves the abysmal 11% Rotten rating at Rotten Tomatoes. So, in order to remain unbiased, I interviewed an Average Joe audience member:
Me: Sir, after having finished watching After Earth, what are your immediate thoughts about the movie?
AJ: It needed more people in the script. It was too ambitious a movie for just two people. They got rid of the entire supporting cast so quickly, they should have all been wearing red shirts from Star Trek!
Me: You have stated you are a fan of Will Smith. What is your opinion on his acting in this movie?
AJ: Will has shown he can do comedy well as proven by the Men In Black trilogy and he can do drama, such as in I Am Legend. In After Earth, it felt phoned in. Like he was purposely under-playing his role so as not to over-shadow his son's acting. The acting felt sluggish.
Me: And what did you think of Jaden's acting in this?
AJ: Jaden shows signs of growing up to be a decent actor. But he hasn't got the chops yet to lay an entire multi-million dollar movie on his 14 year-old shoulders. Maybe a TV show ... like on Nickelodeon. Or Fresh Prince.
Me: Do you have any thoughts on the directing?
AJ: M. Night Shyamalan has sucked the life out of every movie he's directed since Signs in 2002. In After Earth, he proves he's just another has-been hack for hire! Still, no worse than The Last Airbender.
Me: On a scale of zero stars for worst film ever made to five stars for greatest picture since the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, what score do you give After Earth?
AJ: 2 stars.
Me: Why so high?
AJ: Really rad special effects and CGI! Had it not been for that, I'd have walked out of the theater half-way through this movie.
Me: Thank you so much for your time!
It's rumored that Will Smith came up with the plot to this movie while playing a video game with friends. Maybe that explains why After Earth felt like a video game with motionless Cypher sitting drearily as he monitors Kitai’s actions though his video screen and sternly instructs his son's every move. Even the precious few times Kitai disobeys his father's commands and goes by his gut-instincts feel as if he's less than a budding hero and more like the insubordinate pre-teen that he is. This is heightened by the let-us-walk-you-through-this script. An effortlessly gifted father who presses his less-talented son to follow in his foot-steps. Real life? Or …After Earth?