Now this is a story all about how my spaceship got flip-turned upside-down! After Earth tells the story of a father and son fighting for survival in a post-apocalyptic world. But is it worth a watch, or should you skip this film? Well, let’s take a look at the trailer and find out.
So who stars in this . . . oh, if you’re reading this review, chances are you know exactly who the stars are: Will and Jaden Smith. Will Smith, star of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, the Men in Black movies, and I Am Legend, plays Cypher Raige, and his son Jaden, from The Karate Kid, The Pursuit of Happyness, and The Day the Earth Stood Still, plays (appropriately) his son, Kitai. Apparently, Will’s goal for his son is a more star-studded movie career than even his own. There are other cast members, but from what I saw in the trailer, they have little to no part in this movie.
The director, however, deserves some attention: M. Night Shyamalan. The man started out with a few brilliant movies, but lately his films have been lackluster at best. It’s gotten so bad that they didn’t even put his name in the trailer for fear of alienating the audience. That explains so much about this movie.
The trailer begins with scenes of Jaden Smith in ranger training, running along the beach and hopping along rock outcroppings. Over it all, Will Smith talks about how his son is reckless and emotionally unstable. Says the man who once beat up a giant cockroach with a stick. Unsuccessfully. Will’s wife tells him he needs to get to know his son. “Go make some good memories together,” she tells him. Clearly she hasn’t seen this trailer yet, because their spaceship gets broadsided by asteroids and crash-lands on a faraway planet. The last good memory Jaden’s going to have is his father reminding him how to breathe . . . just before getting sucked out of the spaceship. Good times.
So the only two survivors of the crash are Will and Jaden Smith. Will asks his son, “Do you know where we are? This is Earth.” Which would have been a wonderful twist . . . if it had been in the movie and not in the trailer. That’s the tidbit you want to save for the very end of the movie; you’ve spent the whole time trying to escape the planet and suddenly you realize, “This is Earth.” Then the audience gets to enjoy their “Oh my gosh, what?” moment. Instead, they give it away in the trailer. Smart thinking. Basically, humans left Earth one thousand years ago, and now the only two humans on Earth are the Smiths. Because you don’t need supporting cast when you’re this awesome.
Will sends Jaden after an emergency beacon, which means the kid has to make a one hundred kilometer trek across thick jungle terrain toward what appears to be a smoking volcano. You know, just the kind of journey you want your teenage son risking. But it gets worse; the jungle freezes over from time to time. Amazing how all those plants adapt to survive freezing temperatures that happen for no reason whatsoever in an otherwise warm climate. I would have thought they were too busy evolving to kill humans. That’s right, Will actually says, “Everything on this planet has evolved to kill humans.” Think of it as walking into a Black Friday sale full of middle-school girls. Sloths are no longer slow. Grass is poisonous to the touch. Ladybugs? Flesh-eaters. Seriously, how come I’m a Creationist and even I know this isn’t how evolution works? Creatures don’t evolve specifically to kill something. Although that giant eagle clearly evolved to kill that sabretooth tiger.
“Together, we will survive,” Will encourages his son. And by together, I mean I’ll talk to you over a radio while you do all the dangerous work and I sit around apparently doing nothing. Anyway, Jaden gets chased by a ferocious beast and goes into hiding. Will counts down the kilometers between them, finally declaring, “It has found you.” Could you possibly find a more ominous way of saying that, Will? How about “Zero” or “It’s right next to you” or something that won’t freak the daylights out of your son?
We move into the montage as Jaden is chased by baboons, which somehow aren’t as scary without wings. Will finally orders his son to abort the mission to retrieve the emergency beacon. “You wouldn’t give any other ranger that order!” Jaden yells. “You are not a ranger,” Will replies. “You are my son.” Which I probably should have thought about before bringing you to a planet designed to kill you. Also, I probably shouldn’t be asking you to give up our only chance to escape this planet alive. I am a horrible father.
Jaden jumps off a cliff, but fortunately his ranger jumpsuit grows wings. Unfortunately, he gets chased by that giant eagle. “Danger is very real,” says Will, “but fear is a choice.” Like I can choose to be afraid of those okapis! They’re so deadly! Seriously, how are these guys any threat? Do they have spikes on their tongues? A stampede is not a function evolved to kill humans! Someone shoots lasers at random people, making me think we’ve suddenly switched trailers and are now watching a preview of Oblivion, and Will declares that if they want to survive, they’ll have to fight. However, if you’re feeling suicidal, just walk up to an okapi. You’ll be dead in seconds.
So based on the trailer, do I recommend this movie? Not really, no. The trailer looks nice, but the premise is nonsensical; Earth has been made too dangerous to be credible. Also, it’s just another Will and Jaden Smith vehicle to me; the only reason it exists is to give them a paycheck and more publicity. Don’t get me wrong, they’re both good actors, and I love that they’re getting to spend time together working on this movie. If you’re really a Smith family fan, you might like the film, but I don’t think it’ll be one of their better works. And the presence of Shyamalan is almost palpable, especially in that nonsensical premise I was talking about. All in all, I’d say you won’t be missing much if you skip After Earth. I for one won’t be seeing it. The last thing I need is more nightmares about okapi.
After Earth is owned by Sony Pictures.