Saw AFTER EARTH today.
I’m not sad that I saw it, only sad that I was so unmoved.
You folks know me, I really do give a film every possible shot. I have zero beef with M. Night or Will Smith or even Jaden Smith. I like the first two generally more than the third has earned with his limited film work to date, but I was looking forward to this.
I’m in a very Science Fiction mindset at the moment. One of the projects I’m working on is intensely sci-fi, been reading a whole bunch of sci-fi scripts – and there’s a lot of promise coming – and when I heard this was a Will Smith story, fleshed out by Gary Whitta and M. Night… well, I was a bit excited.
I think the biggest problem is expectations. This is a big Summer film or should I say, it’s being sold as being a big summer film. It isn’t. Not really.
I know, you’re thinking Will Smith, Science Fiction… Big summer flick.
Nope. This feels like a February or September kind of film by an ambitious first time filmmaker. But it isn’t.
Will Smith plays a legendary Ranger, a thousand years in the future. Mankind has left Earth because… well, apparently it was time. We’re shown a bunch of catastrophe footage, followed by leaving Earth footage. I was fine with much of the setup – It is just of everything we’re shown, the least interesting place for the story to take place… was Earth.
I get the feeling that everything of interest came from Gary Whitta. Unfortunately, the execution and the delivery was leaving everything to be desired.
Will Smith’s very low key performance seemed quite unfortunate. He’s shown to not take pain meds so he can be focused for his son, but his entire performance could be described as being on opiates. He’s in a haze in this film. He’s a bit dead inside, and I’m sure that’s because he’s seen a lot of shit, we haven’t. But I’m sure he has. We’re told about it and shown one sleepwalking kill he makes.
Of course, the plot is designed to make our characters into automatons. The bad monsters are blind and can smell our fear.
SO… Don’t let them smell you sweat.
The result is that we get a very sedate Will Smith. In fact, he’s having trouble keeping his eyes open in this film.
Young Jaden, he’s a kid that’s been traumatized by cowering in a sealed off container watching his sister get killed by one of the blind monsters. He wants to be a Ranger to prove to his father he’s a man, but he seems to break up in the field due to his residual wussitude. So – we instantly know that by the end of this film, Lil Smith will jettison fear and be the badass he was always meant to be.
We know this, very early.
In fact, if you’re sharp at all, you’ll probably reach this conclusion before he’s ever gotten on a ship with his dad.
AFTER EARTH is actually a terrible title, EARTH AGAIN is probably more apt, because once their ship inexplicably just accidently appears over Earth and crashing towards it… 1000 years from now… we’re told these things, because they’re not going to production design any big Earth landmarks… At least nothing that I tracked – and I was fine with that.
Once we see the big bird thing, that pack of baboon-ish looking things and the cute little wild pig family… that’s about all we get of 1000 year in the future Earth. We get quick freezing. But for a planet where everything has evolved to kill you… it really seems quite survivable.
I mean, the film doesn’t work because Will Smith is playing a character we don’t give a shit about. His son is also an unremarkable character that we just don’t care about.
From the outset we know these two are Father & Son only in relation, but Will’s father has been gone for most of his son’s life, in fact this space voyage was meant to be a bonding experience. However, no attempt is made. The mother tells Will that their son doesn’t need a commanding officer, he needs a father, and Will plays at listening to her.
Neither of these two have an ounce of charisma in this film – and that’s fucking amazing because they both absolutely have crazy charisma. To suck the life out of Will Smith, I really have to give M Night credit. That’s not easy to do. I’ve seen Will Smith in a whole lot of bad sci fi movies that I love, because no matter what… I fucking love Will Smith. But here. Here it is so easy to just not care. To notice the pattern on the theater ceiling.
The film is just so jarringly off. The choice of accents, just weird. The complete absence of connection or even individuality. These are all deliberate choices, just as the flashbacks tend to accentuate the importance of his dead daughter and the footnote memory of his son… which I suppose should be telling and affecting, instead – it just makes me think he’s a shitty dad. And the kid, he’s trying his best… he runs in what looks like a very awkward fitting outfit and even does the Tom Cruise kung fu chop running real well, but it feels disconnected.
Everything is played to underwhelm.
The tech is… well, again. Just alright. Nothing particularly nifty.
The story should be epic. I mean, when you think about it, if this was really a story about Will Smith and his son… and they played it like fucking human beings and not ROBOT PEOPLE OF THE FU-TURE – which just kills ya. Kills ya. The amount of wasted use of resources in this film… it does remind me of M. Night’s THE LAST AIRBENDER… which was a very wasted opportunity. Tragic really. That film hurt worse than this, but the more I think of the shrugging sensation that AFTER EARTH gives me… Well. Shit. There really isn’t anything to get angry about.
I think they made exactly the movie they set out to. A film about a completely dysfunctional future that nobody should particularly give two farts about. It isn’t really a good father-son feature, because while I think we should probably admire Will Smith and the life he’s forged for him and his son – and when we see them on talk shows, they seem like really really cool people. But these characters? Fuck these two. Will Smith can’t even react to having his FEMUR BROKE IN TWO! I mean, if you don’t want a kid to be afraid, give him something to fucking feel warm about. There’s no emotional connection. This is a seriously abusive future – and Jaden is playing a pretty fucked up kid that is zombie running through life trying to disconnect from his emotions… the result being a bit of a whiney chickenshit – and Will really isn’t helping much. Except during that one life-saving talk through… But while Jaden was playing the hell out of that scene, Will was just ROBOT PEOPLE OF THE FU-TURE.
The threat of Shyamalan’s 1000 years in the future Earth, would leave folks that remember Dreamworks’ TIME MACHINE remake thinking, “Maybe that wasn’t so bad.” Don’t get me wrong, the realization of the mediocre vision is perfect. You’ll believe the critters, you’ll just think… that was it?
I mean, Jaden’s suit. When the suit senses you’re in for some shit, it turns black – thus warning you Spidey Sense style to trouble. When you jump off a cliff it will turn into Flying Fox suit – and that’s pretty cool, but it won’t keep you warm? Really? It’s a survival suit… it doesn’t have a heating element? Admittedly we don’t have that shit, but this is a 1000 years in the future, where we have only survived by use of what seems like some pretty amazing tech. I mean, they got a fucking beacon that sends an intense energy blast out into space where it then does some crazy cool effects and people show up quickly thereafter to save you.
But even then, it just seemed a bit stupid.
This was a story and a premise that was crying to be exciting, thrilling and involving – but because they decided to be ROBOT PEOPLE OF THE FU-TURE… well, it wasn’t. It is as if Shyamalan decided to tell this story in the least possibly involving manner. I really do feel that this exact story could have been played infinitely better – had they been better directed. I think it is what Shyamalan got out of the story is what I’m reacting to. It’s just fucking lame.
Really accomplished looking lame, but lame just the same. Kinda like THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL remake. Or that LOST IN SPACE movie. Or RED PLANET. They’re just half-hearted attempts at something that a whole bunch of folks like me and that I know love… but not when it feels like a yawn.
There’s so much left off the screen. I do not believe for a second that this is a best attempt. The scope of the story was epic, even if the characters and the action were not. The technical work was superb, but I have no desire to ever revisit that film again. It’s just BLAH BLAH BLAH.
I could read into the film all sorts of ridiculous sub-text and agenda, but frankly it isn’t worth the effort to write it out. I’m not even sure if it is bad enough to make fun of. It’s better than that, unfortunately. You know, the films that you see the basic scale of the movie, the money they had to realize it, the talent at every level of production, and he only got this out of them. It’s sad. The thought that just pounds in your head is, “That could’ve been cooler,” rather constantly.
In the future, we’ll be assholes and Earth goes back to nature. That’s kinda cool. Wish everything was better, more imaginative, performed with more energy and emotion. Instead, for like 2 hours it kept me from reloading the MAN OF STEEL Trailer. And I’m a little frustrated. In some ways you could argue this was Edgar Rice Burroughs-esque, but only if you took the basic structure alone, how it played out here… is like a Burroughs novel with the imagination strained from it.
AFTER EARTH is really rather forgettable and that’s something that is unforgivable for a film of this type. It just never really takes off and soars. There’s no real awe in play. Unlikable characters and a stunted imagination can kill even the best intended of Sci-Fi features. Unfortunately – that’s what I saw here.