Starring: Will Smith, Jaden Smith, Sophie Okonedo
Directed by: M. Night Shyamalan (“The Happening”)
Written by: Gary Whitta (“The Book of Eli”) and M. Night Shyamalan (“The Sixth Sense”)
How two-time Oscar-nominated filmmaker M. Night Shyamalan went from directing and writing one of the best horror-suspense films of all time with 1999’s “The Sixth Sense” to holding down the fort at the Golden Raspberry Awards should continue to boggle the mind of every moviegoer. One day, if we’re all lucky enough, he’ll get his head out of the clouds and return to form. “After Earth” isn’t the film to knock him back on track, however. Reprising his gut-wrenching trend of calamitously-made movies, it shouldn’t surprise anyone if Shyamalan hits Raspberry gold once again with “After Earth.” At least he won’t be alone. Will and Jaden Smith are almost guaranteed to have a seat right next to him.
After a crash landing leaves stern General Cypher (Will Smith) of the peacekeeping organization, Ranger Corps, and his rebellious and audacious son, Kitai (Jaden Smith), stranded on Earth, the father-son duo must work together to retrieve an emergency beacon located in the tail of a ship to stay alive. Badly injured, General Cypher is forced to sit idly by, guiding his son through the treacherous terrain, which is filled with evolved species and an alien creature that killed his only daughter.
“After Earth” kicks off with a disorienting introduction and the 100 minutes that follow don’t get much clearer. Had the audience not been forced to endure the film’s ill-executed sci-fi elements and Will and Jaden Smith’s laughable performances, it could’ve scraped by with a tolerable father-son storyline. Instead, Shyamalan damages the film beyond repair with trite dialogue and melodramatic one liners, which make for good albeit unintentional laughs.
With so much chaotic back story and information throughout the entire movie, it doesn’t take long for the audience to realize how paper-thin the narrative actually is. Scenes where Jaden Smith attempts to carry the film alone don’t work. As if that isn’t bad enough, the film tries to contribute some sort of substance through flashbacks, but never reveals anything but the same scene from different angles.
At times, “After Earth” feels like a sci-fi themed episode of “Lost” starring Will and Jaden with horrible accents. If you’re used to Shyamalan disasters like “The Last Airbender” and “The Happening,” this won’t come as a big disappointment. What is disappointing, however, is the fact that the film studio is already discussing a sequel. If the Smith men can’t wait to get back on the screen together, why not try “The Pursuit of Happyness 2” instead? It couldn’t be any worse than Shyamalan’s latest debacle.