After Earth Review – By Christian Ruvalcaba, Cobbster Reviews
There once was a time in history where you would see a movie trailer and the name M. Night Shyamalan (The Sixth Sense, Unbreakable, & Signs) came across the screen and you became engrossed with excitement. However in recent years, we now see this name and cringe at what is about to come. Unfortunately, the tale of Shyamalan is tragic considering he has made some of the greatest films of our generation. On the opposite side of this, he has also made some of the worst films as well. The mixed reception behind his films will forever haunt us until he redeems himself. With films like Lady in the Water, The Happening, and The Last Airbender, the films turned Shyamalan’s career into a negative association in filmmaking.
After Earth is Shyamalan’s next attempt at filmmaking. Without much anticipation for this film, the trailers made it seem less exciting as I would hope from a science fiction film, considering I have always been a science fiction junkie. Despite the dull looking trailers, I went into After Earth as optimistic as I possibly could, hoping Shyamalan would redeem himself. Although, I am sad to say, After Earth is not his triumphant return. However, I am also happy to say that this is not his worst or a horrible film whatsoever.
The film takes place in the future where Earth has been evacuated because of alien invasions and loss of resources for their planet. Will Smith (Independence Day & the Men in Black series), a famous ranger, returns home to travel a long distance with his son, Jaden Smith (The Pursuit of Happiness & The Karate Kid), where their ship crash lands on a deserted Earth and the only hope for survival is an arrogant son unfit for combat.
Will Smith delivers his performance on a level I can highly respect with a few issues. Many have bashed the nepotism in the film with Smith’s son where I found the relationship between the two somewhat compelling. I wanted more out of the two and the actors do a good job at showing the emotional scars the two have from their pasts and how they reflect those scars against each other. With one scene in particular, I was highly impressed with Jaden Smith’s performance. It was truly one scene that I felt emotionally attached to both of their characters where they face a challenge of ultimate failure. Despite that scene, there were few scenes involving Jaden Smith where I did not buy into his character as much. Aside from the one impressive scene, the rest of the film falls flat and dull.
The pacing does not work well with the writing and does not feel engaging. The writing at times plays it far too safe for what the tone of the film is working for. Throughout the film you gain a sense of survival and helplessness. The characters dialogue is sort of by the numbers and overall standard which was the biggest threat to me toward this film. Will Smith’s character, a very monotone and seemingly scarred man, felt far too boring. I understand that his character is supposed to be a professional but he shows almost no emotion. It felt like he didn’t care if his son died which made me think again, well, if his father doesn’t care, why should I?
I do not blame the acting though. These issues are faulted due to the directing and how Shyamalan wanted to portray his characters. It leads to some extremely boring scenes between the characters where nothing exciting happens. And please, don’t get me wrong, I love scenes where characters have fixed and isolated scenes of dialogue. Shyamalan’s Signs has one of the greatest scenes of dialogue in film history. The dialogue felt too repetitive as the characters basically continued the same argument over and over. There was no growth about what they argued until the finale of the film and by that time I have already checked out.
Unfortunately, the special effects took me out of the film as well. Through some scenes, I felt like I was watching a 3D show at Disneyland and that’s something I don’t want to think about when I’m watching a science fiction film. This also involves the animals and monsters that are attacking the main characters. The animals are overly used with CGI and I couldn’t believe they are really there. It infected the action scenes and any emotional scenes as well.
Through all the flaws this film brings, I do not think this is a horrible film. Though not the most exciting film, I did enjoy very few aspects of it. I did like some of the challenges the characters were faced with and there was one action scene involving Jaden Smith gliding in the sky while fleeing a bird to be pretty intense. Overall, the film is a disappointment for being dull, over usage of special effects, lazy writing, and unsatisfyingly directing. I wouldn’t rush to see this film but I hope Shyamalan can make his return soon. Hopefully, After Earth can be a start to a very slow build up to something great for I think Shyamalan has much talent that should not go to waste.
Final Grade: C-