The Score: "Will Smith's Character In 'After Earth' Spends Most Of The Sci-Fi Flick Flat On His Back W/ 2 Broken Legs"

Friday, May 31, 2013 4:05PM

Written by Cyrus Langhorne

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  • After Earth
  • Will Smith, Jaden Smith
  • May 31st, 2013
Entertainment Weekly C+
Film School Rejects C+
First Showing 5 out of 10
M Live 1.5 out of 4
Screen Rant 2 out of 5

If you're looking for a summer blockbuster flick you know only Will Smith can deliver, then you might want to hold off heading out to your local theater to peep the new After Earth thriller.

Hollywood icon Will Smith brings his son, Jaden, along for a new flick directed by renowned moviemaker M. Night Shyamalan for a ride in a post-apocalyptic world.

The sci-fi film After Earth marks the return, after 2010's awful The Last Airbender, of director M. Night Shyamalan stepping back behind the camera. It also serves as the second time, after The Pursuit of Happyness, father and son behemoths Will and Jaden Smith have appeared on film as, you guessed it, father and son. Naturally, After Earth needs much more than the talents involved to make it a true winner, but neither the former Fresh Prince, his heir apparent, nor the man behind The Sixth Sense and Unbreakable can keep After Earth from being a slight, bland adventure drenching with hammy sentiment. This film could have hit the big screen 10 years ago and audiences still would have hoped for more. (First Showing)

The movie's setting centers on a fictional time where human civilization has been forced to leave Earth.

In the dystopian future, the human race has been forced to abandon a toxic earth overrun by snappy-jawed monsters that look like they came out of a Starship Troopers sequel. Will Smith plays Cypher, a military Ranger famous for his total absence of fear (that's why he's invincible to the monsters, who stalk their prey by smelling fear), and Jaden plays his upstart Ranger-cadet son, Kitai, who is traveling with him on an interplanetary mission. When an asteroid storm forces the ship to crash-land on earth, Cypher is badly injured, and it's up to Kitai to travel a hundred kilometers on foot, all to retrieve a homing beacon. But his father, who can see what Kitai sees through a digital transmission, talks to him as if he were a videogame avatar, guiding the kid through his trek to manhood. (Entertainment Weekly)

While Will snatches the main headlines, it's his teenage son who steers the film's progression.

In the meantime, Smith's character in "After Earth" spends most of the new sci-fi flick flat on his back, with two broken legs. It's an odd choice, considering that many people who buy tickets to a Will Smith movie do so under the assumption that he'll be able to, you know, walk. That choice is less odd when you consider that the story -- directed by M. Night Shyamalan from a script by Shyamalan and Gary Whitta ("The Book of Eli") -- was conceived by Smith as a vehicle for his son, Jaden. The 14-year-old Smith is the real hero of "After Earth," which is less a traditional summer blockbuster than a sentimental father-and-son melodrama, tarted up with CGI monsters. (Washington Post)

Although plot did not win most critics over, some embraced the movie's sound.

On a technical level, the film scores solid marks. In particular, the sound mix is very lively and engaging. The opening sequences shine the most, specifically the scene where the spaceship encounters the asteroid field. It also looks good, with the beauty and wonder of Earth coming across quite well on the big screen. On the other hand, the CGI is mediocre. While it's not quite awful, it also pales in comparison to recent achievements like Life of Pi. The score by James Newton Howard is subtle and not overused but also not particularly memorable. (Film School Rejects)

Critics went at the new film's throat, centering on issues related to its content and overabundance of recycled concepts.

After Earth once again allows him to show off his talent for clinically realistic violence, but that in turn makes this film arguably unsuitable for the youngest fans of the younger Smith. Those who don't like seeing dead animals may want to avoid this one. The picture also plays into his constant 'failure to communicate' theme (mothers and sons, husbands and wives, people and their respective god, etc.), as Will Smith's battle-hardened father is clearly unable to offer anything of worth to his traumatized son beyond 'orders'. But its pretty obvious concept is one of overcoming fear, and Will Smith's second act monologue explaining how he has done just that is one of the more effective dialogue stretches in a film that is mostly plot-centric dialogue. (Forbes)
The survivalist-adventure/monster-fighting aspects of the film are reasonably watchable, but are overly familiar and lack real dramatic consequence when the characters are thinly rendered stereotypes. The younger Smith conveys petulance with ease, but goes broad for other emotions; he has some work to do before his big-screen presence becomes natural and charismatic. The elder Smith acts in this film as if under a perpetual downpour without an umbrella. Shyamalan shows no flashes of his brilliant, early work, which is good news for his haters, for they have a new film to lash with their withering snark. (M Live)

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