Oct 28, 2013

[Movies] After Earth (2013)

Every now and then a movie comes along that's so universally panned that one can't help but stop and stare at the train wreck. And given how After Earth fared on the review circuit, I figured that it would actually be a disservice if I totally ignored the movie.

So I watched it just to review it. Oh the horror.

I keep trying to think of things that could make the movie less bad than it felt like. But really, it's hard to defend a lot of it when the motivations of Will Smith in terms of why this movie became what it was were as clear as day. He could not have been any more obvious in his efforts to create some sort of a career path for his son, one that was certainly not deserved. And that's just wrong.

Movies should be about stories that need to be told. Movies should inspire to some extent or at least take us away from the stress of day-to-day life. But when movies are just there to serve some silly purpose like this one, well, then you get crap. And that's what made this movie feel so empty and practically without meaning.

Synopsis: After Earth is a 2013 science fiction movie directed by M. Night Shyamalan, who also co-wrote the screenplay with Gary Whitta. The original story for the movie was from Will Smith.

In some far off future, the Earth has become so polluted that humanity is forced to abandon the planet and settle a new world, Nova Prime. A thousand years later, the United Ranger Corps works to defend humanity against an alien threat that is trying to conquer Nova Prime. The aliens utilize monstrous beasts known as Ursas that hunt by smelling pheromones associated with fear. Things don't look good for humanity until General Cypher Raige (Will Smith) learns how to completely suppress all fear and thus become invisible to the monsters. He teaches this technique to other Rangers and thus turns the tide of the war.

Now Cypher's son, Kitai (Jaden Smith) aspires to become a Ranger himself but his application is rejected because of his emotional behavior. Naturally this disappoints Cypher but his wife Faia (Sophie Okonedo) convinces him to reconsider how he approaches his son. Thus he agrees to take him along on a final flight before his retirement. Their ship is transporting an Ursa, however it gets caught in an asteroid shower. This forces the ship to crash-land on Earth with Cypher and Kitai apparently the only survivors. But Cypher is severely injured and it's up to Kitai to find the tail section of the ship and trigger a rescue beacon.

The movie is a very blatant father and son story where Will Smith gets to be an emotionally dead character and his son's version of trying to control his emotions comes off as not knowing how to act. The parallels between the character's struggle to prove himself worthy of being a Ranger (and worthy of his father's respect) and that of Jaden Smith trying to step up to the Hollywood plate and make a name for himself in Hollywood. And by now we're all used to how the Smith family is blatantly out to establish all their kids in the entertainment industry. But seriously, this was such a heavy-handed way of going about things.

The story is just horrible and the rules of the new Earth are illogical beyond belief. Given the fact that the planet had already suffered an ecological collapse, how can one actually say that everything on the planet has been bred to kill humans? And how can any ecology manage such extreme temperature shifts where the nights are ridiculously cold and yet the planet is littered with magical geothermal hot spots? And then there's the low oxygen content of the planet to factor in as just another challenge to present to Kitai. Earth is not a realistic planet - it's a video game environment where Kitai has to face all of the crazy challenges one after the other.

The acting is bad all around. Then again, its always bad when being unemotional is a plot device. Sure Vulcans pull it off decently enough in Star Trek, but for some reason it never makes sense otherwise. And more often than not the actors end up becoming weird, emotionally detached and just horrible on-screen. Just look at Will Smith - he's this dry, cold annoying character who makes for one of the worst fathers in creation. Jaden suffers from the same problem throughout the movie and his portrayal of things is just wrong and off and wrong again.

And then there are the items that are just horribly sloppy about the movie. Take for example Cypher's ability to follow along the progress of Kitai's journey. Supposedly the wrist communicator allows him to see what Kitai sees. But it works in a highly inconsistent manner plus there's the fact that there are some shots that aren't from Kitai's perspective at all - so how the heck were those things working? Then he launches all these cool probes early in the movie to try and locate the Ursa. But then we never see the probes after then. We can assume some of the weird shots are because of the probes, but then how come Kitai never sees them? Can't they offer any direct aid to Kitai's efforts? Couldn't have the probes located the ship before Kitai set out?

And in a futuristic world with killer monsters, why did people forget about guns? How come we have to use overly complicated blades? This movie leaves you with so many questions about why things are so nonsensical? The plot and all these examples of sloppy writing just hurt my head. And M. Night didn't even have any of his creative shots that we had seen in his earlier movies - maybe he lacked the full motivation to commit to this movie as well.

After Earth was a movie that probably should not have been made and now we have to suffer through things. There's just so much bad in it that it's a wonder how anyone decided to green light this. So the movie can only really get 1 out of 5 stupid inhalers that seem to make asthma-like conditions a central plot device.

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