My Thoughts on After Earth

AfterEarth Director M Night Shyamalan returns for the first time since 2010’s The Last Airbender with the new sci-fi epic After Earth.  The film is a star vehicle for the father/son duo of Will and Jaden Smith, with Will Smith also getting credit for the film’s story and a producer credit, along with his wife Jada Pinkett Smith.  The film takes place 1000 year in the future when humanity has long since abandoned Earth, however still find themselves threatened by alien creatures called Ursas, which are attracted to fear.  Cyther Raige (Will Smith) is a legendary general and master of ghosting – a fighting technique, where you suppress your fear and essentially become invisible to the Ursas.  Due to extended tours of duty, Cyther is somewhat estranged from their family, especially after a previous tragedy that resulted in the death of his daughter.  Hoping to be a better father, Cyther takes his son Kintai (Jaden Smith) along with him on his latest mission.  However, the ship is damaged in an asteroid storm and is forced to crash land on the closest planet, which happens to be Earth.  Injured in the crash, Cyther sends Kintai out to locate the ship’s beacon and call for help.  Cyther warns his son that all life forms on Earth have evolved to become deadly to humans.  In addition, an Ursa, that was in the ship’s cargo bay for training purposes, has escaped into the wild. Based on my limited knowledge about the development of After Earth, this is the first film M Night Shyamalan has worked on, in which he was essentially a hired hand.  Even though Shyamalan still receives a screenwriting credit, this is primarily a film written by Gary Whitta (Book of Eli), based on a story idea by Will Smith.  I don’t know if the fact that Shyamalan is directing a screenplay he didn’t fully write makes a difference, but I will say that I considered After Earth to be a bit of a return to form after The Last Airbender, which even a Shyamalan fan like myself considered somewhat underwhelming. Of course the film is not perfect.  I thought that that the first act of the film, which features the most sci-fi elements, came off as a cheap b-movie and it is apparent somewhat that this genre isn’t really Shyamalan’s strong suit, especially when it comes to the use of CGI for the ships and creatures.  That said, I found that the film improved somewhat once the action moved to Earth and Cyther and Kintai become the only characters (save for the occasional flashback).  This film is very much a star vehicle for Jaden Smith, with Will Smith literally taking a seat for the bulk of the running time.  While Jaden Smith is not the best actor in the world (there are many overacted moments in the film), I did find myself engaged by the film’s main father/son storyline, with Kintai trying his best to be accepted in the eyes of his father. Overall, I thought that After Earth was an enjoyable sci-fi epic.  While it probably won’t do much to win back people, who jumped off the M Night Shyamalan bandwagon, I still found that it was a solid film and I liked the father/son chemistry between Will and Jaden Smith.8 | LIKED IT