Watch for the scenery, not the Smiths

SCI-FI TALE: Unlike in The Pursuit Of Happyness (2006), the relationship between real-life father-son duo Will Smith and Jaden in After Earth remains masked, no thanks to the film's genre trappings.


    Jun 06, 2013

    Watch for the scenery, not the Smiths


    Sci-fi/100 minutes

    Rating: 1.5/5

    BEING a divisive film is better than being a boring film, and After Earth falls into the latter camp.

    There is a moment in the movie when General Cypher Raige (Will Smith) tells his son, Kitai (real-life son Jaden Smith), that while danger is real, fear is a choice.

    This sums up the moral of the film, which delves into undercooked, cliche-ridden motifs that ultimately weigh it down.

    In fact, it is hard to see this film as anything but a vanity project to promote the Smith brand.

    Directed by M. Night Shyamalan, After Earth is based on a story by Will Smith that was turned into a screenplay by Shyamalan and writer Gary Whitta.

    The film takes place 1,000 years after humans have fled Earth to the safety of a new planet called Nova Prime due to unforeseen circumstances.

    Kitai is a young, aspiring United Ranger who attempts to achieve greatness as his father, the commander of the Corp, has done.

    When a crash-landing on Earth results in Cypher being too injured to make a trip to retrieve a communications device, Kitai is forced to make the trip under his father's guidance.

    Meanwhile, the film's villain, an alien called Ursa - who catches its prey by smelling fear - is on the loose.

    The marketing slant of the movie has evolved around the relationship between the father-son duo of Smith and Jaden.

    Where their previous movie together - The Pursuit Of Happyness (2006) - succeeded in its sincere exploration of family ties that was elevated by the authenticity of the father-son relationship, here the relationship remains masked behind the film's genre trappings and its attempts to make 14-year-old Jaden a star.

    Moreover, the underwritten characters do not do the pair any favours.

    Smith does a passable deadpan take on the gruff Cypher, who believes in pushing his son to his limits, while Jaden comes across as stiff and rehearsed during a heated exchange with his father.

    But that's not to say that the film has no redeeming features - witness the breathtaking scenes of rainforests and bodies of water.

    A scene where Kitai glides near cascading waterfalls is especially noteworthy, as is a scene that involves Earth freezing over.

    However, for a film that supposedly focuses on family ties, it did not pay enough attention to the other actors, such as Kitai's mother, Faia - played by Oscar nominee Sophie Okonedo (Hotel Rwanda, 2004) - who has nothing substantial to chew on.

    Similarly, Zoe Kravitz, who plays Kitai's sister Senshi, would have been an interesting character if developed properly.

    Essentially a compilation of father-son teaching moments that quickly become preachy, After Earth flounders and ultimately flatlines with an ending you know is coming.