Today, the average life expectancy for someone born in the United States is approximately 77 years for males and 80-81 years for females. Whatever the number of years we’re privileged enough to spend on God’s green Earth may be, we can rest assured those years will consist of ups and downs, both personally and professionally. Now, one person who had his share of ups and downs professionally is director M. Night Shyamalan (The Sixth Sense, Signs). Shyamalan’s latest directorial project is the new film, After Earth, starring Will Smith.
After Earth is a futuristic science fiction film that takes place, much like its title implies, after planet Earth has undergone extreme warfare and tremendous environmental stress, making it uninhabitable for human beings. After Earth is the story of a strained father-son relationship between General Cypher Raige (Will Smith) and Kitai Raige (Jaden Smith). An event, which we see in frequent flashbacks, serves as the primary reason for the great amount of tension between Cypher and Kitai.
While traveling through space to a routine military exercise, in which Cypher has reluctantly allowed Kitai to tag along, their spacecraft malfunctions. In an attempt to save the crew, Cypher orders the ship crash land on planet Earth. During the crash all of the crew is lost except Kitai and Cypher who has sustained badly broken legs, which one is life threatening. To save himself and his father, Kitai races against the clock as he ventures out into the unknown and unpredictable land that is now Earth as Cypher directs Kitai’s every move from the crashed spacecraft.
Without a doubt the biggest grievance After Earth commits is how the film decides to utilize its biggest asset, Will Smith. The film’s trailer and poster lead you to believe Will Smith is the star of the show, but unfortunately he really isn’t. Instead, Mr. Smith is reduced to basically a voice over role with occasional scene of him grimacing from the pain of his damaged legs. Most screen time is devoted to the younger Smith, Jaden. Although, Jaden isn’t terrible, he’s not ready to carry an entire film himself, not yet anyway. Also, for some odd reason, Will and Jaden display British-like accents that appear and disappear throughout the film.
As I mentioned, After Earth is a sci-fi actioner, but it takes a considerable amount of time getting to any action. Until any combat begins, the film muddles along with long, extended scenes with monotone dialogue with little to no expression from the actors. When the action does begin, it’s fairly consistent and rather entertaining. However, it’s pretty standard fare for a sci-fi action film and brings nothing new to the table.
After Earth is better than a typical Shyamalan directed film. On the other hand, it’s below par for a Will Smith flick. However, the film’s redeeming qualities; the father-son relationship dynamic and enjoyable action sequences are not enough to keep it from drowning in a sea of clichéd sci-fi mediocrity.
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