Directed by M Night Shyamalan
Stars include Will Smith and Jaden Smith
This gripping sci-fi thriller had an enormous amount of mystery and hype before the release. This of course is how fascinating director, M. Night, generally releases most of his movies. The big budget thriller ran up against an enormous amount of competition with other movies being shown in theatres during the same time frame. Big budgets, special effects and enormous star names surround all of them and After Earth is in the mix competing for the dollars.
Film trailers promised moviegoers something unique from the academy award-winning director and the renowned father and son duo starring in it. Unfortunately, lots of fans discovered a lot missing from the film After Earth.
The movie takes place in the future for humanity, more than one thousand years from now. Kitai Raige (Jaden Smith) and his father Cypher Raige (Will Smith) are working through their struggling relationship when they find themselves crash landed on a planet created to kill them. The spaceship they are aboard crashes to Earth more than a thousand years into our planet’s future. A millennium from now Earth has evolved to kill and destroy anything human.
The plot begins with a little background into the journey humans are forced to take over a millennium. Remarkably M. Night has created a science fiction film with a quite believable storyline based on the current circumstances surrounding all of the Earth’s present day inhabitants.
Humans must flee Earth after exhausting all natural resources and abusing the planet around us. With the planet unable to sustain human life, they seek refuge on another planet. Resistance to our settlement on another planet is recieved from a different species that inhabits it.
This species is adept at hunting and killing us by following pheromones secreted when we feel fear as an emotion. They are formidable and deadly. Along with being ugly and aggressive they create fear. The alien species is a predator by tuning its senses to our fear pheromones, on the other hand when fear is not displayed all of their senses are blinded. When they are unable to find us by sight, sound or touch, we are capable of fighting and killing them.
Cypher is a legend in his lifetime for his bravery and establishing a fighting technique called “ghosting”. The technique combats a natural enemy civilization has met on their new planet far away from the home planet Earth. Although it is unclear how many soldiers fighting with Cypher are able to use "ghosting", his son Kitai is unable to. He is a soldier in training and badly wants to follow in his famous father's footsteps.
Cypher is critically injured in the spaceship crash and his son has the dilemma of traveling across the wilderness of Earth to retrieve a beacon to call for help. Kitai’s voyage to recover a beacon helps salvage the precarious father/son relationship he has with Cypher. Kitai reclaims an inner strength his father knew he had as he travels through a savage planet. Along the way he moves from a boy to a man.
Special effects and CGI display animals evolution jump started into barely recognizable creatures, people haven’t changed very much in their evolution over the last thousand years. Remarkably, regardless of evolution the audience is able to name the original animal species for every creature crafted for the film
The stars of the movie are the only characters seen in about 90% of the film. There are a few glances of extras here and there along with brief appearances of co-starring characters of a wife and daughter. Though, Kitai and Cypher along with CGI and special effects tell the story, more scenes with other characters could have added a touch of what was missing on top of what was shown. Revealing other actors would have certainly built a more entertaining storyline along with giving viewers more characters to connect with.
Several scenes with the wife and daughter are endearing and explain the rift between Cypher and Kitai. It is difficult to tell if the movie is the story of a son attempting to live up to a legendary father, a hero’s journey for love or a boy becoming a man and learning life lessons along the way. This mishmash of stories could explain why watching the movie was entertaining with special effects, but disappointing with the tale told. The premise of the movie is brilliant, but then it was a let down on several levels.
There were only a few glimpses or a couple of minutes of film making watchers really hold their breath or feel real suspense and fear. Science fiction fans will enjoy the glimpse into the future for technology and what we are able to do with space travel, but others will leave scratching their heads and wondering where the story went.
Any audience member not a fan of CGI or science fiction logic will not enjoy After Earth. Even fans of this genre were left unfulfilled when the film concluded. They did not leave the theatre with an excitement compelling them to buy the DVD or even with the intent to tell friends and family members this was a movie they simply did not want to miss.
Both Will and Jaden Smith added their usual remarkable acting talent to this story. Though, it simply wasn’t enough. The enthralling mystery set by the trailers did not emerge through the director’s telling of the tale.
The idea for the movie was unique and creative, except overall the feature film failed to engage viewers from the height of the movie to the end. Watchers of After Earth will still be waiting for an excitement rush and ride along an enthralling story and plot long after the credits have rolled.