Will and Jaden Smith have gone to the wall promoting their newest picture together. The film was apparently Will’s “coming of age” gift to his son, meant to show off his acting chops. But the word on the street is that After Earth is a plodding planetary picture that features great looking scenery and not much else.
Will Smith has been telling everyone that the movie is about a father and son bonding and both learning that each has to let the other go their own way.
Sounds good on paper; probably as much as the idea of the film did when pitched by Will to M Night Shyamalan. It must have sounded good on paper or Shyamalan wouldn’t have decided to end his slump with it. Just look at the basic premise.
Father and son decide to take a trip to get closer. On the way their, craft/ship/boat (this is the original idea, which according to Will was going to take place in Alaska) crashes and poppa is injured. Son has to brave the wilds to get help and decide to follow, or not to follow, his injured dad’s instructions.
Sounds good, but like too many films, something got lost. Not just Jaden Smith’s character but the entire plot took some sort of nose dive. That After Earth is slow and plodding with a pace that makes treacle seem fast, is beyond question. Even though this planetary picture has at the heart of it a simple father and son story.
For those of you that are interested, the story is set 1,000 years in the future. Kitai (Jaden), his father Cypher (Will) and mother Faia (Sophie Okonedo) live on a planet called Nova Prime. In an attempt to bond with his sone, Cypher brings Kitai along on a mission, but their spaceship is struck by asteroids and crash-lands on Earth. The only survivors of this interstellar crash are Cypher and Kitai. Unfortunately Cypher was injured in the crash and has two broken legs, so Kitai has to cross the hostile planet, alone, to retrieve a beacon that landed miles away, so they can signal for help.
Sounds good, doesn’t it? But the truth is, viewers are saying that yes the scenery looks great, but…
The excitement of watching Jaden Smith trudge through miles of hostile earth while only really encountering attacks from the planet’s denizens and an alien three times has not, thus far, ranked too highly with audiences.
On the other hand, you have Will Smith, ensconced safely and his participation is pretty sedentary. He gives advice, directions and things to remember. Sage-like advice that Jaden either choses to ignore or to ponder.
The dialogue isn’t as pretty as the scenery. Presumably, 1000 years from now, we will speak very, very differently than we do now. So much so, that it might be a good idea to re-watch this film, then. The dialogue might just sound better.
A short while ago, an interviewer made a connection with some of the “sage advice” that Cypher gives his son with the booming Scientology religion. Booming with the Hollywood elite, that is. And like John Travolta’s abysmal love letter to Scientology via his 2000 film Battlefield Earth (made from a novel written by the founder of this wealthy man’s religion, L Ron Hubbard) it doesn’t work.
Although not as execrable as Battlefield Earth, After Earth (even the titles are similar) is still a love letter to the religion. More of a pandering of ideals hidden in the strange dialogue spouted by Cypher in the film than an actual vehicle for Jaden to show off his acting skills.
So the jury is coming back after watching After Earth with much the same verdict. It is a plodding planetary picture that never really takes off and you might just want to save your money and catch it on Video on Demand.
by Michael Smith