The first of the summer movies that I was really looking forward to this year was After Earth. Being a huge fan of M. Night Shyamalan I may be expected to be a little biased. However, I really wasn't expecting too much by the time I actually saw this movie. So, was it good, bad, exciting, boring? Did Will Smith's kid really get top billing? For a full guided tour of After Earth, follow me.
The mo...vie is set one thousand years in the future. Humans have left Earth because of a certain race of aliens who can literally smell fear, and now inhabit a planet called Nova Prime (Wasn't that a Transformer or something).
Will Smith plays a character named Chypher Raige. I personally hate the name, but the character itself is well drawn by Shyamalan and brilliantly acted by Smith. Chypher is a great and legendary soldier who has mastered the art of "ghosting", which means to be completely without fear and thus becoming invisible to the aliens. I know, it's a tad cheesy, but I still think it was an interesting concept.
While Chypher Raige is apparently the best soldier....ever, I guess, he is arguably a terrible father to his son Kitai, played by Smith's real life son Jaden. You get the feeling that Kitai has some security issues caused by his father being too hard on him and possibly a little something that happened in his past.
So Chypher and his son go off into space and, as luck would have it, run into a meteor shower and crash land on a strange planet. A planet called EARTH! (key dramatic music). Chypher and Kitai are the only survivors of the crash. However, daddy's leg is injured, leaving it up to young Kitai to travel the hostel planet to find flares in the tail of the ship.
Although the movie had it's problems, I thought it was very good. It looked great. Shyamalan created a broad, realistic, and sometimes terrifying future Earth, and reminds us that he knows how to let his characters tell a story.
Will Smith turns in, what I would call, the greatest performance of his career. At least his best since I Am Legend. He left his comfort zone to play a low key, reserved character and really did a great job. He had such an outward presence as a leader and really related well the inner turmoil of Chypher Raige.
On the negative side of things, the movie starts off bad, which is a problem. The opening narration is just painful, and then there are the accents. I understand what Shyamalan was trying to do with the accents. If Earth was evacuated and everybody was mixed up on another planet somewhere for a thousand years, they would certainly have a different accent. Still, this is very hard to deal with for, about the first thirty minutes or so. After a certain point in the movie I stopped noticing it.
Jaden Smith shows promise to me, although I thought this role was WAY too big for him at this stage in his career. I'm not ready to anoint or condemn him just yet, but there were some glaring weaknesses that definitely showed up here.
The very end of the film is a bit corny, but that's ok to me because the point comes across well, and it is a strong one. I felt good leaving the theater and that's a big compliment to a movie like this.
All in all, I thought After Earth was a solid effort. It had a simple plot, yet well told and strongly acted. If this is an indication of how the summer movie season is going to go then I am ready! The Movie Man gives it 3.5 out of 5 stars.
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