Sony // 2013 // 100 Minutes // Rated PG-13
Reviewed by Judge Patrick Naugle // October 29th, 2013
Starring Will Smith and Will Smith's personal Mini-Me.
It's been over 1,000 years since Earth was deemed inhospitable to humans and man evacuated to the planet Nova Prime. Unfortunately, Nova Prime soon became besieged by aliens that prey on a person's 'fear', and soon certain individuals (known as 'Ghosts') had to adapt to learn to control their fear and fight back. One of these individuals is a Ranger named Cypher Raige (Will Smith, Men in Black 3) who is at the end of his career. His son, Kitai (Jaden Smith, The Karate Kid), also wants to become a Ranger but is denied that chance. When Kitai accompanies Cypher on a mission to an alien world, their ship crash lands on Earth, now filled with dangerous creatures and a hostile atmosphere. With time running out and Cypher gravely injured, Kitai must make his way through Earth's dense forests and terrain to reach a communication device from the tail of their ship.
There was a time when Will Smith could do no wrong. Smith rose up from being part of the 1980s rap duo "DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince" to being a TV star with The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. Trying his hand at movies, Smith became a true superstar with movies like Independence Day and Men in Black. As each summer rolled around, another Will Smith tent pole summer movie was released, often to huge box office success. Then something happened in the last decade...Smith's marquee value lost some of its luster. It could be the fact that comic book movies and special effects had overtaken the value of an actor's name. Or it could be a series of not-so-great flops (including Wild Wild West) that put an end to Smith's box office reign. Or it could just be the inevitable waning of any actor's career; as the old saying goes, nobody stays on top forever.
As Will Smith's career was just beginning to wind down, M. Night Shyamalan's career was becoming red hot. With 1999's critically and commercially successful The Sixth Sense, Shyamalan was almost immediately touted as "the new Spielberg." Coming almost out of nowhere (his biggest credit before that was a writer on the kid's movie Stuart Little), Shyamalan showed enormous promise with his atmospheric visuals and twisty end scenes. Audiences found themselves excited about the filmmaker and what he'd bring to the screen next. Although Shyamalan's Unbreakable did okay business, it ended up disappointing many who wanted more of the same as The Sixth Sense. As the decade rolled on and Shyamalan rolled out new movies -- Signs, The Village -- it became clear that maybe he didn't have many more tricks up his sleeve. By the time The Village was released, audiences were starting to get annoyed by Shyamalan's twist endings and shoddy storytelling. This was made worse with the release of the abysmal Lady in the Lake, the laughable The Happening, and the lambasted The Last Airbender, all of which were practically shamed off the screen. Shyamalan suddenly found himself back on the bottom rung of Hollywood's ladder.
Which brings us to After Earth -- directed by M. Night Shyamalan, starring Will Smith, and featuring a screenplay that is dead on arrival. After Earth is just a terrible miscalculation of a movie for both Smith and Shyamalan. I'm sure both actor and director hoped it would bring them acclaim and box office dollars, but instead it's nothing but one long headache that feels like a vanity project from start to finish. This is because, clearly, After Earth was conceived to make Smith's son, Jaden Smith, an action star. You wouldn't know it by looking at the trailers or promotional materials, but Will Smith spends most of the film down and out inside a spaceship giving his son strict instructions about how to navigate a hostile planet that was once Earth. This is really Jaden Smith's movie, and while the young actor is able move through the film from opening to closing credits, he hasn't got half of his father's charisma or charm to carry a film.
One of the biggest disappointments about After Earth is that it's just so mediocre. At least if After Earth had been terrible in the same way John Travolta's Battlefield Earth had been, we'd all have something to point and laugh at. Unfortunately, After Earth features many of the components that show up in successful blockbusters; the stunt work looks good, the special effects are polished and sharp, and the music swells beautifully at the appropriate moments. What the film sadly lacks is awe and interest. There wasn't anything in After Earth that I hadn't already seen before, from ugly mutant animals to spaceships hurtling through the cosmos. Ho-hum. Combine this with a screenplay (Smith conceived the story and Shyamalan wrote the screenplay with Book of Eli Gary Whitta) with absolutely zero surprises or twists -- Jaden Smith's character must get from point A to point B, that's it -- and you've got a movie that practically sleepwalks its way to the final conclusion.
I like Will Smith and many of his films, and I don't have the venomous anger towards Shyamalan as other film fans do (troll some of the message boards and you'd think the guy was the anti-Christ). I really wanted to enjoy After Earth but just never got into its groove. The movie feels like it's always on auto-pilot, coasting along without any real creative verve until it ends exactly the way you'd expect. Will Smith shows up to put in his performance, Jaden Smith looks too young to be an action star, and M. Night Shyamalan doesn't bring anything special to the proceedings. After Earth is rote sci-fi at its most yawn-inducing.
After Earth is presented in 2.39:1 widescreen in 1080p and mastered in 4K for ultra-high def televisions. Not surprisingly, this transfer is top notch; the colors practically leap off the screen and the black levels are perfectly solid and inky. I have absolutely no complaints about this transfer as it looks crystal clear and as close to perfection as you can get. The soundtrack is presented in an equally as impressive DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 Surround mix in English and French (with a Dolby 5.1 mix in Spanish). After Earth features a rollicking, immersive audio mix that sports a lot of different surround sounds and directional effects. Fans of the film will not be disappointed by either the video or audio components of this disc. Also included are English, Spanish, and French subtitles.
Extra features include a few featurettes on the making of After Earth ("A Father's Legacy," "Building a World," "The Nature of the Future," "1000 Years is 300 Seconds," "Pre-Visualizing the Future"), an alternate opening, some animatics ("The Animatics of After Earth"), some weird discussion about saving Earth ("XPrise After Earth Challenge"), a few trailers, a DVD copy, and an UltraViolet digital copy of the film.
After Earth may satisfy some Will Smith fans, but I'm not one of them. M. Night Shyamalan continues to churn out movies that sully the promise he showed with The Sixth Sense. This one should be shot back into space.
Only watch this one during a nap.
Review content copyright © 2013 Patrick Naugle; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* 2.40:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio (English)
* DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio (French)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Spanish)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 100 Minutes
Release Year: 2013
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13
* Alternate Opening
* DVD Copy
* Digital Copy
* UltraViolet Download
* Official Site
* Facebook Page