Why, Will? Why? In the wake of a string of sublimely awful movie choices “The, Not So, Fresh Prince” tops the lot with “After Earth”, one of those rare films that I’d rather spend a night in a skip full of Chlamydia infecting honey badgers than watch again. M. Night Shyamalam, inexplicably still being allowed in the directors chair, defends his crown as the cinematic world limbo champion with his ability to reach new lows (bud-um-chish) unchallenged by any director, past or present.
Smith and Shyamalan have crafted something so heroically, hilariously terrible it’s a struggle to categorize it as a film, more a 100minute demonstration of what not to do when making a movie. In addition to burning the eyes it also boggles the brain as to how, a cast of sentient beings, some of whom possess a vague degree of talent could invest in a project this abysmal and have the gall to charge people money to watch it… Ok, so maybe that’s a little harsh but I’ve had to be so nice recently about the legitimately decent Oscar nominees that I’ve built up a fair bit of film reviewer angst and needed to vent. But that doesn’t mean I’m gonna stop.
“After Earth’s” tone is set from the off as it opens with the bland, BS ridden backstory, drawing unsettling parallels with Smith’s own scientology beliefs, being recounted by Kitai – played by Jayden Smith, Big Will’s on and offscreen son, with all the enthusiasm and emotion of a substitute teacher reading out the school lunch menu.
Apparently humanity jumped the sinking ship that was Earth a while back, relocating to a new all beige star-wars knockoff space world on which they divide their time between choosing increasingly ridiculous future names for leading characters, Cypher Riage? Really?!, and battling some of the most generic movie monsters ever committed to screen, with a potent combination of double ended bamboo swords and total apathy – their twin keys to victory. It is in fact this core concept, the alien, “Ursa”, senses fear therefore meaning you’ve gotta suck it up to survive, that’s responsible for many of “After Earth’s” considerable failings/shooting itself in the foot syndrome.
Will Smith is not only robbed of all emotion and his trademark, potentially film saving, charisma but also, after the 20 minute mark, his movement as well, when the characters crash into Earth, reducing him to a sedentary presence throughout – grumpily sitting in the wreckage of his career… I mean spaceship spouting confused, pseudo-philisophical bullshit while Jayden, having purchased the finest personality bypass money can buy with the profits from Karate Kid, alternates between a look of disgruntled confusion and the pout of a recently lobotomized man-duck.
The writing, so cheese-ily awful it feels like molten brea is being pumped into your ear holes, does nothing to help the pair. Seriously, trying to make a good movie with a script this incompetently bad is like playing jenga in an earthquake or opening a restaurant that only sells bacon in Iran… it just ain’t gonna happen and you’re a fool for trying. With the usual energetic charm the two leads thrive on sidelined there’s next to nothing left to liven up the giant cliched turd of a narrative… if this is what the future holds someone grab me a bottle of bleach cos’ I’mma start chugging.
But it’s Shyamalam, surely there’s a twist, right? Well wrong! As the very thing M. Night. made his career on, the shocking, unexpected reveal, is signposted throughout the entire film so in the end (spoilers!?!?) when the big bad, incredibly unimaginative monster does show up the only surprising thing is that it took so long/you’re still watching the movie.
Even the futuristic, science fiction element of the film fails to convince thanks to the non-sensical character dialogue – “Gravatronian extractor beam… spacial sensory smart suit… wormhole blastoise (or something like that)” being a few of my personal favorites amongst the innumerable instances of laughably poor writing.
The action, structure and cgi is reminiscent of a mid-ninties game demo while the pace of the film mirrors that of a baby turtle in a paddling pool full of humus. It is an unmitigated disaster whose only saving grace is it’s occasionally easy on the eye visuals and unintentional comedy. From the story to the acting to it’s completely illogical and derivative plot After Earth is incomprehensibly, next level bad.