After Earth – Movie Review
Director: M. Night Shyamalan
Writers: Gary Whitta, M. Night Shyamalan, Will Smith (Story)
Stars: Jaden Smith, Will Smith, Sophie Okonedo, Zoë Kravitz, Glenn Morshower
Science Fiction / Thriller
I wanted to like this movie. I really, truly did.
I saw the trailers, and I loved the high concept put forth: that humans had left Earth a thousand years ago (for reasons unknown) and now Kitai Raige (Jaden Smith) and his Dad, Cypher Raige (Will Smith), have crash-landed there.
I was even okay with Kitai being sent off on his own to find a beacon that crashed elsewhere when the ship broke up. And I like the idea that fear is a choice, while danger is real. Cool concept.
If the performances had been spectacular, I might have been minded to overlook the issues in the script. They weren’t.
The problems with the script were legion. To start with, there were just too many ideas here. The humans left Earth, then there were other problems on Nova Prime, where they resettled. Kitai had training issues. Both Kitai and Cypher were absolutely obsessed with the death of Kitai’s older sister, Senshi (Zoë Kravitz), and as a result completely closed in emotionally and unable to communicate with each other. There are alien enemies. They’ve set monsters on us who can only find us when we’re afraid–they’re functionally blind.
They had these awful monsters (Ursas) attacking them at home, yet they didn’t design their homes or their weapons to defeat them.
Once they’ve crashed, there were just too many artificial constraints. Kitai is wearing a suit that can change color to help him blend in to his surroundings, but won’t keep him from freezing to death (the climate on Earth has changed so much, or we have, that the tropical jungle now has snowstorms every night). His weapon is incredibly versatile. Yet his supplies will only last until he barely gets where he needs to go, with no cushion for mishaps. And there’s an active volcano with underground water in caves, and the water isn’t too hot to swim in, just a few hundred feet from the free-flowing lava running down the surface.
Honestly, earth didn’t look so bad. The only reason we know it’s deadly is Cypher says so.
Worst problems: when Cypher is thinking about something, Kitai (who is miles away) starts discussing it with him, just like he was experiencing the flashback, too. And in an absolute life-or-death situation, with a father and son, neither of them is truthful with the other. It left the whole emotional core of the movie missing.
The best thing I can say is that the score by James Newton Howard was great.
Skip this one. Catch The Purge. Or go see Star Trek Into Darkness or Iron Man 3 again before they leave town. You’ll be glad you did.
Reviewed by Elektra Hammond