After Earth (2013)
When Bad Sci-Fi Meets Angry, Prejudiced Fans
After Earth was a movie that revealed a very ugly side of movie watchers. The ugly came with the nastiest tweets, blog posts, and general commentary about Jaden Smith and his acting career. The wave of angry people who took onus with the kid’s face, his father’s money and their alleged religion—all things that had little to do with the movie—made it guaranteed that the movie would be a flop before it was released.
Veteran actor Will Smith thought that the movie would be a good coming-of-age film for his son Jaden and took to the talkshow circuit to promote After Earth as a father and son duo. Much of the hate that was put up against Jaden was blind rage filled with attacks that bordered on race—like calling him a thug—and taking issue with the fact that he was born rich and that little girls like him.
What really bothered me was that a lot of these opinions came from adult males who seemed a tad bit jealous. One guy admitted that he was a failed actor and was upset that Jaden got his own movie – yes this happened. Did I also mention that the movie is directed by M Night Shyamalan? Like I said, it failed before it even got released just because of personal prejudice by movie watchers. I am guilty of steering clear of Shyamalan myself but I don’t attack kid actors so the vitriol I witnessed was very disappointing.
This is why I tell you movie watchers that when reading and listening to reviews make sure that you look for bias from the people speaking. After Earth was a bad movie and I will explain why in the following paragraphs but it was not bad because “Will smith bought his son a movie” or “because of Scientology”, it was bad because it had absolutely no point.
A boy and his war hero father go on vacation together (some spoilers)
The story behind After Earth is that of a boy who looks up to his father who is never there. Seems like the typical situation with a high-ranking military dad in movies right? The boy’s name is Kitai Raige (Jaden Smith) and his father’s name is Cypher Raige (Will Smith). Cypher is a legendary commander in a war for earth that deals with alien creatures who can only see fear. Kitai, like any son who is destined to live in daddy’s shadow is a try-hard. He is an average cadet in a military academy but he struggles with not being great like his dad and gets himself in trouble for it.
After Earth the movie takes place when Cypher finally comes home to his beautiful wife Faia (Sophie Okonedo) and realizes that he needs to spend time with his son. The father and son decide on a trip together and as their military-class ship sets off to their spot of bonding disaster strikes. The ship ends up crashing on the planet earth—which has changed into an alien hell—and they find out that they are the only survivors. The other problem is that Cypher is badly wounded and it is up to Kitai to retrieve a homing beacon that is miles away with limited supplies and minimal Ranger training.
Why I Disliked After Earth
The way the movie was shot gave it a low-res dreamlike atmosphere but it took away from the things we love to see in Science Fiction. Cypher used a medical kit that had holographic diagrams, polygon x-rays and all sorts of cool features but it was one of the only times that the technology of his day was put on display.
Will Smith should have realized that his son was not ready for a “one man show” given how difficult it is for seasoned actors to pull it off. Sam Rockwell knocked it out the park when he did Moon but he’s Sam Rockwell. After Earth should have had Smith, a veteran of the one man show (I Am Legend) looking for the beacon with Jaden playing costar as the injured son. The dialogue that dealt with Jaden and his father seemed strange and forced when it should have been natural and sympathetic being that they are really father and son – remember Jon Voight’s touching scene with Angelina Jolie in Tomb Raider? This was an opportunity missed due to Jaden’s amateur acting.
The one positive with this movie—which seemed like it didn’t need the Sci-Fi backdrop at all to show a dad bonding with his son—was the Raige family. Cypher’s daughter Senshi (Zoe Kravitz) was beautiful and besides having cool names, they seemed very much like an aristocratic family of a new age. Will Smith’s Cypher was badass and should have been in the movie more. The writing… well… that above all else needed help.
I cannot recommend After Earth to you readers especially if you have any prejudice towards the Smith family. I would like to remember Will for I-Robot, Men in Black, Independence Day and all of his other mega-successful Sci-Fi films. Jaden Smith kicked ass in Karate Kid and I am sure that he will bounce back from this. So stay away from this movie but stay away for the right reasons.