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After Earth

After Earth

Hollywood keeps telling us that the earth is doomed in such
movies as Oblivion, The Host and even
the upcoming comedy This is the End.
But if anyone can survive a depleted planet, you’ve got to figure it would be
Will Smith—who actually concocted the story for After Earth. He plays against type here as a stiff, by-the-book
general who isn’t much of a family man, but has conquered the emotion of fear.
The same can’t be said for his callow son (played by real-life son Jaden
Smith), who accompanies his dad on a journey to dispose of a hideous monster
who attacks humans on their new home planet.

It’s not giving away too much to say that the spacecraft
crash-lands on earth, which has become a hostile environment for humans. The
elder Smith is badly injured, so it’s up to young Jaden to prove himself by traveling
100 kilometers on foot and salvage a rescue beacon. Jaden is no sissy, but he’s
haunted by a traumatic childhood experience with a deadly monster and isn’t
eager to encounter another, in any form.

Jaden carries himself well in this futuristic adventure,
which was filmed in a variety of lush locations around the globe. His father is
appropriately stoic, and has to deliver some straight-faced dialogue that
elicited sputters of laughter at the screening I attended. Younger audiences
might have an easier time taking it at face value and investing in the story of
a boy who’s trying to earn his father’s respect.

I wouldn’t recommend After
to anyone who’s highly squeamish. Oddly enough, the wildlife
creatures (including baboons and an enormous eagle) are rendered in
all-too-obvious CGI form, but the main monster is truly fearsome.

As to the screenplay, its awkwardness is heightened by some
typically  heavy-handed philosophizing
from director M. Night Shyamalan (and co-screenwriter Gary Whitta).

As a juvenile adventure yarn, After Earth is adequate but hardly inspired. It may satisfy
undemanding moviegoers but it won’t add luster to anyone’s career.


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#1 for the second week in China. $235 million worldwide and counting.


Actually, Maltin's review is fair. It is not overtly for or against the movie, but it is fair and agrees with my assessment that After Earth is no Life of Pi and Knight Shyalaman is no Ang Lee, but the movie is decent. Quite a bit of criticism for After Earth was excessively negative. Will Smith had a target on his back the moment he turned down Tarantino's Django Unchained with a "no thank you, I'm producing my own movie." Since then, Tarantino, Tarantino's fanboys, and likely Tarantino's producer The Weinstein Company have made nasty comments about the audacity of Will Smith's hope that he could be in charge of his own show. Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson and the teen from Hunger Games opened a similar film Journey 2 the Mysterious Island at $27.5 million just like After Earth's opening weekend box office sales. None of the media swooped in to subject either to verbal abuse, name-calling, contempt, and bullying predictions of career demise. Certainly not the same weekend it debuted. Journey 2 the Mysterious Island was given a chance. Besides this particular movie, there is a resistance and rejection of futuristic science fiction not led by White men. In After Earth, both of the leaders of the future, the wife and the daughter are Black. Case-in-point, we see The Road by Cormac MacCarthy produced for film, but not Octavia Butler's Parable of the Sower. We see the ridiculous Django Unchained by Tarantino, but not Kindred (also by Butler). Some people already suffering under a Black president really cannot tolerate the idea or fantasy of afro-futurism and react to it with disgust and outrage. Finally, speaking of Tom Cruise's Oblivion, it is particularly strange that the admitted out, proud, and LOUD Scientologist Cruise gets a pass on Scientology accusations while Will Smith's After Earth is smeared all over and drowned in it. Regardless, despite the attempt to crush it, After Earth is on track to earn similar numbers to Oblivion. The biggest secret kept by entertainment media these days is that After Earth is performing well overseas at the top of the box office in major markets such as France, Russia, Mexico, and the UK. As of June 16th, estimates are $145 million of worldwide gross in After Earth's second week in the marketplace. And this movie hasn't even made it to Japan or China yet!!! Both Smiths are beloved and well-known quantities overseas, particularly Asia. Unlike North American audiences, overseas audiences either ignore, resist, or can't begin to understand the stealth racial resentment towards the Smiths or other Blacks in decision-making positions over their own projects. We've seen similar vituperative reactions to Muhammed Ali when he resisted the draft for a war of dubious intent, Michael Jackson after he purchased the Beatles catalog, Prince when he wrestled for creative control over publishing and distribution, and President Barack Obama for becoming the leader of the United States. Irrational, dunder-headed, envious, outrage towards a Black man desiring control over his destiny and creativity. Nevermind that Jaden's well-received performances in both the Pursuit of Happyness and The Karate Kid have already been documented. Nevermind that he earned his place by his own hard work and that of his father. The charges of nepotism clearly illustrate the irrationality of the idiotic hypocrisy directed at the Smiths. It's okay and well and good for Robert Downey Jr, Ben Stiller, Charlie Sheen, Emilio Estevez, Michael and Cameron Douglas, Colin Hanks, Scott Caan, Jake Busey, Josh Brolin, Josh Ritter, but HOW DARE WILL SMITH PUT HIS OWN SON on the fast track???? And shall we comment on the women–Sophia Coppola, Drew Barrymore, Angelina Jolie, Gwenyth Paltrow… Apparently, Hollywood nepotism is acceptable only for one race?

Hank Zangara

(Sigh.) Whatever happened to M. Night Shyamalan? He held me in awe at his remarkably fresh and deft touch with such now-classics as Signs, The Sixth Sense, and Unbreakable. His ability to wink at the audience while masterfully manipulating their reactions is second only to Hitchcock. And sadly, Shyamalan now seems to have become just another director for hire.

PS: Earth the planet has a capital E. Lower-case earth means dirt!


Starting to get the picture Leonard …. I hope you actually read these comments. Despite my better judgment I went to this piece of crap. To say that Jaden carries himself well immediately puts your reputation as a movie critic in jeopardy. I'm totally with Wasted Clown and Tellthetruth. This is the kind of stuff you expect from puny rags that hope to see a quote of theirs used during the films promotion. Shame on you Leonard for selling out to the Smith family. If by chance you actually liked Jaden's performance – that may be worse.


"Jaden is no sissy, but he’s haunted by a traumatic childhood experience with a deadly monster and isn’t eager to encounter another, in any form." Don't you mean "Kitai" (Jaden Smith's character in the film)? Or by "deadly monster" did you mean Jada Pinkett Smith)?

In any case, this review is terribly flawed in so many ways. Take your payola and retire, Leo.


Sorry, but Jaden doesn't carry himself well in this futuristic adventure. He has no talent yet (it may be possible in the future). Daddy should give him about 10 years of real acting lessons instead of foisting him on the viewing public, which currently finds him talentless. Mr. Maltin, this is not Obama, it's ok to tell us he is horrible.

wasted clown

you have sold your soul Maltin. What was it? Did Will or Jada promise you an exclusive interview? Did they send you a preview DVD with a Rolex? What? Or are you so completely compromised that you put the kid gloves on because you felt sorry for this pre-pubescent multi-millionaire? What was it Maltin?


Well, how is this for a sci-fi plot, "Screen Writing is Dead!" or World War Z meets Frankenstein or "Never Cry Wolf." If we are coming to an end, how come they are making so many films about the same thing , for MONEY ? Even the Perils of Pauline ends on a positive note. LM has got to be writing a separate chapter for his annual film guide, Films that " End the Earth with Apocalypse."
If subject matter defines the film timeline, then maybe we are doomed, to BAD films.

Daniel Delago

I met screenwriter Steven Gaghan (Traffic, Syriana) at a film festival recently. He actually had a hand in the 'After Earth' script but surprisingly gets no credit for it. I think that happens a lot to doctored scripts.

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