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
Earth 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.