‘After Earth’ attempts to be a thrilling sci-fi adventure following a father and son as they crash on a hostile planet, surviving together, and bonding every-step of the way, and with real-life father and son Will and Jaden Smith as the main two cast members, the film should be a recipe for success. However, with some awful CGI visuals along with plenty unexplored story ideas and even some surprisingly poor performances, ‘After Earth’ is far more of a comedy than it is the exciting science fiction flick it set-out to be.
In the far future, a crash landing leaves ‘Kitai Raige’ and his father: ‘Cypher’ stranded on Earth, a millennium after catastrophic events forced humanity to abandon the planet, with ‘Cypher’ injured, ‘Kitai’ must embark on a perilous journey alone to signal for help.
Directed by the once great M. Night Shyamalan (The Sixth Sense, Unbreakable, Signs), ‘After Earth’ is just another one of the many duds Shyamalan has directed in recent memory. As while many scenes throughout ‘The Sixth Sense’ will always be iconic and beautifully crafted alongside some of his other work, many feel that this director has simply had his day. As aside from the semi-sequel to ‘Unbreakable’: ‘Split’ back in 2016. Shyamalan has directed nothing but dreadful attempts at horrors and thrillers, before now turning his eye towards the sci-fi genre.
Unfortunately, the majority of the performances throughout ‘After Earth’ range from very bland to simply laughable, as although not quite as bad as some of the unintentionally hilarious performances in director M. Night Shyamalan’s other film: ‘The Happening’, the film isn’t far off this standard, with one scene in particular where ‘Kitai’ is bitten by a poisonous insect coming-off as purely comedic. What makes this so surprising however, is that this acting duo have worked-well together previously in ‘The Pursuit of Happyness’. Yet this time around, the two seem to have very little chemistry with each other throughout most of the film’s runtime in addition to feeling very miscast in their respective roles. As Will Smith who is usually known for being incredibly charismatic and funny portrays: ‘Cypher Raige’ as a cold, emotionless warrior. Going completely against his best aspects as an actor.
Throughout ‘After Earth’, the cinematography by Peter Suschitzky is simply just decent. As whilst the film doesn’t really contain many inventive or memorable shots, the cinematography does make great use of many of the film’s spectacular natural locations. As the large variety of wide-shots do effectively display the true scale of the newly formed forests, waterfalls and mountains that now inhabit this new-era of Earth.
The original score by James Newton Howard is another dull aspect of the film, as the film’s score is barely recognizable from any other action or sci-fi film despite this composer actually crafting many wonderful soundtracks in the past, including the original score for: ‘The Sixth Sense’. The film’s problems even extend into its narrative structure, as during the early stages of the film, ‘After Earth’ bombards the audience with information on this sci-fi world, cutting rapidly between an enormous array of different clips, usually leaving a viewer with far more questions than answers as the film forces its exposition down the audience’s throat in one overly-long scene.
The film’s CGI effects sadly don’t show much improvement either, as the huge variety of creatures within the story ranging from tigers to birds, to savage monkeys, all look less than mediocre. However, to give the film credit, the film’s main antagonist known as the ‘Ursa’, does have a pretty interesting design. As although the creature does share some weak CGI visuals similar to many of the other creatures, the ‘Ursa’ simply has more of a presence within the film, and does feel somewhat intimidating and unique despite barley being utilized or developed. The film’s underdeveloped ideas are even more bizarre considering originally, the film wasn’t even supposed to be a sci-fi. As Will Smith’s first concept for the film focused on a farther and son on a camping-trip in modern-day, which I personally think sounds far more interesting and enjoyable as opposed to viciously-morphing the idea into a science fiction story.
Overall, ‘After Earth’ is a complete disaster of a science fiction blockbuster, as the film’s terrible performances alongside its dismal CGI effects and mostly bland filmmaking, all result in the film being extremely boring and even sometimes laughably bad. Another unfortunate flop for director M. Night Shyamalan, and definitely a huge dint in Jaden Smith’s acting career, as the young actor hasn’t appeared on-screen since. Despite some great ideas here and there, ‘After Earth’ is certainly a low-point in Will Smith’s film catalogue, and is a high 2/10 overall.