Tuesday, June 3, 2014
JohnnyTwoToes reviews what is perhaps M.Night Shyamalan's worst movie ever!
As you watch this poorly made sci-fi adventure, it becomes lucidly clear that M. Night Shyamalan's career is in free fall much like one the many laughable scenes in After Earth. This particular scene involves Jaden Smith hurling himself off a cliff and his special space suit opening up to sprout a web like design that enables the young man to fly and maneuver like a bird!
Many thought Shyamalan would rebound with this star vehicle for Jaden and pop Will Smith playing (what else) a father and son team on their way to a training post when their space ship crashes on Earth. Earth (as expected in these kind of movies) is uninhabitable that we have destroyed the planet and all that lives there now is a bunch of pissed off animals and assorted creatures that crave human flesh. The distress beacon of the ship (as expected) is in the tail of the ship which we are then told is a shocking 100 kilometers away! Since papa has broken both his legs, it is up to Kitai (Jaden Smith) to find the distress beacon and activate it calling for help.
The story is very basic, needlessly cryptic with Scientology references and to add to the mess, cliched to start with. Will Smith (in a casting disaster) is Commander Cypher Raige. He is a seemingly stoic leader who is so fearless he can 'ghost'. We are told that 'Ghosting' is when a man is so fearless that he releases no fear pheromones thus the enemy aliens can not see him. Evidently, the evil aliens can only see the juicy humans because if you show fear, your body releases pheromones that make you an easy meal for the creatures!
M. Night Shyamalan is a fine director, in my humble opinion. He has directed three standout films EARLY in his career. The Sixth Sign (1999) which gave Bruce Willis a second life in acting in a great and heartbreaking film. He, too had a series of disappointing films until that film made him a A list star. Unbreakable (2000) re-teamed Shyamalan and Willis this time with Samuel Jackson and Robin Wright. Signs (2002) (my personal favorite) solidified Mel Gibson as a leading man in dramas in addition to action films. After that, came The Village (2004) which I hated. I have since softened my dislike for the film and I do actually like the first hour or so. It is vintage Shyamalan; slow tracking shots, quiet and still with very clever lighting adding some real terror. Problem is, Shyamalan reveals too many plot twists and the second half is simply preposterous. After The Village, it went from bad to worse with a string of simply BAD films; Lady In The Water (2006), The Happening (2008) and the truly wretched The Last Airbender in 2010. wtf?
After Earth is not as bad as The Last Airbender but it is maddeningly dull. Will Smith is truly miscast as Cypher. He is supposed to be fearless and without emotion. He is also very boring to watch, a unsympathetic jerk with NO sense of humor AT ALL. You won't like him, so strike one. Jaden is more interesting to watch only because he is SOOOOO not like his father CAN be. Will Smith can be heroic, brave and funny. Jaden is none of those. His acting in this film is insufferable. So strike two. One character we hate, another that could not act his way out of a wet paper bag (as of yet, anyway). The third strike is that, AGAIN we have a film whose visuals are the lifeblood but the script is tedious and the action is so uninteresting that the whole film becomes a flaccid mess.
The script, written by Shyamalan and Gary Whitta is without any real emotion and humor. I was surprised to see that it was based on a story by Will Smith. Shockingly, Shyamalan was given 130 MILLION dollars to make After Earth his first film in three years since the debacle of The Last Airbender. You would think the studios (Columbia,mostly) would have looked at his track record the past 10 years and say,"Umm, No." I think there still is greatness in Shyamalan's career, but one can only ask, "What are you doing, man?" My advice is start over and think small like you did with The Sixth Sense. Find a script that is worth taking your time and creating a simple story with characters that are real rather than the crap we have been seeing. Lose the visual feasts for CGI effects, get a real human story and go from there.
After Earth does have James Newton Howard scoring his eighth film for Shyamalan and his score is a good one; a grandiose orchestral arrangement with some added synthesizers for good measure. Other than that, After Earth is deserving of all the Razzies it was nominated for and the many it won. Lets hope Shyamalan's forthcoming horror comedy Sundowning is at least good. After Earth-* out of 4