After Earth is another run-of-the-mill, interminable entry in the pop-apocalyptic genre.

Review by Luke Whitmire

After Earth Poster

M. Night Shyamalan directs his fifth lackluster spectacle, one set in a dystopian future that’s a bargain-bin of elements from Avatar and Oblivion. Hollywood has four apocalyptic films being released this year: After Earth follows Oblivion,  with World War Z and Elysium still to come. Will Smith, the venerable box office star, takes to the sidelines and leaves the film in the hands of his teenage son Jaden.

Humans have left planet Earth to reside on a new home colony called Nova Prime, due to an alien invasion that left Earth unfit for human habitation. One of humanity’s skilled military warriors, Cypher Raige (Will Smith), has come back from a long tour of duty to be reunited with his son Kitai (Jaden Smith). Cypher takes Kitai on a training mission, but it’s quickly interrupted by a deep-space meteor shower that sends them back to Earth. With Cypher severely injured, it’s up to Kitai to navigate the ferocious terrain to procure a device that will assist others in finding their location. Kitai must elude feral beasts, parasites and aliens that live off fear.

Jaden Smith in After Earth

Jaden Smith in After Earth

I’ll give M. Night some credit: After Earth is a much better film than his last four films (The Last AirbenderThe HappeningLady in the Water and The Village). At times it comes across as a pretty decent movie, but it will not reinvigorate M. Night’s film career. Sadly, most of the film is like watching a video game, with little drama or character development. We get some heavy pontificating about fear, but the bad scripting and directing keep our protagonists benumbed throughout the entire story.

However, there are a few high points:  some of the CGI is quite good, and the musical score by James Newton Howard is fantastic. Will Smith is decent, even with his limited screen time, but his strange mid-Atlantic accent is very distracting at times. The charisma that makes Will so entertaining to watch as a performer has been completely stripped away. He shows no emotion, and his dialogue about fearlessness falls in its logorrheic solemnity. Much of Will’s dialogue consists of life lessons, but it comes across as generic talk from a motivational seminar. Even Jaden’s performance is charisma-free, making his story arc unsophisticated and dull.Jaden Smith in After Earth

This film is underwhelming and extremely lazy. It’s a poorly written father-son fable about transcending fear. Also, this derivative rancid mess comes across as a vague Scientology-like parable that fails to compel or uplift. Dianetics, a foundational text by Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard, is the subtext of the story. This is atrocious, nepotistic cinema that’s devoid of substance and meaningful characterizations.

Bottom line:
This movie should have never been produced. Skip it!
* out of 5 stars