Friday, 7 June 2013

After Earth Film Review

After Earth (2013)

Directed by: M. Night Shyamalan
Starring: Will Smith, Jaden Smith
Written by: Gary Whitta, M. Night Shyamalan

Rating: 4/10

Apparently, 'After Earth', we go back to Earth. Of sorts. Just like in most post-Earth sci-fi cliché filled film (looking at you, 'Oblivion'), humanity can't escape even accidental returns to the planet after we've destroyed it.

I think the comment that sums this movie up the most is the one my partneire dans le crime of this blog stated on our way out of the film; "this has to be the most expensive home movie/vanity project any Hollywood star has pushed out".

I laughed heartily as I remembered films like 'Cadance' and 'Zoolander' - similar attempts at the same idea. In Hollywood, there's nothing new about the bland nepotism and those who have carved out a section of the industry for themselves to push their children into the limelight. Will Smith is a talented and wonderful actor in pretty much everything he's been in - not one of the greats, but with such a charm and a charisma that you just can't help but love his characterisations. His son has apparently inherited none of this skill. It's not that Jaden Smith is bad - it's that he's generic. While Will shines (and like pretty much every movie he's been in of late - has a small tearful/emotional moment where the audience can connect with him), he does spend most of the movie in and out of consciousness. Nepotism isn't new; Nicolas Cage is part of the Coppola line, for one example. It's a part and parcel of Hollywood, so the issue wasn't with bringing in Jaden - it was the outcome of this decision that had a huge impact on the film.

The cast for the film was very limited - other than the father and son team, there were only a handful of actors/actresses in the film. Generally, this isn't a sign of quality from just the number of people - but in this case, you will wish there had been someone other else so there would have been less screen time for Jaden. Will Smith had originally envisioned the movie the first in a trilogy; a fact that is more terrifying than most of director Shyamalan's recent work.

'After Earth' is about a legendary warrior/commander, Cypher Raige (Will Smith) and what happens after the Earth becomes uninhabitable (largely due to our apparently will full destruction of it). Humanity then evacuates and moves to Nova Prime, where a race known as "Ursa", under the command of a higher alien race, attack the newly arrived humans. Cypher's only surviving child after an Ursa attack is Kitai Raige (Jaden Smith). The film opens on a crest of exposition to help the audience immerse themselves in the world inhabited after the fall of Earth. The Ursa, despite advanced human weaponry, still apparently massacred our race close to extinction; after which, Cypher became the legendary commander of The Ranger Corps, the peacekeeping organisation which protects humanity. This transformation happened, we're told, because he could "ghost"; the Ursa are vicious alien creatures that are "technically blind", but they can 'see' through their sense of smell. They detect pheromones given off, and are most prominent able to pick up on those excreted when the body's fight or flight response kicks in along with fear - as the film explains, "they literally see fear". Rather obviously, this gives them a massive advantage over humanity - but not Cypher, and subsequent Rangers. This is because Cypher is a man "without fear". He becomes a "ghost" and the Ursa can't see him - making him, in a bittersweet irony, extremely effective at countering the Ursa. The film is set on a crash landing on Earth, 1,000 years after humanity abandoned it, when the ship carrying Cypher and Kitai suffers catastrophic failures.

I find it intriguing in one sense; it turns out that Shyamalan hasn't learnt anything, and I do mean anything, from 'The Happening' and 'The Last Airbender'. Or most of his other films. A once promising talent now keeps on helming films that seem not only aimless, but almost pointless.

The film's score is, as with most summer blockbusters dribbling onto the screen currently, rather unremarkable. Which is rather surprising, consider it was scored by the rather well known James Newton Howard - a man who has worked on over a 100 films, and scored films like 'The Dark Knight'(with Zimmer) and 'The Village'. He has scored every film of Shyamalan's since 'The Sixth Sense'. It's saddening that the score on this film didn't stand out in any particular way; like most of the film, it just fell into the generic line.

The visual effects are rather subpar at points, but the film does look beautiful overall. This is because it was filmed in 4k resolution for the live action parts. The CGI shots were edited and produced in 2k so the movie does at times look a bit like a mismatch if you look close enough. The set design is brilliant and similarly to 'Oblivion' - the film looks sleek and sufficiently futuristic. And so it should, at a $130 million budget.

The film's 100 minutes felt more like 200, or even 300. The story has incredibly lacklustre pace. While the elder Smith may be able to carry large chunks of films by himself (think 'The Pursuit of Happyness') and cause an emotional impact, the younger version feels like a futuristic carbon copy that lacks all the natural charm and talent that made his father famous. After the remake of 'The Karate Kid', there had to be another stream of movies featuring Jaden. It seems that Will thought it might boost his acting credentials if he was there on the next project to help promote/push him. However, acting requires not only natural talent, but a commitment and a craftsmanship and deep respect for the craft, which takes most actors a good time to develop and tune.

The age of film actors honing their performances before with great tuition, and supplementing it with ample experience in theatre where their performance sorely affected their incomes, seems to be floating towards the horizon. Jaden, not having undergone all this and having 'acted' from a young age, despite his father's prominence, feels uncompromising and uninspiring on the silver screen. His redeeming grace is his potential - perhaps, like Nicolas Cage, once he distances himself from his family, he can find his own feet and his own voice.

Unfortunately, acting ability isn't a genetic trait - this film fully embracing the metaphor "it's not what you know, it's whom you know.

What the Mr thought:
Don't bother with the film. It's not worth the admission price; by paying it, all we do is increase the chance that we get another film like this. If you want to see a film like this, take a look at most of the sci-fi films over the past two decades - it borrows heavily from them. Then go and sit yourself down for a marathon on the Syfy channel for a weekend or two; combine the two in your mind's eye, and you'll have this film. It looks stunning, but it will leave you feeling uninspired, empty or frustrated. Like Jaden's character, you'll end up replacing one feeling with another - instead of fear, you'll replace excitement with utter boredom, however.

What the Misses thought:
Urgh! Just Urgh....really not worth watching. I felt so awkward during the narration from Jaden at the start of the film, he didn't sound natural and this just set up how the rest of the film was going to go, terribly.

Two/three reviews coming up in the next week, see you guys soon! Thanks for reading and sharing - remember to follow us on Twitter if you like our reviews or have anything to add!

But remember, you didn't hear that from us,

Mr & Misses

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