“After Earth” is an amazing screw up. This is a movie that comes with an easy premise, but is weighed down with a ton of pointless junk. Add in the fact that the Smiths are both terrible, as characters and as actors, with a painfully drawn out plot, and you have a fairly awful film.
“After Earth” is set a thousand years in the future, where mankind has evacuated Earth due to rampant climate change. Jaden Smith and Will Smith are a father and son team of SPACE RANGERS who crash on Earth, and it’s up to Jaden to find a rescue beacon to call for help, all while battling the elements, an escaped alien monster that was on their ship, and his own self doubts.
“After Earth’s” biggest problem is how frustratingly front loaded it is. The introduction is by far the most important part of your movie. You have to hook the audience early, and get the plot moving as fast as possible. You sort of get that early on, with a stranded Jaden Smith waking up on Earth, but then it backtracks. Way back; we get this whole weird stock footage montage of what happened to Earth. We see humanity relocating to another planet. Also, there’s aliens which we never see or learn anything about. All we know is that, for no reason, they hunt humans with dumb looking bugs. None of this is hinted at at all during the trailers, and it is really jarring and out of place. There is no reason for us to be explicitly told about all this. It should have been weaved into the story, revealed to us bit by bit, not thrown in our face before anything important happens.
The movie sets up all this back story then tosses pretty much all of it once they hit Earth which, by the way, is 20 minutes into the goddamn movie. It’s like “The Phantom Menace” or something, with all this pointless stuff just taking up space before you get to the primary conflict.
Things don’t pick up from there, as Jaden’s struggles on Earth are painfully generic and are a complete waste of the futuristic premise. Why did this movie need to be set in the future? None of his future technology is that out there, and aside from the monster there isn’t all that much that’s “alien” about future Earth. I feel like this is a movie that could easily have been set today, and didn’t need all this sci-fi junk holding it down.
On the bright-side, at least Jaden’s attempt to do good in the eyes of his father is a humanizing element this movie desperately needs. There’s a good emotional core here that could be used to tell a compelling story. Unfortunately, it’s soured by the totally off-base of both Jaden and Will Smith. Jaden’s anger comes off as being whiny and his everything else comes off as blandness. Will Smith’s character is all over the place. He is supposed to be this stoic, disconnected guy who can’t get in touch with his emotional son, but he seems to shift from emotionless to “DAMN IT KID, SHUT UP,” at the drop of a hat. Having Will break through his emotional barriers to show extreme rage or concern could have been really powerful, but it happens all the time so it’s just pointless and dumb.
Also on the bright side, the visuals are very, very good. They mix up CGI effects with real world locations nicely, and all of the future sci-fi stuff blends well with the practical effects. It’s a shame the creatures are all so basic though. Maybe I’m asking too much, but if you make a movie that is based around 1000 years of an abandoned Earth, I wanna see some weird animal stuff.
In the end, “After Earth” is a movie that tried way, way too hard to be some epic sci-fi “thing,” but with such a simple plot to work with, all the “epic” trappings just make it bloated and dumb. Utterly tepid performances by the two leads turns “After Earth” into a huge bore. Don’t see it.
My Rating: 3/10