Wednesday, October 9, 2013

After Earth

***DISCLAIMER*** The following review is entirely my opinion. If you comment (which I encourage you to do) be respectful. If you don't agree with my opinion, that's fine. To each their own. These reviews are not meant to be statements of facts or endorsements, I am just sharing my opinions and my perspective when watching the film and is not meant to reflect how these films should be viewed. Finally, the reviews are given on a scale of 0-5. 0, of course, being unwatchable. 1, being terrible. 2, being not great. 3, being okay. 4, being great and 5, being epic! And if you enjoy these reviews feel free to share them and follow the blog or follow me on Twitter (@RevRonster) for links to my reviews and the occasional live-Tweet session of the movie I'm watching!  I wish my dad was a famous actor...

After Earth – 1 out of 5

After Earth…or Nepotism the Movie!

Behold!  The film's only selling point!  Who needs story, character or anything
else when you have a talented father and his far, far, far less talented son.

Taking place a thousand years in the future, Earth has become a world very inhospitable for human life. Mankind now lives on a new rock floating among the stars and the story focuses on Kitai (Jaden Smith), the son of a prominent member of The Ranger Corps; a new military that protects mankind’s new home, Nova Prime. The Ranger Corps struggle against an alien race called the S’krells (no, not the Skrulls) who seek to dominate Nova Prime. The aliens unleash their biological weapons called Ursas that hunt via sensing fear in its prey. The Rangers have mastered an art called “ghosting” that eliminates fear from the Ranger and, essentially, makes them invisible to the Ursas. No one is better at “ghosting” than Cypher (Will Smith); Kitai’s father. Cypher has grown tired of the military life and plans on retiring but not after accepting one last mission that he decides he’s going to take Kitai with, in order to quell the fires of arrogance in his son and try to teach him responsibility; however, an accident in transit forces the ship the two men are on to crash land on the now quarantined planet of Earth. Cypher is injured gravely in the crash and it’s up to Kitai to activate the rescue beacons…the only problem is they were transporting an Ursa on the ship and now it’s hunting Kitai…

The Ursas weren't originally least, not until they saw the rough cut
of the film.

I’m not going to waste a lot of time, drawing out the inevitable, padding out this review in order to get to what really matters, boring you with nonsense that does nothing for my overall point I’m trying to make about this movie…After Earth is fucking boring. The movie is slow—really, really slow. Like dying junkie who subsisted on a diet of nothing but medical grade weed and downers for three straight months and mainlined tryptophan for the last six hours--that type of slow. The worst part, the film is barely longer than an hour and a half but it feels like it lasted half a decade…all the while nothing of worthwhile happens in the story; a story, that realistically, doesn’t have much going on in it (but it has TONS of backstory) and actually had the potential to be a great action packed sci-fi tale. Instead, the movie makes a snail’s pace look rapid and reckless and just left me wondering if there were any chores around the house I could be doing that would be a better use of my time.

Ah yes, the film perfectly represents its own pace.

While the film is really mind-numbingly boring, the worst aspect of this film has to be Jaden Smith as the main character. First off, why didn’t anyone tell him that the voice he used in the film sounded fucking ridiculous? You would think that at some point the director; M. Night Shymalan (yes, he directed this), would have told him just to talk naturally and try not to sound British or sound like he’s Trey Parker impersonating a man from Nantucket (there really was no balance to the voice he was using as it changed constantly) but this movie was actually Will Smith’s baby (which is why his untalented son got the lead role—nepotism at its most obvious) so he probably just lied to his son’s face and said he was doing a great and unique voice that would fit well in the sci-fi genre. It wouldn’t be the first lie he told him (the first lie was that he could act).

Jaden Smith's key to acting:  Having a rich, talented and famous dad.

The voice aside, Jaden is wooden and painfully unconvincing as the lead character. Every second the camera is on him, he looks unnatural and even uncomfortable (and not uncomfortable like the character feels overwhelmed and nervous but uncomfortable like the camera frightens him). Things become even more apparent when he has to share scenes with his actually talented father (a man who worked for his fame and worked at crafting his skills rather than just having them handed to him).

The most emotion Will shows the entire film...and it was STILL more than his son shows.

Will Smith is the only interesting character in this movie as Cypher (and he's not even that interesting) and Smith plays the Ranger with a cold, calculating precision that perfectly fits the character’s description. Jaden tries to mirror this with Kitai and tries to add a sense of unease, awkwardness and a wavering stream of a lack of confidence (basically, he tries to be Cypher when he just started training) but the end results just looks like what you would expect from a kid who is told he is great by his parents without actually having the talent to back it up. This makes the film an 90-minute plus affair of watching a kid robotically attempting to mimic human emotions and it is just hard to sit through—especially considering the fact that Jaden believes that looking like he just wet his pants is the look that’s perfect for showing concern, fear, anger, worry, happiness and, possibly, feeling gassy.

Scared or intestinal discomfort from a gas station microwavable burrito?

Whoa, wait!  Suddenly, out of left field, Jaden decides to impersonate the average
person watching this movie.

Taking a step back for a minute, I kinda glossed over the fact earlier but I have to say it again because it bears repeating: M. Night Shymalan directed this film and co-wrote the screenplay (the story was based on an idea by Will Smith; an idea that he could fool the world into thinking that talent is passed on genetically). Just let that sink in for a minute…

The man who struck gold with ripping off an Are You Afraid of the Dark? episode and looked to have a promising career only to find that, with each passing film, he only got worse and worse, is the man directing this movie. And due to the fact M. Night is on the verge of becoming the first director to have a NEGATIVE Rotten Tomatoes rating, the studio made damn sure the audiences didn’t know he was directing the movie. They left his name off the trailers, TV commercials, cereal tie-ins and novelty thongs and beer cozies that contained the film’s name. The studio claimed it was because they wanted to focus on the selling point that the movie had both Will AND Jaden Smith but, I’m dubious of this claim and think it had more to do with the fact that Box Office receipts and Tomatometer ratings don’t lie—the man is movie kryptonite and the studios didn’t want you to know he was involved.

Quickly, run towards the cover of Dianetics.

However, all Shymalan’s usual gimmicks are absent—no twist ending (unless the twist was Jaden couldn’t act all along), no needless cameo from the director where he allows his ego to grow even more, and etc.—however, this is mostly due to the reality that Shymalan was just Will Smith’s puppet for this film and was given a director’s credit, most likely, out of charity. There’s no two ways about it, this was Will Smith’s movie beginning to end. He came up with the idea, hired Shymalan to do his bidding, convinced some Dark Power that his son MUST be the lead (are there dark powers in the Smith’s new, crazy religion?), probably handled the craft services and coached his son and lied to him by saying he was doing a good job. I think this is the one time Shymalan can distance himself from a shitty project and he didn’t fucking take it!

The twist?  That ship was a dead Bruce Willis in a forest preserve the entire time
trying to escape killer plants.

The only thing After Earth has going for it, and the reason I gave it a score of 1, is the fact the special effects look great and the visuals of an untamed, wild Earth are breathtaking. The rest of the film, however, is a waste of time. The story is boring and very slow and Jaden Smith needs to take off a few years to either work on his craft or realize that acting is probably not the best for him.  The film, realistically, had potential to be a great film about a father and son's journey as the offspring is forced to step up and become a man in order to protect his daddy.  The film started as a tale about dad and son going on a camping trip and then the whole thing just, clearly, got away from Smith and the rest of the crew as it turned into a slow-moving sci-fi story.  However, the film did show us how you can literally screw up every aspect of your movie with poor decision making.

The visuals?  Great.  Jaden practicing his WWE-style entrance?  Not so much.

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