THIS MOVIE IS TERRIBLE.
With that out of the way, I’d like to warn you that I’m going to openly spoil the film (not that you can spoil something that’s already rotten) and encourage you to not see it, and tell all of your friends how bad I said it was, so that they don’t see it either.
This includes Netflixing it, Redboxing it, purchasing a DVD, pirating it, watching it online… etc. It’s not a price thing. It’s a time thing. Watching this film will do nothing but consume hours of your life and leave you hating the world (not in a gritty, soulful way that makes you feel important – but a way that makes you go “mother of Christ why did this movie have to be so horrible?”).
This movie also proves that M. Night Shyamalan’s bad reputation does not soil the movies he does – it is in place with excellent reason. Going in to see this, I couldn’t see past the Will Smith name, and had no clue that the dark mind truly behind this pile of filth was that of Mr. Shyamalan.
Now, there is a lot that is wrong with After Earth. Pretty much everything. I’m gonna try to glaze over the boring bits (of which there are many) and just flat-out bitch about the movie’s highlights.
Jaden Smith: I hate this little bastard. He is utterly without worth as an actor – while I can go on a rant about how Will Smith seems to be violently thrusting his talentless spawn into every movie he can find, that is a topic for another day. The point of this is to say that, considering that he is the movie’s star, he is a terrible actor with a stupid-sounding voice. His performance is utterly flat (a Shyamalan trademark I can’t really fault him for), and then when he does finally get the umph to actually give acting a shot, he over-emotes with big fat crocodile tears and wild gesticulations. Will Smith’s performance is… well, again, flat, but I blame Shyamalan for that, since Willy has shown that he’s capable, even if his choices in films can be… questionable.
Adapted to Destroy Humans: The premise of the entire film is that mankind left Earth several thousand years ago (and don’t even have cool phones, so much for technological development) – during the time we were gone, all of Earth has adapted to kill humans.
There are not one, but two problems with this.
1. Why?: We’ve been gone. We didn’t destroy the Earth and then leave, Earth seemed pretty much fine when we left. So, why, after we’ve been gone for thousands of years, did everything on Earth specifically adapt to be lethal to humans? Why did they wait until we left if it was so important the entire planet had to adapt? You’re a few thousand years behind, Earth. You should have started adapting to kill us several thousand years earlier if you actually wanted to accomplish anything. Now all of your millenia of specific adaptations seems silly and is really no more than a nuisance. Which brings me to my second issue with this.
2. It’s All Crap: Beyond the brief exposition regarding Earth adapting to destroy all of mankind, it really doesn’t show. They could have just as easily said “Earth has regressed to its natural progression and has evolved accordingly” and it would have made just as much, if not more, sense. Throughout the course of the movie (besides our lungs no longer being adapted to the atmosphere, which would have happened anyway), we get to see:
- Totally normal baboons acting the way totally normal baboons should act.
- A totally normal large condor-like bird, acting slightly more nurturing and peaceful than a totally normal large condor-like bird should act.
- Totally normal large, unpleasant lions, acting exactly the way totally normal large, unpleasant lions should act (except that they can apparently scale mountains).
- An evil slug that can kill you within minutes, apparently. More on this later.
And, ah, yeah. That’s about it. I mean, there’s also a giant horrible alien, but that’s specifically not a native of Earth, and therefore does not count.
Also it gets really cold at night, which also effects all of the plants and animals and is in no way a strictly-human environmental hazard. So, yeah. None of this, in any way, equates to or even mildly suggests/hints that the planet has adapted to kill humans. Just seems more like we left and Earth got on with life.
Tired, Transparent Story: The film is loaded with foreseeable cliches. From the salute scene (and its end-of-the-film counterpart, which could have been heartfelt but was instead hamstrung by awkward writing), from the entire “no fear” premise, to the aliens, to the personal, familial conflict (“Blah blah blah, my sister was killed by aliens and you blamed me for it.”), to the magical telepathy.
Wait, magical telepathy?
The answer to that, my friend, is a loud, resounding, echoing, “…Maybe?” After his brat’s radio breaks, Will Smith (or rather, Fatherfigure McBadassname) stares at the screen and gives orders to his son anyway, who proceeds to, within seconds, perform exactly as he had just been commanded without responding. Whether or not he came up with these ideas on his own (possible, since most of them are really stupid, along the lines of “I’ll just head over to that active volcano, that will work and definitely not kill me”), or whether Fatherfigure McBadassname was able to somehow, without explanation, telepathically communicate with him, is left up to interpretation. I like to go with the latter option, since it further justifies how utterly, terribly written this pile of refuse is.
The Aliens: The aliens (which are called “ursas” – yay for originality, ursa means “bear”) can smell/sense fear, and that’s how they hunt.
That already doesn’t make sense, since in order for something to excrete fear pheromones at all, they have to already know something’s after them. So what, do they wander out into the open and wait for people to be afraid of the awkwardly stumbling monsters that don’t really seem to be much of a threat at all? I don’t feel like they would have progressed that far along their evolutionary path if they couldn’t hunt anything that wasn’t already afraid.
However, that’s the tip of the iceberg.
If you stop being afraid, the aliens (I’m just gonna call them aliens, since I refuse to call them ursas and they’re the only aliens in the movie anyway) forget you exist. Sort of. Maybe. In the sense that they can have a direct physical hold on you and drop you once you “disappear”, but will then continue to look for you, really actively.
So, what is it? Do they forget where you are once they can’t see you, but immediately remember that they were looking for something? When the little Smith kid falls down and “ghosts” for the first time, the alien goes berserk, smashing everything in the (very small) area except for the kid. He obviously knows he’s looking for something, but can’t just, y’know, find him? Using, I don’t know, maybe, his hands? In Fatherfigure McBadassname’s backstory, he “ghosts” while the alien is actively drowning him, and the alien immediately lets go and bolts. Rather than just continuing to drown him. Which would have made for a much better movie.
Gloves Would Have Totally Altered The Entire Storyline. Gloves.: Li’l Jaden Smith has a magical enviro-suit that can do anything!
As long as “anything” involves “changing colors”.
Or “not coming with gloves”.
In fact, it is the absence of gloves on this full bodysuit that results in the entire plotline unfolding (not that anyone in the film mentions it). The aforementioned evil, lethal slug manages to (impressively, as it appears to be quite immobile) attach to the kid’s hand (the only part of his body, besides his face, that is exposed) and immediately inject him with a toxin that threatens to kill him within about, oh, three-to-four minutes. Industrious little fella. I wish the movie had just been about the slug, since he is obviously the baddest-ass in the film.
So, anyway, before he gets the (very convenient) antidote that works perfectly, he falls down, smashing his doses of magic gel that lets him breathe without dying. Because it smashes his magic gel doses, he no longer has the time it will take to get from Point A to Point B (cutting it close, don’t you think? He gets just enough?), and has to do a crazy flying squirrel routine that leads to him being kidnapped by a bird and a bunch of other boring, poorly-planned crap. Too bad he didn’t have gloves on his enviro-suit… then, y’know, none of that would have happened. He would have just made it all the way.
Now, I have no problem with adding conflict to a story to make it more interesting. But make the conflict work within the parameters of the story. These highly-advanced, smartphone-less civilizations would never have created environment suits that could change color but didn’t feature gloves as a part of the design.
All in all, After Earth is…
- Badly acted.
- Badly written.
- Terribly directed.
- And has the consistency and exposition skills of fan-fiction. Not good fan-fiction either.
Boycott this movie and mock it openly wherever you go. Tell your friends you got your information from the least reliable source – yours truly, the Stoic Maniac.