In After Earth, a father and son work together in the distant future to free themselves from an uninhabitable and contaminated Earth. Father and son Cypher Raige and Kitai Raige (played, respectively, by real-life father-and-son Will and Jaden Smith), don’t necessarily have a close relationship. There is little faith in Kitai’s ability to get help for them after their ship has crash landed on the planet.
The last time we saw a film directed by M. Knight Shyamalan — The Last Airbender — it seemed he was obsessed with pulling the wool over the eyes of his audiences at the end of the movies. At first that was a fun and interesting aspect of his work. Then it became a parody of itself and no one was laughing.
As a consequence Shyamalan has a tall order to fill as writer and director of After Earth (with writing help from Gary Whitta and story help from Will Smith). He has to win back audiences with something that is not going to make them feel like his victims.
WILL AND JADEN
Luckily for viewers of After Earth, such duping does not occur. After is a straightforward film in which a father, who is so good at not being afraid, experiences the fears that every parent feels when their child goes out into the world, on their own, for the first time.
So, it’s safe to say that the writing and directing of After Earth is decent, and Shyamalan has somewhat redeemed himself from his other bad movies. It only took not giving his audience a surprise, twisty ending (as in The Village, or The Happening), to do that. Go figure.
This film is a great vehicle for Will and Jaden to explore their relationship on camera. It also can be said that After Earth, obviously shot in 3D, has better visual quality then The Last Airbender, otherwise known as that awkward kiddie martial arts film with really bad 3D. It’s also a homage to the beauty and brutality of nature in its purest form.
After Earth has its flaws. Will and Jaden’s accents are a cross between Star Trek and fake.
At some point during the film, Jaden has enough sense to lose the accent and focus on his own stunts. Will, however, tries to keep it method, and succeeds only when he injects his Will Smith-ness into Cypher. The premise of the film seems to be too much danger and not enough plot to really make the story float.
THE RATING GAME
That helps make it too gory for its PG-13 rating. The kind of carnage and death seen (think slaughtered monkeys and baby birds) is ripe for an R rating, which makes one wonder what the Motion Picture Association of America was thinking when it skipped the stronger tag.
Other actors of note are Sophie Okonedo as Faia Raige, Cypher’s wife and Kitai’s mother. Okonedo’s presence in the film, while short, grounds father and son in their relationship, as mothers tend to do.
Similarly, Zoe Kravitz plays Senshi Raige, Cypher’s daughter and Kitai’s sister, as a loving and caring sibling always looking out for her brother and rounding out the strong Raige family.
As for the question of the day: Is After Earth a good film, worth watching in the movie theater? That depends on the individual. It’s a decent action film, but it’s not Will and Jaden’s finest work. For that you would have to turn to Pursuit of Happiness. After Earth could be a great date film, but not one for the kids, or there will be an awkward discussion in the car ride home.
Basically, After Earth is another example of trending movies in which child actors starring in a film do not guarantee that kids should watch it.