After Earth (2013)
Dir.: M. Night Shyamalan | Cast: Will Smith; Jaden Smith
This month saw the return of Will Smith and his youngest son Jaden [Smith] to the big screen. In a summer blockbuster of universal proportions it was quite the contrast from their first award-winning film together, The Pursuit of Happyness (2006) which revolved around the very real story of an American stock-broker. After Earth takes you a little further from home. A film directed by the hit-and-miss M. Night Shyamalan, it set the stage for 14-year-old Jaden to cement himself among Hollywood’s elite just as his father did 2 years prior to Jaden’s birth with Independence Day (1996).
After the Earth suffered at the hands of environmental and geographic disasters the humans are evacuated to a new planet called Nova Prime. This occurrence 1,000 years ago led to complete desertion of planet Earth and it was given the most dangerous classification of a Category 1 quarantined planet. As Kitai Rage (Jaden Smith) is eager to impress his regularly absent father Cypher Rage (Will Smith), he attempts to become a ‘Ranger’ with no success. Cypher’s wife Faia (Sophie Okonedo) persuades him to take Kitai on his next expedition for some father-son bonding. As the ship enters an asteroid storm it has to make a crash landing to Earth. Cypher and Kitai are the only survivors but Cypher’s injuries are so bad he is unable to move leaving him stranded on the ship. The film then follows Smith Snr. navigating Kitai through the uncharted grounds of Earth to reach the tail of the plane to find an emergency beacon that will send news of their location to Nova Prime.
Unfortunately, it does not live up to its story-line. The majority of the film focuses on Jaden’s character but it never allows for an emotional attachment to his character. Unlike Smith Snr., who so often makes us love his characters (Hitch, The Fresh Prince of Bel Air, Seven Pounds), Jaden lacks the sincerity or innocence you would expect from Kitai. Instead he is over-confident and it is hard to enjoy his character’s development. The film orbits around the father-son relationship as Kitai tries ever-so hard to impress his father which can probably draw parallels with Jaden’s real attempts to show to his father that he can perform as the lead role in a Hollywood blockbuster.
In all, the film was disappointing. As I’ve come to learn when I watch M. Night Shyamalan films the ideas can be creative and fantastic, however, the execution is where it fails. A similar thing happened with The Village (2004) and The Happening (2008), the premise of the film promised so much but collapsed on itself when the resolution is unveiled. The film was ambitious yet flawed in many areas which led to it being ill received by critics and fans. The mixture of Shyamalan and the dominating Smith family was all too much.
2.5 out of 5.