afterearthI think movie audiences are ready to forgive M. Night Shyamalan for The Happening, The Last Airbender, and anything else that isn’t The Sixth Sense.

I think movie audiences are ready to forgive M. Night Shyamalan for The Happening, The Last Airbender, and anything else that isn’t The Sixth Sense. He has made more good films than bad ones but sadly it seems the bad ones are the ones we remember. So with the release of the new sci-fi thriller After Earth it was time for him to prove his merit.

This is a story all about how the Earth got flipped turned upside down. Well not exactly but since it stars Will Smith I could not help but type that. Smith portrays Cypher Raige, a futuristic, military, Ranger. His son Kitai Raige (Jaden Smith) wants badly to find favor in his dad’s eyes. When Cypher takes Kitai on a mission that goes horribly wrong, Kitai finally gets that opportunity. They live somewhere other than Earth though that is really never explained in full. Not that it matters. All we have to know is that Earth in no longer inhabitable due to our abuse of the environment. All that remains are vicious animals. So when Cypher and Kitai crash land on Earth and Cypher is badly wounded, it is up to Kitai to overcome the environment and save his father.

Like most of Shyamalan’s stories this one has promise. It has a decent foundation of the father and son dynamic. You immediately feel for Kitai and want him and Cypher to engage with each other. The casting of the real life father and son Smith’s help that tremendously. The chemistry onscreen works. Like most of M.’s stories though it has a hard time getting past a story line. Once the story starts fleshing out it becomes apparent that a whole lot of nothing is happening. It looks good and there are a few intense moments of action but other than that the whole thing just seems sort of stagnate. 

There are many things in here that will leave you shaking your head. For one the two main characters speak in some horrible accent that at first sound like a mistake then you realize they are doing it on purpose.  Also, there is an obvious message about the environment but it is so random and at times campy that you lose the impact. Many of the scenes never quite segue and so you are left with and edited mess.

Now the good news. Teens will love it. The use of young Kitai as the hero will grab the attention of fans of Maze Runner and The Hunger Games. Those 14-17 will love the journey he goes on and will be more apt to overlook the plot holes, bad dialogue, and production errors. Also, for a sci fi film it has a lot of very cool technological imagery. This is a plus in its favor as well. So it isn’t a total loss but just not the terrific film it could have been.

After Earth is rated PG-13 for sci-fi action violence and some disturbing images. There are some very scary moments in this film and Kitai takes it on the chin a few times. I would say it is for those 14 and older but if your kid doesn’t scare easy you might be ok for 13. Anything under that might be pushing it. I want to find something positive to end on so I will say that the father and son story is very moving and will resonate with those who have young kids. It isn’t enough to carry the whole film but the moments it shines are the best part of the film. I give it 2 out of 5 tree hugs. Yes it is good to find something original in a season of sequels. It just didn’t have the goods to be a blockbuster.

Matt Mungle

Review copyright 2013 Mungleshow Productions. Used by Permission.

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