The Movie Waffler New Release Review - After Earth | The Movie Waffler

New Release Review - After Earth

A father and son crashland on a dangerous future Earth.

Directed by: M. Night Shyamalan
Starring: Jaden Smith, Will Smith, Sophie Okonedo, Zoë Kravitz

In the future, Earth is abandoned by humans, thus becoming inhospitable. Mankind establishes a new home on a world called Nova Prime but an alien race also has designs on conquering the planet. These aliens, known as the S'krell, use a species of aggressive beast, the Ursa, which senses the pheromones released when a human feels fear. General Cypher Raige (Will Smith) is a "ghost", a soldier who has trained himself never to experience fear, thus making him an invaluable asset in the war against these beasts. Raige is disappointed in his son, Kitai (Jaden Smith), whose application to join his father's Rangers is turned down. Raige takes Kitai along on his final mission before retirement but an asteroid storm causes their ship to crash land, killing all on board except for the father and son. With Raige's leg broken, Kitai must journey 100km to employ a distress beacon in the tail of the ship, which separated during the crash. Along the way, he must evade an Ursa, set free by the crash.
Followers of European soccer will be familiar with the plight of Fernando Torres. Once considered the continent's most exciting striker, a big money move to Chelsea reduced him to football's biggest joke. Despite the best efforts of several coaches, the player has been unable to replicate his early form, and the more he tries, the less likely it seems we'll ever see his best again. M Night Shyamalan is the film-making world's Fernando Torres. I've been somewhat of an apologist for the director but enough is enough. We can now safely say, 14 years on, 'The Sixth Sense' was very much a once off. He's still a decent director but his writing is embarrassingly bad. 'After Earth's dialogue makes James Cameron seem like a master wordsmith, packed with cod-philosophy nuggets like "Danger is real, fear is a choice". (Shyamalan also quotes 'Moby Dick', because no sci-fi movie has ever used that analogy before, right?) It's baffling how he keeps finding work, though the Scientology backers of 'After Earth' may have been impressed by his alien invasion movie 'Signs', which they possibly mistook for a documentary.
Much has been made of the film's Scientology proselytizing, though in fairness it's no worse than the spiritual message crammed down our throats by Ang Lee in his 'Life of Pi', a film which, if crossed with 'Battlefield Earth', would probably end up pretty close to what we get here. 'After Earth' could be a sci-fi masterpiece and likely wouldn't be acknowledged as such due to the bizarre level of hatred that exists towards Scientology, a religion no more nonsensical than any other. I can tell you, without bias, this is a movie even Cruise and Travolta would struggle to make it through.
Will Smith's relationship to the religion is unclear as he denies being a member yet donates millions to the organization. What is clear is that he needs to stop forcing his son to follow in his footsteps. Young Jaden simply can't act and possesses neither his father's movie-star charisma nor his everyman affability. Watching him plod his way through the film makes you wonder who is having less fun, the audience or the actor? If ever there was an argument against nepotism, this is it.

Eric Hillis