Scattered Thoughts on AFTER EARTH (2013)

As some of you know, I started a new job last week, and it was both exciting and draining. Add to this the fact that my wife is transitioning out of her current job and that the two of us are trying to figure out childcare for my daughter, and you get a pretty hectic week. But Grandma and aunts and uncles have been amazing, which is a great reminder of why we decided to move back home in the first place. To top it off, Lucy got sick over the weekend, which is always hard. I did get to watch a movie, but I don’t have the emotional or physical energy to write a stirring, heartfelt, and life-changing post. In fact, I am not even sure if I can write a cohesive essay or make points that build off of each other. Instead, I am just going to give you some scattered thoughts on one of the most maligned films of the summer, After Earth. Here’s a brief plot synopsis:

The movie stars Will Smith and his real-life son Jaden Smith as fictional father-son duo Cypher and Kitai Raige. They both crash land on the long abandoned and extremely dangerous earth, and Kitai must travel through it to get to a distress beacon that is in the tail end of the ship. Cypher is injured and guides his son from afar. They are pursued by a creature called an Ursa that was once caged in the ship’s holding, but is now roaming free. Ursas smell fear, so it is important that Kitai masters his fears in order to save him and his father.

There’s the rundown, and following are my movie musings. They are your’s to do with as you will.

  • Will Smith has been accused of nepotism for dragging his son along to star in a blockbuster action movie, but the thing is, Jaden actually does a pretty good job. Take away the excruciating narration at the beginning, and you get a fine performance by a young actor. Will Smith is the one horribly mis-casted here. People love Smith because he has charisma and personality. Here he is essentially a comatose, unloving, and hardly interesting character.
  • On that note, here is a dictionary definition of the word “cypher”: “A person or thing of no importance; nonentity.” That is both the best and the worst character naming ever.
  • How are you supposed to be a fully functional human being without fear? Isn’t it a vital human emotion driving things like love, vulnerability, and risk?
  • One of the first things that struck me was how beautiful some of the film-making was, and I wasn’t expecting this. The visuals were lush and well-presented by Shyamalan, with some really nice landscape shots and pans to go along with his usually provocative close-ups. I have never really thought of Shyamalan in terms of his technical abilities, but this made we want to go back and re-watch some of his movies with this in mind.
  • The stunning visuals and impressive animations were marred by the absurd creatures and their even more absurd actions. How the hell were those death-apes not able to run down Kitai? Why does the giant vulture think that Kitai is one of its chicks? Why is the Ursa even on the ship, and how, exactly, is it able to chase down Kitai so quickly?
  • Here’s another mind-boggling piece of movie ridiculousness: Throughout most of the movie Kitai is able to communicate with his father through their little devices. Yet, when Kitai reaches his destination, this communication is broken because of some kind of atmospheric disturbance in the area. Rather than retrace his steps a little, Kitai has to climb to the top of a smoldering volcano that looks several miles away. This plot point makes no kind of sense, and is totally contrived in order to set up a nice final battle between Kitai and the Ursa.
  • Speaking of the Ursa, why are they so dangerous? I mean, they are monstrous creatures, but couldn’t you, like, shoot them with a gun or something? The human technology in After Earth is incredibly advanced. They can fly to other other planets and rip holes in space-time, but when it comes to weaponry, the humans are stuck with a really really cool double-bladed sword. If Kitai had a pistol of any kind, he could have killed the Ursa quite easily. I get that cool blade weapons are… cool, but this is another case of discarding logic and complexity for a simple desired effect.
  • Every night, earth’s surface freezes over (I mean literally freezes, with ice and everything) save for some hot spots that Kitai must reach every night. Think on that for a second.
  • After Earth wasn’t very good, but I don’t think it was as bad as people made it out to be. While it wasn’t a financial success, it wasn’t much worse than most major blockbusters released over the last twenty years. In some cases, it was much better. I mean, it is a masterpiece compared to the Transformers movies, and on par with the wildly over-rated Dark Knight Rises. After Earth is a great example of bloated Hollywood projects, but that doesn’t automatically make it a horrible movie.

Okay, those are my thoughts. Feel free to agree or disagree as passionately as you wish in the comments.

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6 Responses to Scattered Thoughts on AFTER EARTH (2013)

  1. jjames36 says:

    In many ways, I agree, though I definitely like After Earth less you do. This film has some merit. I think the merits less than the flaws, but still, it isn’t one of the year’s worst, by any stretch.

    The only comment with which I will actually disagree is that on Jaden Smith. Because he is so young, I tried to be gentle in my own review, and I will do the same here. I don’t think he was remotely ready to carry a $130 million dollar project.

    • Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of actors who would do better, but that doesn’t mean he didn’t do well. He wasn’t fantastic by any means, but I think his performance was commendable. I do get the frustration, though, with Will Smith being his dad and everything.

      • jjames36 says:

        That’s certainly part of it. Kid never would have been in the movie without Will, no doubting that.

        Oh well. Hopefully this is the last we’ll see of it for a while. 🙂

  2. You actually made me want to see the movie. I still won’t see it, I’m sure, but now I’d be like, “Yeah sure, let’s watch it” if someone were to suggest it.

  3. Jack Flacco says:

    This is an honest review that I appreciate! I love Will Smith and he’s provided me hours of joy with his film. I’ll still end up watching it hoping I glean something that I like out of it! We shall see, nonetheless! Again, thanks for the review!

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