Film review: After Earth

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The Smiths rely on their father-son bond to survive a post-global warming planet and pull off the sci-fi summer flick, After Earth. SONY PICTURES. The Smiths rely on their father-son bond to survive a post-global warming planet and pull off the sci-fi summer flick, After Earth. SONY PICTURES.

Will Smith and M. Night Shyamalan made a movie together. See, they’re both into patterns. After all, in a recent interview in New York Magazine, Smith said, “I’m a student of patterns.” Shyamalan made a movie, Signs, about crop circles (which, really, are patterns). And finally, they’re both in a holding pattern of making shit movies, so it should be no surprise they combined their talents for After Earth.

Smith and Shyamalan have produced a small miracle: After Earth makes no effort to entertain. To be fair, more of the awfulness lies with Smith than it does Shyamalan. After Earth began as an original story by Smith (the word “original” is used advisedly), so he bears an enormous amount of the blame. Plus, he hasn’t made a truly watchable movie since Hancock in 2008. Shyamalan hasn’t made a watchable movie since The Sixth Sense.

So what have we learned? Nothing. I’m just killing time. As for the movie, Smith seems more interested in making his son, Jaden, a movie star than making a decent film. Unfortunately, the younger Smith has zero charisma and a stilted delivery that makes one wonder how either the elder Smith or his mother, Jada Pinkett Smith, is actually his parent. One thing the parent Smiths have is charisma, though Smith Sr. has done his best since roughly Seven Pounds to make his audiences forget it.

I’ve never bought the argument that movie stars should only do what they do best. For Smith, that’s comedy. He’s also shown he can play drama (The Pursuit of Happyness, for example), but he has a habit of conflating drama and dourness.

That’s what’s on display here. He plays Cipher Raige (I swear I didn’t make that name up), a general in some armed forces squadron that doesn’t make sense and the movie makes little effort to explain it. Humans were forced to leave Earth, ended up on a planet where giant bugs called Ursas can smell fear, and he made waves killing Ursas because he realized fear is a choice (helpfully printed right on the movie poster).

For other reasons that don’t make sense, they crash land on Earth, Cipher is injured, and his wimpy son Kitai (Jaden Smith) must find a homing beacon so they can signal for a rescue. What’s the best place to do that? A volcano at the other end of a mountain range, of course. Everything on Earth is trying to kill them (global warming is the little-spoken reason), and Kitai does his best to kill himself through a series of stupid decisions.

None of this movie’s absurd plot or dumb character motivations would be so disagreeable if After Earth had a sense of humor. But like all of Shyamalan’s movies, it takes itself so seriously it’s hard to believe anyone making it had fun. Why should the audience? Plus, it has Shyamalan’s standard leaden pacing and wooden line delivery, neither of which is aided by a repellant script. And what’s with the accents?

Good news, though. The summer movie season has barely begun, and After Earth will soon be a distant memory.

After Earth PG-13, 100 minutes, Regal Stonefield 14 and IMAX.

 

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Movie houses:

Carmike Cinema 6
973-4294

Regal Downtown Mall
Cinema 6
979-7669

Regal Stonefield 14 and IMAX
244-3213

Vinegar Hill Theatre
977-4911

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