Dear After Earth,
You and I sat down with a lot more unspoken knowledge between us than most films. This came not in the form of trailers but articles talking about the convoluted thousand year historical backstory built for your far-flung future. I liked where this came from so I was also looking forward to what M. Night Shyamalan would do in this environment – being one of 6 people that mostly like his work.
Well, as I had been warned about Jaden Smith’s opening narration, his part in this would perhaps prove to be a crucially miscast role. Whether it was a fatally miscast role we would see soon enough. His dad as the general was fine and Will Smith can pull off this sort of role in his sleep. With a brief back story on their troubled relationship and Cypher’s (Will Smith) high expectations of his son, the tone is set for Cypher to take Katai (Jayen Smith) with him on a standard military run to another system. Of course in the cargo is one of the aliens in the voluminous back story being transported and held captive. When an asteroid field forces them to warp out of their current location it sets them down in our old solar system with a need to immediately land on a planet and unfortunately old Earth is it. A thousand years after we left it, it is now a highly quarantined hostile environment that Aliens have poisoned against us.
As the ship breaks apart entering the atmosphere Cypher and Katai are the sole survivors and Katai must get to the tail section a hundred plus clicks away to get to the only other beacon on the ship that may not be broken and can signal for help. This SOS is their only hope for survival. The tech in the movie is perhaps one of the coolest parts of the experience and hints at very advanced smart nano capability. As Katai makes his way through the hostile environment we learn about the nature of the changes earth went through in a thousand genetically enhanced years and we learn about the strained relationship between father and son.
It’s the action during the playing out of this relationship that spices up the film and is the one redeeming quality that pulls this project from the maw of the bad film bin and the relationship exploration is ironically the one defining ‘M. Night’ quality in a project that has otherwise has no tint of his usual style, whether good or bad. So in the end what I think you get is probably a hugely homogenized film that filters out the usual flavor of the director for the vision of the story idea (Smith,) and the studio wanting to avoid The Last Air Bender. Which while all being understandable leads to a film that wants to fail despite all its good intentions.
Perhaps the most I can say , After Earth, is that you are a movie. Though I liked you and you may have redeemed yourself a bit at the end, it was a near thing to redeem you from being forgettable. Ironically, it may very well have been ‘M. Night’s’ vision toward simple human interaction that pulls you out in the end. In any case the world building was interesting and I loved the tech.
Here’s hoping you develop into a future film watching decadent pleasure.