Saturday, June 15, 2013

After Earth


  You won't find M.Night Shayamalan's name plastered all over the trailers or on the opening credits or anything like that. In fact, your average moviegoer might not even know this is from the guy who made The Sixth Sense, then unceremoniously shat all over his career with movies like The Last Airbender. He didn't just stop with one bad movie, he kept making really bad movies. So obviously it was smart that he didn't plaster his name all over this. He couldn't chance it obviously. This was his supposed comeback. Which is regrettable because it's only just okay.

  I enjoyed it, but I have a metal checklist of stuff that I notice in a movie. Even my non-critic buddies were noticing this shit, that's when I realized this movie was in trouble. Overall it isn't outright bad. It's not laughably horrible, it's not even kinda bad. It's alright.  I feel like the expectations on this movie to be a second wind for M.Night were just too much. I can see what they were aiming for, but there is alot of wasted potential here.

  They spent so much time touting the evolved danger of Earth and we see... practically none of it. Sure we see some great looking scenery, it's all very impressive yet... underwhelming. The most promising stuff is in the first twenty minutes or so. Once you get to Earth you keep expecting something... tremendous. However, the wildlife Kitai (Jaden Smith) encounters isn't all that incredible. A poisonous leech, some baboons, a couple tigers, and a big buzzard of sorts. I wanted this place to be like Monster Island from King Kong. Giant insects, giant animals, etc etc. We get glimpses of that, yet largely? The potential is wasted.

  That aside, the acting is great. Jaden Smith can act, I really don't see how you can say otherwise. He isn't bad here. Will Smith does great as well. Though his character, Cypher Raige, has no logical right to be alive. At the halfway point it shows (spoilers?) that he's bleeding profusely... yet hangs on to be rescued til the end. Which was about 45 minutes away. Like... wut? At least a solid day in the movie's chronology. This whole thing happens over three days. I have no idea how this works- logically. I guess it just doesn't. Bullshit aside, you do get the feeling that there's a real sense of danger lurking behind every corner here, and Kitai's mission to retrieve an S.O.S. beacon from the tail section of their crashed ship is simple and accessible.

  The father/son dynamic works really well, probably due in no small part to the fact the two actors actually are father/son. So as much as it can, that carries the movie pretty well to a certain extent. The universe this movie takes place in, has the feeling that it's full of better stories to tell, full of adventure and danger. The backstory told to us in the beginning is more exciting than anything that comes after. I wanted badly to see more of that. Unfortunately, the rest of the movie plays like the guys at National Geographic tried to make a Sci-Fi movie. It's really not horrible. Yet... it's lacking in alot of ways that would make it good or recommendable. Having said that, I pat Shayamalan on the back, he's trying, stepping out of the box, and he made a serious effort here. Maybe he has lost a step - for good - or maybe he's just finding his footing again. I don't know if the guy will ever make a great movie again. This is a step in the right direction after shit like The Last Airbender, and yet he still has a long way to go.

  It's a decent set up for an adventure, and you know what? It's a decent adventure. It's not bad. It's not quite good. It's watchable. I didn't hate it, I didn't love it. I liked it. There were some great scenes here, some great lines of dialog, yet they're highlights in a sea of mundane stuff. The plot is so much like a video game that I kept thinking the whole movie might have actually made a better game. I still maintain that regardless. I'd like this alot more as a video game. But as it is... it needs about another half hour of footage, full of creatures and mind blowing stuff to make this worth a repeat viewing in the face of much better theatrical prospects. If you're truly curious, I say wait for DVD. Go see something else instead.

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