Back in 1996’s Independence Day, Will Smith was welcoming aliens to Earth in his own special summer blockbuster way, and it seems like the creatures of this planet are returning the favour in his latest outing, After Earth.
A different film
Essentially a wilderness survival tale that’s wearing a big fancy 130 million dollar sci-fi hat, After Earth was conceived and written by Will Smith as a starring vehicle for his son Jaden, presumably because the teen asked for his very own Summer blockbuster for his birthday and Smith Senior duly obliged.
Set 1000 years in the future, mankind now lives on Nova Prime after abandoning Earth due to the fact that EVERYTHING has evolved to kill all humans.
That fluffy, widdle bunny you think is so cute? Wants to kill you.
Those tiny, meowing kittens you just want to pick up and cuddle? They also want to kill you.
That toaster with an AK-47? It’s evolved and now it wants to kill you.
Angry, killer toaster (AK-47 not pictured)
Will Smith plays Cypher Raige (huh!?), a grizzled old grumpy General who’s neither grizzled nor old and who spends most of the film’s running time sitting in a chair. Pretty exciting stuff eh?
His son Jaden plays his son Kitai (wha!?), an aspiring young space Ranger who just wants to make his Pops proud while, at the same time, is haunted by the death of his sister at the claws of an evil, fear-smelling alien creature known as an Ursa – not Usher as this JOE thought, which conjured up images of a giant terrifying alien R n’ B artist.
Following a series of ridiculous events (including Will Smith somehow ‘sensing’ a surprise asteroid storm), the non-close father and son team are inexplicably the only two survivors after their previously full-of-people ship crash-lands on the deadly Class 1 quarantined planet, Earth.
Cypher’s legs are left broken (hence the afore-mentioned constant sitting in a chair) and so it is left to Kitai to journey on a 100km deadly quest to retrieve the necessary rescue beacon that will help get the pair home.
JOE’s enjoyment of the film was immediately hampered at this point once we realised that he is sent to retrieve a rescue beacon. Not rescue bacon. Which sounds like probably the greatest thing ever.
One of the strangest things about After Earth is that it is directed by gun-for-hire M Night Shoobeedobopbop, a fact that any promotional material does its best to keep under wraps for fear that audiences might be put off by the director’s horrific run of bad films over the past few years… apart from The Happening of course, one of the greatest comedies of all time.
And, even though he’s definitely not the worst thing about After Earth, it’s almost time we called it a day on Night’s career if he continues to make this sort of tripe.
Which brings us to the actual worst things about the film. Where to begin…
The CGI creatures are pretty poor looking, the dialogue is terrible (get ready for “take a knee” to be one of the most annoying lines in film this year) and everyone speaks with a weird Carribean accent that makes them all sound like Rihanna in a Lilt ad. Obviously the Bel Air accent doesn’t exist in the future.
‘Taking a knee’… to the groin hopefully
The main problem though, is that this indulgent, vanity project of a film just can’t be carried by Jaden Smith as the lead actor.
Poor, poor Jaden Smith. The 14 year old has all of the looks but none of the charm of his dad, something that is all too obvious when he’s onscreen which, unfortunately for both us and him, just happens to be pretty much for the entire 100 minute running time.
Additionally, even Will Smith isn’t his usual chirpy Will Smith self, and no amount of wishful thinking manages to spur him out of his chair to shout “haHA haHAA” in true Big Willy style or do an “impromptu” rap for the audience’s amusement.
As a result, After Earth is left as a bland, boring lump of a thing with occasional beautiful shots but ultimately, this family pet project has crash-landed into cinemas in a bad way.
Take a knee Will Smith and think about what you have done.
2 stars out of 5