After Earth

Review by Ryan Guerra


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At its core, After Earth is a coming of age story set in a future sci-fi world. With the story by Will Smith and directed by M Knight Shyamalan, those expecting the summer blockbusters that Will Smith is known for may be disappointed. Furthermore, those expecting an epic sci-fi film will also be disappointed. In many ways After Earth is a coming of age film for Jaden Smith, who takes center stage.

Set 1000 years in the future, mankind is fighting for survival against a race of creatures known as Ursa, who hunt humans down by smelling fear. The human Special Forces are led by General Cypher Raige played by Will Smith. Smith is a legendary ranger and revered among mankind because of his ability to “Ghost” which is to suppress his fear completely so the Ursa cannot sense him. Meanwhile his son Kitai, played by Will Smith’s real life son Jaden Smith, is desperately trying to impress his father by following in his footsteps. Kitai’s real test comes when the two crash land on the abandoned Earth and Kitai must face his crippling internal fear to save himself and his father.
Will Smith plays perhaps one of his most subdued roles of his career. No wise cracks, no bravado. He is very much the stern and stoic military man. As if to showcase his ability to completely control his fear his character also shows no other emotion either. This is a risky play for an actor who is known for his charisma. And without a doubt many will be turned off by it. But it works to help elevate Jaden’s performance, especially since Will speaks most of the dialog in the film by giving stern orders not only as commanding officer but as a father to son.

Jaden Smith’s performance starts out mediocre. He is not the over confident stupid youth you would mostly expect to find in this type of role, but rather he is the unassuming, emotional and somewhat weak character. From the time the characters crash land on earth he becomes the lead. At first his character is somewhat annoying as he is crippled by fear and emotions. But at the point when he starts to conquer those fears, we too get carried by his performance. He becomes stronger and I found myself actually involved in his journey. No longer trying to figure out what new obstacle he must face next, but rather in watching him grow from boy to man.
Visually the film is beautiful and refreshing. The sci-fi aspects of the film are unassuming which helps to not take away from the story being told. It was reminiscent of some of the 80s sci-fi films that were futuristic but limited and instead focused on story. The first act of the film is slow, however once the scene shifts to earth, the pacing of this film is excellent. It is one dangerous thing to the next in a race against time.

In the end I found myself enjoying this film more than I thought I would. I was surprised by Will Smith’s limited role but I was pleasantly surprised by Jaden’s growth on screen. The film had less visual sci-fi then I was expecting however in the end I did not seem to mind as I found myself more interested in the coming of age story. It is far from perfect and does not feel right being released during the summer blockbuster season. However in the end, it is worth a trip to the theater, even if it is only a matinee.

3 out of 5

Second review by

Chris Daniels

M. Night Shyamalan and Will Smith have just made a movie that isn’t terrible. Despite low expectations from the film crowd, who are very critical of both Hollywood heavy-hitters, After Earth is something you might actually enjoy watching. Is this a redemption film for the two?

After Earth is a far-into-the-future film that stars Smith (Cypher Raige) and his real-life son Jaden Smith (Katai Raige). The story begins by providing a short and sweet backdrop to the events of film, quickly giving you the synopsis of how Earth was abandoned, a glimpse at the formation of the Rangers, and an understanding of a very real threat to the human race in the form of a large, scent-seeing, blood-lusting alien (called Ursas).

General Cypher is known the world over for developing “ghosting,” a way to control your fear and make yourself invisible to the Ursa threat, which aids tremendously in the fight against them. Being a General takes its toll on Cypher’s family, and the loss of his eldest child disrupts the the synchronicity of this outwardly perfect family even more.

Cypher decides to take his son on a mission so the boy can cut his teeth, but also to connect with him as a father. Unfortunately, their ship is damaged in a space accident and they land on “Earth that was.” Cypher is injured, and Kitai must travel a long way by himself to rescue them both.

There is nothing hidden or twisting about this plot. There were no surprises, except how I felt about it. I enjoyed the cinematography, appreciated the script and acting, and found the special effects believable. This film is a heartwarming father and son tale that is good for most of the family (there’s a little bit of violence here and there).

Will Smith, not necessarily known for his acting skills, kicks things up a notch with this role, and also helps to launch his son’s movie career. Mad props to Jaden, who did an excellent job with the part he was given.

Of course, the idea for this story was envisioned by Will Smith, and it was written, directed, and produced by M. Night Shyamalan. Thus, the movie and the characters were quite literally written for these two actors, so one would hope they fit the roles.

At 90 minutes, the length of After Earth was good. Any longer and you would have heard a complaint out of me.

All in all, this is worth seeing. Since it’s an action / sci-fi film, it’s also worth seeing on the big screen.

3 out of 5 Stars

Edited by Jeff Boehm