A father-son feature that’s unfit for humans

If you are the kind of cinema-goer with absolutely no interest in engaging storytelling, basic acting skills, creative use of photography, or even just the will to live after you have left the darkness of the auditorium, then this is the film for you. Otherwise, After Earth is no more than a superficially shameless and laughable exercise in nepotism over talent and commercialism over content — a celluloid version of watching an overzealous parent encouraging their child to dress up as a prostitute and enter a beauty pageant. And while the make-up, costumes and dance routines are all suitably in place, the result of watching Jaden Smith prancing around the set while father Will mimics the routine from the wings is as unbearably cringeworthy to watch as a six-year-old in high heels, fish- net stockings and a wedding dress singing ‘Like a Virgin’ while stroking their crotch region.

 

The film opens with a fleeting, lazy and superficial archival montage of earthly disasters intended to explain how our terribly selfish species ruined Earth and had to seek a new planet to colonise. Smith Sr plays General Cypher Raige, a renowned interstellar warrior plying his trade 1,000 years after humans abandoned terra firma. His son Kitai (Smith Jr) is a ranger cadet trying to emulate his father, and while he excels in the classroom, he is weak and fearful in the field. Raige has clearly been an absentee father and is asked by his wife (Okonedo) to take Kitai with him on his next mission. An asteroid damages their spaceship en route, forcing an ill-feted landing on Earth. Raige suffers two broken legs in the crash, and it is thus down to a fearful Kitai, with his father monitoring him, to find the rescue beacon that will save them.

 

This latest post-apocalyptic sci-fi blockbuster not only has nothing new to offer, but also manages to rehash the clichés of past entries into the genre with such little enthusiasm or creative effort that it is hard to spot any hint of science and even less fiction. Smith previously rode this genre horse to victory in Independence Day, I, Robot and I Am Legend, but here he has opted to sit (literally) on the sidelines of this abomination in order to pass on the baton so that son Jaden can profit off the back of these past successes.

 

Based on an idea by Smith Sr himself, director Shyamalan is left to adapt this scribbled post-it note of an idea into something tangible, but clearly he has neither the skill nor the will to do so. The action is predictable and subdued, the dialogue would offend even the stalest of fortune cookies, the tension is non-existent and the jarring Anglo-Kentuckian drawls that pass for the accents of our future selves are as off-putting as the sickening pathos found in a script that attempts to mirror a possible real-life family therapy session in the Smith household.

 

The film’s enduring moment is thus that of Will Smith sitting in his crash-landed ship, wounded and deliriously muttering to his son: “Run. Run away.” This is very good advice indeed if you’re considering paying to see this film. You would not only be doing yourself a disservice, but you would also be sanctioning an all too familiar and lazy Hollywood trend of profiting from a film with no substance or quality simply because it is a star vehicle, especially when the vehicle in question has learner plates on it and the star has totalled it on his first driving lesson.

 

After Earth (11)

Dir: M Night Shyamalan; US sci-fi, 2013, 100 mins; Will Smith, Jaden Smith, Isabelle Fuhrman, Sophie Okonedo, Zoe Kravitz, Glenn Morshower

Premiered June 27

Playing nationwide