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Zimbio Review - 'After Earth' Fails to Snap M. Night Shyamalan's Streak of Bad Movies

The Bottom Line
Should You See it?

After Earth looks cheap. The effects are shockingly lackluster. The script is overly simple and predictable. This is a bad movie in almost every way.
As predictable as any movie you will ever see, M. Night Shyamalan's latest, After Earth, is an ultimately forgettable walk through the park of science fiction that has nothing new to say or show us about the genre. Shyamalan, once one of Hollywood's most successful and brightest writer/directors, continues to regress. After Earth has such a lack of creative vision, it easily qualifies as one of the worst movies of the year.

Humans have been driven from Earth by an alien race and the planet is now uninhabitable, overrun by dangerous predators and toxins. The aliens are unique in that they hunt by smelling phermones secreted by fear in humans. Earth's hero, Cypher Raige (Will Smith), defeats them by perfecting a process called "ghosting," where he becomes invisible to the creatures by harnessing his fear, thus not allowing the aliens to sense him. Cypher explains to his son, Kitai (Jaden Smith), "Fear is a choice."

After flunking his Ranger test, Kitai accompanies Dad on a space mission to transport an alien for research, but the ship hits an asteroid field and crash lands on Earth, some 1000 years after humans have left. Cypher and Kitai survive but Cypher is injured and Kitai must find the tail section of the ship some 100 kilometers away. There's a space flare in the tail and the only way the two can surive is if Kitai faces his fears and traverses the dangerous planet to find it.

After Earth looks like a Star Trek episode from the '70s. It's baffling how pedestrian the production design and CGI are. Space ship interiors look like a do-it-yourself plumbling project. PVC-looking pipes are everywhere. Doorways are covered by curtains, men wear their uniform always and women wear flowing robes, not exactly new developments in cinematic future fashion.

However there's one grating detail that stood
out above all else: seat belts. Seat belts play a pivotal role in After Earth since the Smith boys crash land and spend ample time buckling and unbuckling themselves in. The future belts look like they were taken from a Chevy Caprice off the Wonder Years set. They're old-looking and distracting, a perfect microcosm for the movie itself.

Will Smith is in full-on jarhead mode here with his Johnny Unitas haircut and perfectly groomed soul patch. He fails to break a smile and exists purely to coach his undisciplined son. It's one of the charismatic actor's most boring performances.

Jaden is onscreen for 90 percent of the film and a compelling leading man he does not make. He speaks in a weird accent that might've been a decision to make things seem more futuristic, but it serves as a distration. He's also blatantly out of sync with the CGI at times, swinging his double-sided sword (What, no guns in the future?) at nothing and he looks demented in some scenes talking to the air while communicating with his dad via an armband.

The technology in the film is laughable. The armbands, floppy iPads, and 3D visual displays have all been seen before. The scenes set in the dark recesses of space look straight out of TV. The CGI predators on Earth look hideous. In all, After Earth is a giant mess. There's very little endearing material, the performances are empty and listless, and the ending can be predicted a mile away. Shyamalan does little to disprove the notion his previous film, The Last Airbender, was an aberration.

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