Press-Republican

Out & About

June 6, 2013

'After Earth' falls flat

“After Earth” is the kind of movie that gives sci-fi a bad name.

A bland example of misguided nepotism, the film is actually more of a father-son coming-of-age drama, dressed in futuristic trappings.

Unfortunately, “After Earth” doesn’t take advantage of any of its assets, giving viewers a tedious story that doesn’t even look particularly good.

Consider it yet another nail in the creative coffin of director and co-writer M. Night Shyamalan. There’s plenty of blame to go around, however.

Will Smith conceived of the story, and produced the film as a vehicle for his 14-year-old son, Jaden, who shows no ability — at least not yet — to carry an action-adventure movie.

“After Earth” is essentially a two-man story. It seems that 1,000 years in the future, humans have been forced to leave a broken Earth and colonize a new planet, only to face a race of deadly alien creatures who can literally smell fear.

Will Smith plays General Cypher Raige, hero of the human race, a stoic leader completely immune to fear. Jaden Smith is his son, an impulsive teen who has failed training for the elite Rangers fighting force.

As fate would have it, the father and son are the only survivors on a ship that crash-lands on abandoned Earth, and they will have to work on their personal issues to avoid certain death.

Those expecting a typical Will Smith vehicle — fun, wisecracking and action-packed — will be sorely disappointed. “After Earth” is virtually humorless (the only thing funny is Smith’s odd accent), and what’s the opposite of action-packed … action-unpacked?

The elder Smith’s character is almost completely charisma-free, and spends most of the movie incapacitated with an injury. That leaves Jaden Smith’s Kitai to do all the heavy lifting, in this case covering 100 kilometers of treacherous terrain before his oxygen runs out.

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