‘After Earth’ Stars Will And Jaden Smith, Poorly Written And Produced, No Match For ‘Fast & Furious 6’, Highlight Hollywood News

An odd and mixed-matched father-son encounter session tricked out with  science-fiction clichés and steeped in motivational uplift, “After  Earth” opens with a teenager, Kitai Raige (Jaden  Smith), washing out from some kind of ranger academy. It starts out depressing, because  all he wants to do is please his father (Will  Smith, Jaden’s real-life father), a heroic if unfortunately named general, Cypher.  An oddly-behaved daddy has risen having honed tremendous self-control and a useful  protective technique, “ghosting,” which renders him invisible to the monsters  plaguing human civilization: the nonbearlike Ursa.

These outrageous shrieking creatures are introduced in one of  those opening expositional heaves that filmmakers use to sketch in the who,  what, when, where and why, oh why. In this case, the back story goes, after  ruining Earth, humans relocated to Nova Prime, where they wear a lot of white  and decorate their homes with flowing sailcloths. It’s a nautical motif that  winds though the movie, which was directed by M.  Night Shyamalan, who wrote the script with Gary Whitta (“The Book of  Eli” and that oddly weird film “Signs”) from a story by Mr. Smith. There’s even a nod to “Moby-Dick”  shortly before Cypher and Kitai’s spaceship crashes to Earth, throwing them  together for the usual and less-so life lessons like: “Root yourself in this  present moment. Danger is very real. But fear is a choice.”

“These are also the five courses he can take on any given problem.”  These options are attack, flee, avoid, neglect or succumb. Kitai would  understandably like to split — 1,000 years after humans abandoned Earth, he and  Dad have landed on a now seemingly pristine, healed world teeming with cawing,  clawing menace and some cute baby critters. But Cypher is made of sterner,  righter, more rational stuff.

The story begins too slowly, beat by predictable beat,  after a debris storm downs Kitai and Cypher’s spaceship and they fall to Earth  in a smashup that looks like someone decorated the set with wet toilet paper and  plastic wrap. There, they trade bitter words, clench their jaws and hold back  the tears amid long pauses and inert action scenes, most involving Kitai racing  through the dense woods and confronting digitally rendered animals. For the most  part it is an uninteresting slog alleviated only by the occasional unintended  laugh and moments of visual beauty. Mr. Shyamalan generally torpedoes his movies  with overweening self-seriousness. But here and there he also offers up an image  — as with a close-up of Kitai’s face dusted with glistening snowflakes — that  rises out of the torpor.

Those images are few and far between in a movie that  loses its way long before Kitai reaches the belching volcano that leads to his  inevitable destiny. Mr. Smith and his wife, Jada  Pinkett Smith, are producers on “After Earth,” which suggests that there was  no one on the production who could really say no to him. An often affable screen  presence, he spends much of the movie in a chair on the spaceship pouting and watering his eyes.

“After Earth” is rated PG-13 (Parents strongly  cautioned). Spaceship crash, alien monsters, parental peril.   Opens on Friday nationwide. Highlight Hollywood gives the film Two out of a possible Five Stars.

Written By: Tommy Lightfoot Garrett
Photographs are Courtesy:  Columbia Pictures
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