The film starts like your typical post-apocalyptic science fiction piece by telling you how badly we as humans messed up, and how aliens suddenly attacked us. Then we are introduced to a son, Kitai (Jaden Smith), who is living in the big, emotionally-empty shadow of his father whose reputation he is unable to live up to. That’s really the extent of the depth to this film, aside from some misused and irrelevant allusions to “Moby Dick”. This film was as monotone and lacking in personality as Will Smith’s character Cypher was.
Cypher is a military man, always away on missions so he has become so disconnected from his wife and son, that he hardly knows them any more. Kitai is stuck in the looming shadow of his father’s great accomplishments, and persists on following in his foot steps even though he lacks the natural talent his father has. After a bonding mission gone wrong, Cypher and Kitai are the only surviving members after a crash landing on what we can only assume is Earth. It’s all up to Kitai to save his father and himself, and survive the many surprises this Earth has to throw at him, and one surprise not from that Earth. At least a dozen films come to mind that deal with the same subject matter and all were done immensely better than this film. Ok, we get it, father-son relationships have not changed even after an apocalyptic end to a planet.
One of the problems (aside from the awful script) was the lack of a sense of direction in giving you a feel for this new Earth. I was left waiting for a moment like that of *SPOILER ALERT* Charlton Heston discovering the sunken Statue of Liberty in Planet of the Apes. Shyamalan’s attempt at creating and all immersive world like that of Avatar fell so far below par that it sank leagues into the watery depths (Oh, maybe that’s where the “Moby Dick” references come into play!).
For those of you that know it, the term “Will Smith-ing Your Child” applies here. Will Smith-ing Your Child (verb): producing a film for the sole purpose of giving your child the leading role. Like the film, Jaden Smith is unable to fill the super-star shoes his father placed before him. Honestly, it’s not his fault; he just hasn’t had the life experience daddy Smith has. That being said, the story was so minimal and bare that the only character you felt anything for was a CGI bird that was on screen for a total of 5 minutes. The next character would have to be Zoë Kravitz as Senshi, who was already dead at the beginning of the film.
M. Night Shyamalan does not disappoint in this film because most of us knew to expect disappointment. Even with the seasoned Will Smith in the film, there was never any hope of saving this sinking ship. Shyamalan is still trying to catch another white whale, like the ones he began his career with (Sixth Sense, Unbreakable), no matter the cost. It ended so well for Captain Ahab, right?
Rating: ★★★ (3/10 stars)
After Earth is now playing in theaters.