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After Earth Review: It’s Not as Bad as You’d Think

After Earth review
After Earth review

M. Night Shyamalan had Hollywood by the balls after his remarkable The Sixth Sense debuted in 1999, and he then followed it up with the solid Unbreakable, which convinced the world that this guy should be given blank checks to make movies. Unfortunately every movie he’s released after these two haven’t been able to even remotely capture the magic that they exhibited. He’s put out bomb after bomb, which is why many film goers are probably hesitant to spend another dime on an M. Night directed film.

That may not be saying much to his critics and scorned fans, but the movie does have its fair share of entertaining moments that help it to stand out from the pack of horrible Shyamalan experiments.

After Earth stars Will Smith (also produced it) as Cypher Raige, who is more or less the biggest badass in the ranks of the Nova Prime based human colony’s Ranger unit. Humans were forced to leave Earth after years of abusing its resources, which is why they settled on Nova Prime with the help of the newly created Ranger unit collective. Little did they know that Nova Prime was already inhabited by a hostile force of aliens, and they didn’t take to well to the idea of having new neighbors. This led to a war between the two races and the creation of the ultimate human killing machine – Ursas.

Ursas look like multi-legged monsters with no eyes and an overabundance of claws and pointy things. They were bred to hunt down humans by smelling their fear through the pheromones released into the air when they’re afraid. Obviously, this makes them the ultimate man hunting weapons, but their ability can also be used against them, and Cypher Raige was the first Ranger to realize this.

The dreaded Ursa
The dreaded Ursa

Through the ability to mask his fear he essentially became invisible to the Ursas, and coined the term “Ghosting”, which simply meant a Ranger could control his emotions to make him or herself non-existent to the Ursas on the battlefield. Through his training the Nova Prime human colony was able to come to a stalemate with the monsters, and his legend grew amongst the survivors.

Fast forward a couple of years and the humans are in much better shape on Nova Prime, but they always have to be cognoscente of the Ursa threat. This is where Kitai’s story comes in, who is the son of Cypher, and played by Jaiden Smith. When he was just a boy he witnessed a tragic event that left him with survivor’s guilt, and an unhealthy amount of fear and self-doubt. Due to this he fails his attempt at progressing himself from a Cadet to a Ranger, and this leads to all sorts of Daddy issues between himself and Cypher.

Jaiden Smith as Kitai
Jaiden Smith as Kitai

Cypher is a no nonsense Ranger General who treats his son more like a solider than his own blood, which persuades his wife to offer some motherly advice to help rebuild the bond between father and son. Cypher agrees and the two embark on a scheduled tour of training missions throughout the known galaxy. To their dismay the ship they’re on runs into an asteroid field that damages it to the point where it needs to make an emergency landing.

In a twist of fate the ship crash lands on Earth, which hasn’t been home to humans for over 1000 years, and is no longer a hospitable planet for the race. Cypher is injured in the crash and Kitai is the only other survivor that can move. He must retrieve a satellite beacon that is in the tail section of their ship to save both himself and his dad, and this is when the real story of After Earth begins.

At its heart this movie is about the often strained bond between father and son. It features a tale of redemption for both Cypher and Kitai as they work together to save themselves on a planet that is designed to kill humans. The fact that Will and Jaiden are a father and son duo in real life helped to further sell this overlying plot point. You could feel the tension between them at the beginning of the movie, and its clear to see how the two become closer while dealing with their life or death ordeal.

The father son bond is clear between these two
The father son bond is clear between these two

Their personal journey reflected the growth that most males will experience in their lives when it comes to relationships between fathers and sons, and the feeling that a son needs to make his father proud no matter the cost. The two actors definitely exhibited a chemistry not easily captured in a movie, but at times Jaiden’s acting does get a little hammy. Ultimately, he’s the star of the film and gets the most screen time, and he does show signs of having his dad’s skill set, but he was either directed to act like crap in some scenes, or he had bad days, because there are moments that may give you douche-chills while watching his performance.

After Earth’s biggest failure isn’t its cast, but its visuals. M. Night took a page right out of the George Lucas School of Green Screen Filming, because nearly every scene that featured a computer generated background looked fake. Unlike Oblivion none of the sprawling vista shots looked real, which created a lack of believability in the visual design of After Earth. The practical sets looked great, but with most science fiction franchises this movie relied on a heavy helping of CG graphics, so the lack of quality hampered this particular movie’s visuals greatly.

The CG backgrounds looked fake, but some of the other effects looked great
The CG backgrounds looked fake, but some of the other effects looked great

It’s safe to say that M. Night Shyamalan will probably never return to the form that made him the toast of Tinsel town, but his After Earth project isn’t nearly as bad as you’ve been reading. It’s not a movie that should be considered must-see, but it’s also not a complete pile of Ursa dung. The core narrative of the father and son dynamic is solid enough to add some value to After Earth, and if you can get past the cheesy visuals, the overall story is worth investing 100-minutes of your life into. If your movie budget is tight you can definitely wait for After Earth’s release on Netflix and the movie channels, but it’s definitely a movie worth checking out when there’s nothing else to keep your brain engaged.

After Earth Official Trailer #2 (2013) – Will Smith Movie HD

[schema type=”review” name=”After Earth | Review Summary” description=”The Awesome: Decent tale of the Father and Son dynamic, The cutlass, Cool sci-fi tech | The Not so Awesome: Acting can get hammy, CG visuals are poor, Predictable” rev_name=”After Earth” rev_body=”After Earth may not be the best movie coming out this blockbuster season, but it’s not a complete waste of time. Will and Jaiden Smith have an obvious chemistry with each other, and the tale of their movie based Father and Son relationship is one that all males can relate to. Jaiden’s acting can get on your nerves at times, and the CG visuals are quite poor, but at its core After Earth offers a decent science fiction story that’s worth seeing when you have nothing else to do.” author=”Matt Heywood” pubdate=”2013-06-02″ user_review=”7″ min_review=”0″ max_review=”10″ ]

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Matt Heywood

The author Matt Heywood

Matt Heywood is the founder and EIC of EntertainmentBuddha.com where he strives to make you a better geek, one post at a time! When he's not scouring the Internet for interesting nuggets of awesomeness he can be found in his secret lair enjoying the latest and greatest video games, taking pictures of toys, or talking Star Wars on EB's Star Wars Time podcast show.