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Where There’s a Will, There’s a Won’t – A review of AfterEarth
Production Company: Columbia Pictures
Run Time: 100 minutes
Director: M. Night Shyamalan
Stars: Will Smith, Jaden Smith
Summary: An overly ambitious look at a post-apocalyptic Earth where all the creatures have it in for Jaden and Will Smith. A great time to take a nap.
M. Night Shyamalan needs to quit while he’s ahead. Either that, or he should at least re-watch some of his earlier films so he can recapture the magic that he’s lost in subsequent follow-ups.
This latest venture of his, AfterEarth, featuring summer box office golden boy Will Smith and his son Jaden proves once again that Shyamalan has passed his prime when it comes to directing compelling and edge of your seat plots.
The younger Smith plays a ranger in training who accompanies his father, himself a legendary General in the Ranger corps, on a mission. When their ship crash lands on Earth, Jaden must strike out on his own to save both himself and his seriously injured father. But the youngster has issues at Ranger school that will prevent him from graduating unless he can find a way to overcome those obstacles.
On Earth, though, the environment has evolved to destroy mankind. Humanity left the Earth some time previously due to the damages that we managed to cause. Those mistakes have made the planet uninhabitable. The atmosphere is unbreathable and the animal life is out for the hunt. The father-son team has no choice but to undertake the impossible mission of finding a beacon from part of their ship or neither will survive for long.
The interactions between father and son are the soul of this movie, but it’s not enough to sustain the story for the two hour run. The producers manage to sprinkle in a few perils along the way to keep things interesting. Unfortunately, the interesting scenes are spaced too far apart and we’re left with pointless dialogue where the elder Smith attempts to dish out Yoda-like advice on how Jaden should be able to survive as he moves onward.
One thing is certain – the special effects guys deserve kudos for bringing many of the evolved species to life. If they were not believable, the film would become even more of debacle than it already is.
The main creature that Jaden must fight is a scary bugger, able to smell out the youngster’s fear and use it to pinpoint him for the kill. Only by controlling his fear will Jaden be able to defeat the creature. It’s definitely not destined to be an easy task.
When the action is in play, the film is spot on at keeping us riveted to our seats, but unfortunately, there isn’t enough action here. And when the film is in downtime mode, it’s very easy to lose interest in the story. The elder Smith is a compelling actor, but his son is not yet up to par with his dad and just can’t carry the bulk of the weight of this movie on his young shoulders.
Normally, a summer movie featuring Will Smith would dominate the July 4th weekend. But here, it’s evident that Hollywood didn’t think it would have the staying power and they’re absolutely right. I’m just amazed they didn’t hold this back until the doldrums of August.
Better luck next time, Mr. Shyamalan. You’ll get it right again some day. I give AfterEarth 2-1/2 out of 5 stars.