You know I don’t get all the hate out there for director M. Night Shyamalan. Yes he has directed some bad films but he has made some great ones as well. “Signs” and “Unbreakable” are some of the best movies of the last decade. “After Earth” may not be a great film but it engaged me with a fairly absorbing story and great locations as well as visual effects.
The story takes place a thousand years in to the future. Earth has become uninhabitable and the human population has been forced to evacuate to Nova Prime, the only planet that can sustain human life. It is located outside of our solar system. In the thousand years since earth was evacuated, the planet’s creatures have evolved in to dangerous ecosystem. Think of the planet on “Avatar”.
After humanity’s resettlement, a peacekeeping organization known as the Ranger Corps is trained by a wise but stern General named Cypher Raige (Will Smith). Raige’s son Kitai (Jaden Pinkett Smith) wants to join the Rangers. Cypher’s wife, Faia, urges him to see their son’s behavior as a longing for his father’s love and a plea for attention. At her behest, Cypher takes Kitai on a routine mission to relocate a dangerous predator known as the Ursa.
When their ship is damaged during their trip, father and son find themselves stranded on Earth. Cypher is seriously injured in the accident and his survival is relying on Kitai, who must now venture across unknown terrain in search of the other have of their vessel which contains a rescue beacon. This journey will test the young man as well as bring his troubled relationship with his father to an emotional brink.
The journey itself is fairly frightening, as the son must contend with fierce baboons, birds the size of cars as well as other dangerously evolved animals. The worst is the Ursa, which cannot see but relies on it’s ability to smell fear. Cypher has masted what they call Ghosting. This is when you can purge yourself of all fear thus making yourself invisible to the Ursa. Kitai must learn to do this or die.
Now the movie does have a few issues. For one I thought that Will Smith’s performance was almost too robotic. I know he is supposed to be a hardened warrior who has learned to live without emotion, but Will Smith takes it almost to intensely. His son Jaden also has a few moments where he doesn’t seem believable. But it didn’t take away from the movie that much.
The film’s strongest aspect is in it’s visuals, locations and the almost methodic direction from Shyamalan. This is his best looking movie in years. He doesn’t so much shoot the landscapes as he surrounds us with them. Yes there is use of CGI but he doesn’t rely on that solely. There are real locations that are blended in seamlessly with the visual effects.
The action scenes are all tense and thrilling. I especially liked the crash sequence starting with the astroid shower that pelted the ship. The final battle between the Ursa and Kitai was amazing as well.
I urge you to see this movie in theatres where it should be seen. I’m not sure why it is getting such harsh reviews but I imagine it is because critics are starting to enjoy hating on Shyamalan which is a shame.