by Michael Walters
The Cantankerous Critic
Things that are more entertaining than watching “After Earth”:
- Watching paint dry.
- Sorting the recycling.
- Getting a root canal.
- Staring at a plastic bag floating in the wind.
This big budget vanity project is the worst kind of bad movie. It’s not fun bad. It’s not a fascinating fiasco. It’s not even unintentionally entertaining. It’s a deathly dull and stupefyingly boring romp through a desolate earth.
And it traps the audience with no one but Will Smith’s son Jaden to hold our attention. Why should we suffer because Will Smith wants his kid to get into the family business?
It begins with a confusing and clunky prologue which is both ham-fisted and half-assed; full of half-baked thoughts about how mankind ruined the planet and then had to find a new home.
They’re guided by a new intergalactic police force called the Ranger Corps to a new planet, but there’s a problem. Alien invaders want the planet for themselves, and have bred multi-pincered killing machines to kill humans by smelling their fear.
Will Smith is an elite general who is famous for his “ghosting” technique, which allows him to suppress his fear and sneak up on the enemy undetected. Jaden Smith is his son, a ranger cadet who has nothing but fear, after he saw his sister slaughtered by one of the creatures.
Will Smith decides to bring his son along on a routine training mission, which will be his last job before he retires. All goes predictably awry when their ship encounters an asteroid field, and is torn to smithereens, crash-landing on earth.
The father-son dynamic never gets off the ground, because the film saddles Will Smith with two broken legs. He spends a majority of the movie reclining in a chair, hopped up on painkillers that keep him just on the edge of dozing off for the rest of the movie.
That leaves us, the poor audience, in the incapable hands of Smith’s son Jaden. He spends much of the movie running, and running across hundreds of kilometers with nothing but a few fake looking CGI animals to react to.
Jaden Smith might someday develop into a charismatic leading man capable of captivating an audience’s attention like his old man, but today is not that day.
As bad as his acting is, his attempt at a voiceover is even worse. Jaden sounds bored and disinterested in his dialogue. It’s as though he was grudgingly trudging his way through a book report. Even Harrison Ford in “Blade Runner” sounded more invested in what he was saying in his tortured voiceover.
If “The Last Airbender” didn’t douse the fire of the last few M. Night Shyamalan apologists out there, this is sure to eliminate whatever flicker of hope they still had left. He doesn’t even have the inspiration to come up with another of his lame twists. “After Earth” is quite simply the most boring movie of the year.