Oh, how the night has fallen for M. Night Shyamalan, director and co-screenwriter of “After Earth.”  If you’re familiar with his work — as I am — and noticed with sadness at how his latest projects have been going downhill regarding quality, then it won’t come as a surprise that this movie continues that downward slide.

“After Earth” stars Will Smith and his son Jaden Smith as father and son characters who are the only survivors of a spaceship crash on Earth.  The story takes place 1,000 years into the future.  People had to abandon Earth because we polluted it so much it was no longer inhabitable; and after a millennium, it is now inhabited by creatures that have evolved to kill people, and therefore Earth is a quarantined planet, avoided at all costs by people.  Before I go on, let me say that that part of the story doesn’t make sense.   Today, there are countless creatures that can kill people.  Spiders, scorpions, jellyfish, sharks, bears, tigers, bacteria, mold…but we’re still here.  We’re not just here, humans are thriving like cockroaches in a dirty kitchen.  Apparently the people of “After Earth” are a bunch of punks who can’t handle large cats and giant birds and hordes of baboons and cold weather.  They have the technology to have spaceships that can create wormholes, but they don’t have the technology to take over Earth?  Enough of that.  Moving on.

The first thing I noticed about “After Earth” is that everyone has slight, British accents.  And it is very annoying.  The Smiths sound very, very stupid with the accents.  And it doesn’t help when they drop the accent every fourth word, so that within the same sentence, they give off British and American accents.  Way to destroy the suspension of disbelief.

The second thing I noticed about this movie is how dull Will is.  His character has absolutely no personality, zero charisma.  What the hell happened?  Will Smith is one of the most charismatic actors today, so I know it’s not for a lack of talent that he acted like a piece of wood.  What happened is a crappy script that made Will as stiff as a 3 day old corpse.  Jaden was not much better.  I do blame Will for not using his star power to say, “Hey, my character sucks — let’s tweak the script so my character is more engaging.”   Bottom line, I didn’t care if both these guys died.  Damn, I got so busy trashing this movie that I forgot to continue with the synopsis of “After Earth.”

So, the spaceship breaks in half and Will’s legs are broken and it’s up to Jaden to retrieve and activate a distress beacon that is in the other half of the ship which is about 62 miles away.  Jaden will have to face numerous obstacles (crazy weather, deadly creatures, an atmosphere that is low on oxygen, and his own youth and inexperience in combat and survival) to retrieve the object that will save him and his father.  Oh, there is also an alien creature that was being transported in the spaceship, and it is now loose.   The creature, called an Ursa, I think, is a huge, vicious, blind creature that is bred to kill humans.

Of course, we get the pathetic subplot of the strained father/son relationship; father is a hero and the son is but a mere shadow who tries to make his father proud; son feels guilty about his sister’s death; father sees his son as weak and a disappointment to the family, blah blah blah.  It was handled badly and I couldn’t care less.

Is there anything good about this movie?  Sure.  If you have a surround sound system, the first act of the movie has lots of activity that will put your back speakers to work.  I happen to love that stuff — it makes me feel like I’m inside the movie.   What else…oh, the cinematography is nice.  I liked the music, too.  And uh…okay.

One of my memorable, movie moments of “A. E.” is the scene when a female soldier had her backside toward the audience.  The soldiers in this movie wore tight clothing, so her beautiful, big, round butt was very prominent.  It even looked like she had a wedgie.  Look for it near the end of the movie.

My most memorable, movie moment of “After Earth” is the scene when Jaden was having a dream, and his dead sister was telling him to wake up. Jaden keeps yapping about some nonsense, and his sister keeps telling him to wake up.  She finally changes her face to something a bit shocking, and then Jaden finally wakes.  Even though I saw it coming, it still gave me a bit of a fright.

Do I recommend this movie for you to watch?  It depends on the situation.  If you can watch it for free, as I did (thanks, Library!), and you have 100 minutes to kill, or you want to watch a movie while sorting and folding laundry, then yeah, you should give it a try.  Other than that, you should skip it.

–M

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