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Written by / 6/01/2013 / No comments / , , , , ,

AFTER EARTH

year: 2013 cast: Jaden Smith, Will Smith, Zoë Kravitz, Sophie Okonedo rating: **1/2
A hybrid of George Lucas’s “used future,” the main spaceship a sleek stingray-shaped vessel with primitive interior; James Cameron’s existential stranger in a strange land AVATAR; and PLANET OF THE APES wherein two “astronauts,” in this case real life father/son Will and Jaden Smith as Cypher Raige and Kitai, land on Earth in a future where deadly creatures (including gorilla-like antagonists) are hostile to all things human.

Skipping past the backstory of Earth’s original demise caused by everything preached in AN INCONVENIENT TRUTH plus some really aggressive aliens, mankind resides on a planet where young Katai is training to be like his father, not only an intrepid General but he can make himself invisible to the alien foe. This is called “Ghosting” and like all science-fiction films there are odd terms commonplace in this otherworld we’re thrust into. But only the basics are important here: bravery and skill and how the reluctant, vulnerable youth has to eventually combine both to survive.

The underdog Katai gets an unfortunate chance to prove his worth when their spaceship, with his father and a host of doomed soldiers on board, is caught in a meteor storm and crash-lands on the hostile planet Earth. Cypher is severely injured and has to give his son instructions as he treks into the wilderness, fighting adversaries while in search of the tail end of the craft: here’s where a device is located that can ensure a rescue.

Much of the film has Jaden Smith’s Katai alone against the elements, but not entirely. His father gives him instructions from the crashed ship, providing the youthful hero not only loopholes for several nail-biting situations but Katai's never given enough chance to prove himself outside father’s constant influence. In other words, Will Smith’s expository-input gets downright tiresome, turning what could have been a sleek Jack Londonesque survival tale into a Monday Night Football color commentary.

Jaden’s acting isn’t bad, relying mostly on a deer-caught-in-headlight reactions and sporadically breaking down in tears. Meanwhile, Will Smith seems to be reading his dialog in slow motion – then again he’s acting like every monotone character set in director M. Night Shyamalan cinema… Although he has an excuse since his character’s under heavy medication... And as dad's broken leg gets worse, son fights the big bad beast that’s been anticipated all along (including several dreamlike flashbacks).

AFTER EARTH probably won’t heal the maligned M. Night and yet it’s better than anything he’s directed in years. Certain scenes, especially that final battle verses the beastly CGI alien, has enough suspenseful intensity where Katai's situation seems more desperate than Jaden can pull off emotionally. But as a revved-up action hero, the kid does all right.
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