Thursday, June 6, 2013

Stars: Will Smith, Jaden Smith
Director: M. Night Shyamalan
Reviewed by Anthony Servante

Imagine my surprise when I found out that this was a M. Night Shamalamadingdong movie. I'm sorry, I meant Shyamalan. Once the media darling for film critics and movie fans alike, Sham has had some ups and downs since his Oscar nominated hit, The Sixth Sense. During his ups, publicity followed his upcoming films with equal parts anticipation and dread. Could he pull off another Sixth Sense? Or could we expect another Lady in the Water? Although his movies have made money overall, what with the international market buying what he had to sell, the American market was cautious, even suspicious; many felt that the director was trying too hard to replicate the success of his ghost story by giving his films his trademark "twist ending", often at the expense of his waning fan base who tired of waiting for the next surprise finale that never came.

M. Night in the dark again

Now we have After Earth. In its first weekend in release, it has bombed. I was the only viewer in the showing I attended this afternoon. But I didn't let that influence me. The movie alone provided the reasons for its lack of an audience. The trailers tried their best to focus on the "monsters" of the film, but ultimately it is a one-man show, and that man, young Jaden Smith, cannot carry the movie.

The Ursa senses fear

A father and son (Will Smith as the Ranger General and Jaden Smith as the Cadet who flunks Ranger school) crash land on Earth, one thousand years after being chased off the planet by the "flora and fauna" and creatures, who have evolved to hate mankind, presumably for all the oil spills and global warming. Nature must really hold a grudge since man hasn't even been around for 1000 years! The General has both legs broken, conveniently turning the movie over to the Cadet who has the chance now to redeem himself by finding the tail section of their busted up spacecraft and sending the distress signal. Only he has to fight his way through all those man-hating creatures we mentioned earlier.

Which brings us to the special effects. They aren't special. Jaden would have look more convincing fighting the blue screen. There was a queer little episode with a giant condor that takes to the human who tried to protect the bird's young from predatory cats. What the bird does for the Cadet is the stuff worthy of a M. Night Shyamalan ending, but I guess Will Smith had another ending in mind, so the director just threw it in where it had little to no effect on the plot. Will wanted a big showdown between the Cadet and the Ursa, a creature that "sees" fear, but is blind to the fearless. The General is fearless. Will the Cadet be? I wonder.

Jaden and Will

But let's not feel sorry for Mr. Shyamalan; his films have surely passed one billion bucks worldwide. Just 'cause his films bomb here in the States doesn't mean the Euros don't take a shine to his self-professed brilliant films. So, let's consider what critics are calling a bomb. After Earth earned 27.5 million opening weekend. With that Euro money, I'm sure it's bound to make a profit, given the money or lack of spent on CGI.

So, how was the movie? Not as good as an episode of the old The Outer Limits show, but almost as good as an episode from the new The Outer Limits show. The monsters could have been better. You don't need CGI for that, just good imagination, which is sorely lacking here. All that techno-babble can't replace a good set of fangs on a space alien. Plus, we expect to see more Will Smith in a Will Smith movie, but he wanted to showcase his son Jaden here. Our loss, not his. Would I recommend it? No. Even if it makes 100 million next weekend, I'll stick to my guns. M. Night Shamalamadingdong has another Euro hit on his hands. The rest of us will just have to wait to see if his next film pans out. Get it? Pans. 

1 comment:

  1. Sounds like it is worth a rental... when the price gets down to 99 cents. Great review by the way!