After Earth, starring the Smith Family Robinsons, Will and Jaden, with brief flashes of other actors, is an adventure film. There is definitely no science in this science fiction, just fiction. I read where the script was written by Will Smith. He should stick to acting.
Oh, I enjoyed the adventure and bugaboos and some of the tense moments. The special effects were great. Loved the very alien looking city-scape on the alternate planet after earth has been trashed. I also loved Will Smith’s performance as a ranger who can “ghost”, which means that he can hide from this alien monster by cutting off the fear that produces pheromones. That’s how the monster finds his victims. He smells them, by their fear. And he’s quite an intimidating beast. But back to Will Smith. In my book he’s become an actor to be reckoned with. Even in this not-quite-Oscar-film, his voice is mesmerizing. It has a quality that grabs your ear and demands to be heard.
But Jaden Smith, as Cypher’s son Kitai Raige, is still growing as an actor, and, honestly, I’ve seen much younger actors who are naturals. The voice Jaden uses for Kitai sounds manufactured, as does the weird accents of the crew of the spaceship. It throws off the rhythm and continuity of the story, taking your focus off the scene because his pronunciation and intonation are jarring.
The father/son strained relationship in the movie was good in some scenes, but in others became irritating and sappily sentimental. It seems that Cypher Raige (Will Smith), in order to cut off that deadly feeling of fear, has cut off all emotion whatsoever in order to maintain the “no-fear-amone” status quo on his adopted planet. An additive which strengthens this state of human automaton is a past tragic event for which Cypher blames his son. The love for his son is still there, but buried under an avalanche of conflicting feelings. Kitai struggles to regain his father’s good will, and for a glimpse of the love he longs for. The past tragedy also haunts Kitai, and holds him back in maturing, reaching ranger status, and overcoming his all-consuming fear.
Badly wounded, the fearless father and top echelon ranger tries to center his son via electronic communication as Kitai travels deeper and deeper into danger. “Take a knee,” Cypher commands from the shattered remains of the ship. “Don’t move.” He wants his son’s mind focused only upon his surroundings and not his fear. “Fear,” he says, “is a choice.”
The film suffers from the lack of other actors besides Will and Jaden Smith, whose ship has crashed onto their ancient and perilous homeland — earth. Some interacting, even if the other characters were no more than “red shirts” and “fodder” for the ravaging beasts, would have given us something besides just Will and Jaden. True, the plot called for the father/son bonding through this experience, but it could have been done with a few other characters taking up some of the slack. They could have been chased through the jungle, eventually losing the battle. Just something for a little variety.
After Earth is worth watching the first time as an adventure and something to pass the time. But for me it doesn’t rate a second viewing. I’m glad I didn’t waste my money going to the theater to see it. And no true science fiction enthusiast will tolerate it as science fiction. Too many unexplained, questionable activities. So don’t expect much more than good special effects, the privilege of watching Will Smith, and some of the strained father/son/relationship. It’s a kind of mixed bag in a movie that had potential, but turned into just a garden-variety adventure that will soon be forgotten.