After Earth Screen 16 articles

After Earth

2013

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  • For the most part it is an uninteresting slog alleviated only by the occasional unintended laugh and moments of visual beauty. Mr. Shyamalan generally torpedoes his movies with overweening self-seriousness. But here and there he also offers up an image — as with a close-up of Kitai’s face dusted with glistening snowflakes — that rises out of the torpor.

  • The latest in an increasingly long line of high-profile misfires from one-time Spielberg-progeny M Night Shyamalan, After Earth is a cynical, aggressively derivative endorsement of dumbed down mass entertainment.

  • Though he shares screenplay credit with Gary Whitta, Shyamalan is clearly a director-for-hire here, his disinterest palpable from first frame to last. Nowhere in evidence is the gifted “Sixth Sense” director who once brought intricately crafted setpieces and cinematic sleight-of-hand to even the least of his own movies.

  • The dialogue is self-conscious, but only enough for Shyamalan to coyly convey that he gets how invariably methodical every action of the script is without indulging and having fun with the narrative freedom such cognizance allows. Then again, fun doesn't seem to be of particular interest to the filmmaker: The action sequences are brief and marked more by their decibel level than by their clarity, and the few instances of humor land with a proverbial thud.

  • What undoes the film is its rather rancid parent-child sentimentality (a Shyamalan staple, admittedly) and a charisma-free performance from the younger Smith that suggests the apple has fallen very far from the tree, indeed. At least the tacked-on narrative twist is a thing of the past. Making progress, M. Night.

  • As drama, “After Earth” offers no surprises; as action, it’s rarely stimulating (there’s exactly one shot—from Kitai’s point of view as he’s being dragged to safety by a hidden benefactor—that reflects visual imagination); as a parenting manual, it seems that Will has thrown Jaden into water that’s a little too deep.

  • This remarkably egotistical hero's journey is one of Shyamalan's stronger efforts. By this point, everyone's making a lot of the film's subtext, which involves both scientology and Will Smith's nepotistic relationship with his son's acting career. That isn't particularly surprising, because as an adventure story, this falls rather flat, with only a few brief, rote set pieces punctuating the overt rhetoric.

  • Shyamalan's least embarrassing effort in some time—and that's saying something, given the film's tacky philosophical underpinnings—but also his least distinctive. With this and The Last Airbender, he seems like a chastened auteur, forced to abandon his moody, patient scene-building in favor of a more conventionally polished commercial style.

  • To be fair, this father-son project isn’t as bad as it might have been: Jaden is a charismatic lead, and there’s some nice visual design. But the recruitment of increasingly questionable director M Night Shyamalan (‘The Sixth Sense’, ‘The Happening’, ‘The Last Airbender’) was a misstep – the action is sluggish, while the theoretically justifiable decision to give every performer a bland, Boston-ish non- accent gets weird, fast.

  • Acting more or less as a hired gun, director M. Night Shyamalan brings considerable formal chops to the project. His style—part arthouse, part Spielberg—is well-suited to the material... And yet, despite all of this, After Earth is a mixed bag. It’s hard to blame Shyamalan for the downright embarrassing opening, a choppy mess of redundant exposition that seems to belong in a different movie.

  • Stern and taciturn, Will Smith is cast against type, but he’s all the more imposing because he’s forcibly concealing his natural warm spirits. One forever expects him to crack a smile and say, “Just kidding.” He doesn’t, ever, and that tension puts him on list of excellent actors, with Toni Colette and Paul Giamatti, who can make Shyamalan’s films — stiff, heavy, childish and borderline amateurish, if often intriguingly so — seem briefly natural.

  • [Cinematographer Peter] Suschitzky makes it all seem unnatural, which is to say he invokes a sense of order resistant to human intervention... It would be easier to appreciate the artistry of After Earth if none of the characters talked. The lead, 14-year-old Jaden Smith, delivers his lines as though reading them from cue cards outside the frame...

  • Much of this is stupid, but I'm fairly certain that it's only the material that's stupid rather than the execution. Shyamalan, master of hacks, manages to deliver some tense, muscular filmmaking here, and between the breathtaking post-apocalyptic vistas and the often startlingly good compositions, I think this might be his best-directed film.

  • Critics and audiences in the US have reacted badly, feeling themselves hustled into aiding and abetting an act of Hollywood nepotism – yet the film is rather fascinating, both in itself (as an old-fashioned kids’ adventure) and as a metaphor for fathers and sons, specifically a controlling dad’s wish-fulfilment fantasy.

  • There’s great filmmaking in After Earth (2013), even if it’s hamstrung by a stiff Jaden Smith performance.

  • The M. Night vibe is subdued here, but you can still feel it — particularly in the wide shots of Kitai scrambling along forest floors and up mountain peaks, and in the scenes of Cypher talking his son across treacherous land, their tightly-framed faces answering each other through editing, and sometimes seeming to meld into one organism with shared consciousness. In the film's lyrical final act, the two seem as spiritually attuned as E.T. and Elliott.

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