WIRTB Review: After Earth

In light of the Jada Pinkett Smith/Will Smith Oscars discussion (I don’t wanna flat-out call it a “controversy”), I’ve decided to do a WIRTB Review for a movie most would say is probably Will’s worst. Yep, we’re talking After Earth. I’m Speed on the Beat and I need a new catchphrase.

If you haven’t seen After Earth, don’t waste your time. Here’re the basics you need to know about it.

  • It’s an M. Night Shyamalan film
  • It’s an M. Night Shyamalan film done before The Visit and after his good movies
  • MNS also co-wrote the script
  • Will Smith and Jaden Smith partake in this weird-ass, stereotypical African-meets-Imperial Soldier accent because SPACE FOLKS ALWAYS SOUND BRITISH AND STUFF
  • There are enough plotholes in this film that you could throw a planet through them, Gurren Lagann-style.
  • If you’re a conspiracy theorist, you’d probably see right through the spacey crap and see nothing but Scientology (maybe).
  • Oh, and apparently, if you don’t like the movie, some will say you’re either a racist or indulging in self-hatred.
I don’t hate Will Smith. I think that he’s a decent actor. However, this movie, for so many, was horrible. But…was it really that bad? Let’s begin. 
Our film opens with your typical Halo-esque opening that many action films these days ape. Humanity’s dying. Aliens are taking over the world. Humanity escapes to space and a new planet, Nova Prime. The aliens have big Scorpion-meets-Covenent creatures called Ursa who sense fear.
Their appearance on film looks like Sharknado meets Full Metal Ninja.
Hell, I’d rather see a Pierre Kirby/Godfrey Ho flick.
At least their horribleness is countered by the fact I can straight up LMAO at it all…
Enter the cavalry and the obligatory “ish gets real and aliens get sliced and blow up” scene where we’re introduced to one of our main characters. Apparently, Will Smith’s Cypher Raige (which sounds more like a rap battle gone wrong than the name of a person) suppresses his fear and can “ghost.” Ok, I’ll admit. The concept of “ghosting” is pretty cool. It reminds me of something out of, for instance, Ghost in the Shell. But, where the GITS writers were able to fully explain how their brain-hacking and such worked–and damned well, might I add–Shyamalan and company just kind of put it out there and say “hey guys! Cypher and folks like him are, pretty much, anime characters. Roll with it.”
The introduction of Cypher is another point of “WTF?” I get that he’s supposed to be a Savior-esque character. But, for the love of pasta, did he really have to slow-walk into the frame and start murderizing everything in site? Meh. 
Also, the friggin’ accents. I thought they were bad before. But watching this film again, it seems like everyone has a cold and a stick up their ass. They sound like if someone spoofed a spoof of Coming to America and everyone was Semmi, but on all sorts of anti-manic episode medication. They sound like that whiny brat who didn’t get that one toy for Christmas even though he got everything else imaginable. 
I guess that’s how it must’ve been in the Smith home after this movie bombed.
Anywho, while Cypher’s raging and suppressing or whatever, his son Kitai (which means “hope,” if my internet Japanese is correct) is all Shinji-esque, since he blames himself for his sister’s death. We get flashbacks of it happening, so we know it’s real. So, like Shinji, he goes berserk and begins training to become a Space Warrior too. Excuse me, “a member of the Ranger Corps.” Space Warrior, for some reason, sounds more bad-ass and less blah. But, of course, Shin–I mean Kitai, he’s rejected from the Ranger Corps for being all reckless and not giving a damn about anything other than advancing his own goals. Even though we never see anything indicative of his failures, we’re supposed to say “ok movie. We’ll accept Kitai is a hothead with his heart in the right place but his actions are still kind of wonky because MOVIE STEREOTYPES!”
…hmmm…sounds like Jaden Smith in real life.
So, Cypher, the cagy veteran that he is, is close to retirement (of course) and is goaded into taking his reckless-ass son on a farewell mission. Why? Because nepotism, that’s why! As they’re going on their obviously easy retirement mission, things go horribly wrong (of course!) and Cypher and Kitai end up crash-landing on Earth after getting wrecked in an asteroid shower. This is after Kitai gets the crap scared out of him by an Ursa the crew have on board and a screw up to end many Will Smith movie character screw-ups (of-frigging-course!!!) 
After the ship crash-lands, we’re given a few bits of unneccesary scenage. For instance, some wing-meets-Star Trek door thingy keeps opening and closing as Kitai tries to get his stuff together to be the new savior. Why? Who knows?! I guess Shyamalan thought it’d be symbolic…of how my brain cells are pushing to escape my brain as this movie goes on.
Mr. “Home Is Any Place That Has A Bed, A TV, And You” is tasked by Cypher to locate the ship’s tail to send off a rescue beacon. Kitai is told that life on Earth is volatile as all hell (pretty much, everything wants to kill you and everything else–sort of like real-life Earth) and that he needs to be careful. What does Kitai do? He gets into a brawl with Hulk Hogan in Blackface Gigantic Baboons and gets poisoned and passes out for his troubles. Yay being careful!
“If the world was real, why do birds suddenly appear?”
After awaking, Kitai almost gets blown to hell by a thermal shift. In the span of a few scenes, Kitai has done absolutely everything wrong. And we’re supposed to be cheering for this schmuck? We’re supposed to believe he’s Cypher’s last hope? I’d put my faith in Cypher with his broken legs(!) before I’d trust Kitai with even fifty cents! 
Because at least Cypher seems smart about life.
Cypher gathers Kitai for story time and tells him of the first time he “ghosts.” It’s kind of a cool moment, in that “daddy teaching his son some new tricks in life” sort of way. However, after we get this halfway cool moment, we’re thrown back into the cuckoo action. Kitai, after lying to his dad about screwing up his oxygen crystals during the Baboon Brawl, defies orders from Cypher. Why? Because MOVIE STEREOTYPES! Kitai gets all “you should’ve been there” over his sister, who I completely forgot her name until just now (it’s Senshi. I’m getting the feeling that this movie was supposed to be an anime or, at the very least, an Americanime or something. Sorry for stereotyping). 
…actually, I’m starting to see a lot of Evangelion references/callbacks. 
Kitai wants to please his father and make things right. In doing so, he screws up and almost gets himself killed. The planet Earth has been destroyed by an entity that much isn’t known about–other than when they arrive, ish gets deaded. The Earth has reset itself, to a degree Cypher is pretty much the black Gendo Ikari. Senshi serves, in some ways, as the proxy to Rei and Kaworu (minus the potential sexual overtones). The Ursa are grotesque creatures like the Angels. The Raige family is pretty messed up, psychologically, and are kind of broken.
The only thing we’re missing in After Earth is a buttload of manufactured psychobabble by fans of the series. Instead, we get a buttload of fake science-y bullcrap in the actual script that sounds like a teenager wrote it in his final paper in an attempt to sound smart. Anyway, back to the story.
Stupid Shinj–Kitai goes skydiving to recapture the beacon because he wants to prove Dad wrong (hi Shinji, again!). And what happens to Stupid Kitai? He gets captured by a giant condor. Said condor acts as a protector to Kitai against a group of tigers because…I don’t really know. Do we need an answer as to why some of this crap is happening? Eh…not really. After Stupid Kitai escapes, he builds a raft to get to the tail and then passes out and receives a Message from Beyond the Grave from Kaw–SENSHI who tells Stupid Kitai to get up and remember his dad’s just pissed because he couldn’t save Senshi (sounds like Gendo and Yui to a degree, except Senshi was Cypher’s daughter). 
At least we get to see Zoe Kravitz. Yay Zoe Kravitz.
The Message from Beyond the Grave trope works, as Stupid Kitai avoids getting frozen by a thermal shift. Kitai’s condor friend arrives to let it go–I mean, save Stupid Kitai again before dying itself. With all this craziness, it seems the characters–and the movie itself somewhat–have forgotten about the beacon. We, of course, get a somewhat rushed ending.
Stupid Kitai finds the beacon. He can’t use it because he’s too low in the atmosphere (obviously duh no brainer, right?). Stupid Kitai goes to a volcano–because, yeah, that’s smart–to set up the beacon. Stupid Kitai gets spotted by Ursa. Stupid Kitai starts “ghosting,” kills the Ursa, launches the beacon and saves the day.
So, is this bomb of a movie really that bad? 
Eh…given that it’s a sci-fi film, I’ve seen worst. But…this film is still pretty bad. I’d say that the visual settings weren’t all that putrid, but that’d be a lie as well. I mean, how many shades of grey can you show? I get that it’s an Earth that’s after the alien invasion. But, for Pete’s sake, give us something other than grey, blue-grey, and grey-blue for our folks. That’s not even considering the visual effects of the Ursa, the condor, and so on. Similarly, everyone talks in that weird-ass accent and it’s annoying. I went back into this film forgetting the accents. Hell, I almost forgave it since some sort of African Guy-meets-British Guy accent is used in so many films. However, as I mentioned, the Smiths’ accents were forced beyond all belief.
I’m not the person who’s gonna say “oh, hey. Jaden and Will shouldn’t have been in this movie. It’s black nepotism” then go applaud Judd Apatow for including his kids in This is 40. However, at least Apatow’s kids had charisma, acting chops, the ability to make you enter their world. Jaden Smith has the charisma of a sponge drenched in dried paint in After Earth. No wonder he started talking like Black Yoda meets Dolemite. This movie probably drove the poor boy insane.
Will, however, was no better in this film. As “Black Gendo” Cypher Raige, the lack of any sort of emotion–even with its “oh, hey emotion gets you killed…even though I spazzed on my kid at the dinner table” explanation–it makes it very hard to root for him. He’s a douche to his kid. That’s pretty impossible to debate. And even after everything is chilled out and they’re back on Nova Prime, it still seems like there’s a bit of “you stupid kid. You should’ve just stayed here” energy I sense. Yeah, they’re all “hey, we saved our asses and we’re back home and I’m glad you’re my son” and whatnot. But, I don’t know. Maybe it’s Cypher’s “lack” of emotion. But, hey. It at least allowed Will to work on his accen…oh. 
Again, it’s not the worst movie ever. But, it’s still not really good, either. Give me Shinji Ikari blowing up the world because he’s mad at his daddy and all that fake psychobabble and whatnot any day over this one.
Speed on the Beat

Whatever you need to know about me, you can find out on speedonthebeat.com. Dad of two, cat dad (of two), mental health advocate, Team Support Dope Music in All Its Forms.

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