After Earth is proof positive that M. Night Shyamalan is more sinned against than sinning. Yes, he has made some hysterically bad films, but that is no reason to put all his films through the shredder. The Last Airbender (2010) was great fun and didn’t deserve all those Razzies. After Earth, though it sounded very portentous, actually turned out to be the greatest fun.
At 100 minutes, the movie is beautifully shot in some super locations, has some heavy duty philosophy (“danger is real, fear is a choice”) but moves briskly liberally sprinkled with money shots.
Thousand years after earth becomes inhabitable and the human race moves to another planet, a celebrated father Cypher and his son Kitai are the only survivors on earth following a crash. Cypher is wounded and Kitai has to traverse 100 miles of hostile territory — everything on earth has evolved to destroy humans — to set off a beacon that will get them help.
Kitai’s journey with Cypher directing him from the fallen spaceship even as he slips in and out of consciousness can be taken as a metaphoric journey where the father learns to let go (there is a communication breakdown) and the son conquers his fears and his feelings of inadequacy.
For those who don’t get it, there is the monster, ursa, who preys on fear and the only way to defeat ursa is by conquering your fear at which point you become invisible to the creature. The crash-landing space ship, the waterfall, the volcano and the gigantic condor were some of the awe-inspiring visuals. Of the actors, Will Smith as Cypher looked rather grim — maybe he didn’t want his superstardom to eclipse, rising star son, Jaden who is consistently awful as Kitai. For a large part of the movie, it is just father and son on screen. Kudos to Shyamalan for keeping us riveted.
With World Environment Day just gone by, the subliminal message of the earth fighting back is way cool and we can forgive Smith Sr. for this vanity project — he earned the right with ID 4 and Men In Black!
Genre: Sci-Fi adventure
Director: M. Night Shyamalan
Cast: Will Smith, Jaden Smith, Sophie Okonedo, Zoë Isabella Kravitz
Storyline: Father and son learn universal truths through an extreme situation
Bottomline: An effective and touching thriller