¨Fear is not real. It is a product of thoughts you create. Do not misunderstand me. Danger is very real. But fear is a choice.¨
I really wanted to like this sci-fi film considering I have great respect for M. Night Shyamalan and I also like Will Smith, but I left the theater very disappointed with the movie. I know a lot of people hate Shyamalan, but I have always been a huge fan of his work. The Sixth Sense is one of my favorite movies, and I also loved Signs and Unbreakable. His latest films: Lady in the Water, The Village, and The Happening might not have been that great, but I still managed to enjoy each one of them. Then came, The Last Airbender, which was his biggest blockbuster movie that really tanked. I hated that movie, and I was afraid After Earth might head in that same direction considering it was yet another big budget film. Shyamalan has always done his best work with a very low budget to work with and simplifying the story by focusing on one or two main characters. I was afraid After Earth would be similar to The Last Airbender since it also seemed like a blown out of proportion sort of film which Shyamalan has trouble adapting too. But since I knew Will Smith would be involved in the project, I thought he would save the film through his charisma. I enjoy most of his films as well (Wild Wild West and Hancock being one of the few exceptions). Unfortunately my fears came true as soon as the film began. Everything seemed so false and out of place. The scenes in space looked false and the performances were terrible. Will Smith´s emotionless performance was way over the top and it didn’t work for me. Jaden Smith was given too much responsibility since he practically had to carry this film on his own and he has developed the talent yet to have a lead role. He was ok in The Karate Kid, but I think it worked mostly because he had Jackie Chan along his side. I was hugely disappointed with After Earth.
A thousand years have gone by since humans were forced to leave Earth after a series of natural catastrophes made the planet uninhabitable. They found their new home in Nova Prime, but they were not alone. They had to fight off creatures which killed humans by smelling their fear. General Cypher Raige (Will Smith) became a legend when he singlehandedly began to kill these creatures once he became fearless. Cypher, might be a war hero, but he has trouble relating to his 13 year old son, Kitai (Jaden Smith). His wife, Faia (Sophie Okonedo) convinces him to take his son for his next mission, but something goes wrong after an asteroid storm damages the ship and they are forced to crash land on Earth. Cypher and Kitai are the only two survivors, but Cypher suffered a severe injury which makes him incapable of getting off the ship. He commands Kitai to try to recover their rescue beacon which is on the rear part of the craft which crashed some 100 kms away. Kitai must make this journey on his own, while his father guides him from the ship. This is Kitai´s chance to prove to his father what he is made of, but Earth has become a very dangerous terrain and danger is all around the corner.
One of the problems I had with this film was the underlying message it was trying to give. I strongly disagree with fear being a choice; it is what makes us humans. We all face fear and we can´t just turn the emotion off. What we can do is face those fears. Courage is about facing your fears, not trying to hide your feelings. I think it is an impossibility not to feel fear when your life is in danger. But we can face those fears and confront them. There is nothing wrong with feeling fear; it is what makes us humans. The problem with Will Smith´s character was that he lacked almost any human emotion. His performance was dull and robotic. He left the entire responsibility to his son, who really doesn’t have the acting chops to deliver a movie like this. He could have used some help, but the movie completely misses its mark by taking this direction. I thought the scenes in Earth were pretty well done and I enjoyed them, but the opening sequence in space and the final resolution of the film made me forget how enjoyable the middle was. Shyamalan has missed his mark for a second time in a row, and I think he should go back to doing what he does best: smaller scale movies. This film makes Oblivion look like a masterpiece. If you haven’t seen that movie, then I recommend you see that instead of After Earth (at least Tom Cruise is able to show his charisma on screen).