Barbed Wire: 'After Earth'

Blogs
by Matt Singer
May 31, 2013 12:23 PM
4 Comments
  • |

"After Earth."
Barbed Wire is the place where Criticwire celebrates the art of the pan. Here's where you'll find the roughest, toughest, funniest reviews, with easy access links to both article and author so you can follow more of their work.

I've seen the phrase "vanity project" thrown around in a lot of "After Earth" reviews. I guess when Will Smith, the biggest movie star in the world, writes a story for he and his not-especially-dynamic son Jaden to star in together, that's a vanity project. But can a vanity project also be a passion project? If it can, "After Earth" is. 

Watching this movie, you just sense that Will Smith (possibly for the sake of vanity) desperately wants his son to follow in his footsteps as the world's greatest movie star and badass alien-killing space ranger. By what must be sheer coincidence, "After Earth" is about the elder Smith's character, Cypher Raige, testing his son Kitai (Jaden), and grooming him to possibly follow in his footsteps as he nears retirement.

The friction between the real Smiths and their characters is fascinating to ponder. And director M. Night Shymalan still knows how to milk a monster-lurking-just-out-of-frame sequence for every last drop of queasy unease. The problem, unfortunately, is that whether or not Kitai passes Cypher's test, Jaden doesn't pass Will's, at least not yet; at this point, the kid just isn't his father, particularly in the charisma department. Meanwhile Will's Cypher is a stern, emotionless absence -- a cipher, if you will (WHOA). Once their spaceship crashes on a very hostile future Earth, the entire film is just these two bland characters on a bland planet on the run from bland CGI critters. It's not enough.

Still, I honestly didn't think "After Earth" was that bad. Many of my colleagues, though, did. At 12% on Rotten Tomatoes, "After Earth" is currently doing worse with critics than "The Happening." You read that right; worse reviews than the movie about Mark Wahlberg running from the wind. Which means it's time for another Barbed Wire.

Here are ten great lines from ten brutal reviews of "After Earth:"

Mick LaSalleSan Francisco Chronicle:

"M. Night Shyamalan is branching out, coming up with new ways to make bad movies. His plan must be to exhaust all possibilities, so as to eventually come full circle and make a good one by accident."

Joe MorgensternWall Street Journal:

"Is 'After Earth' the worst movie ever made? Maybe not; there's always 'Battlefield Earth' to remind us how low the bar can go."

Alan ScherstuhlVillage Voice:

"As Will Smith coldly instructs him to feel, to root in this moment now, to master his own creation, I felt the purest horror I ever have at a Shyamalan film: What if this is what Jaden Smith's life is actually like?"

Laremy LegelFilm.com:

"To explain the threadbare plot shouldn't take particularly long, even though the 100-minute running time of 'After Earth' lasts around six years."

Betsy SharkeyLos Angeles Times:

"There is no small irony that this sci-fi action adventure is about surviving a serious crash. The scorched earth left behind by 'After Earth' is sure to leave a scar on everyone involved."

Jason GorberTwitch:

"You'll spend much of your time waiting for it to be after 'After Earth.'"

Peter TraversRolling Stone:

"What we have here is a Will Smith, devoid of humor, charm and screen time, waiting in the car while his kid does the driving."

Bill GoodykoontzArizona Republic:

"This could have been a thoughtful movie about conquering fear, as Kitai has some tragedy in his past he needs to work out, but instead it's watch out for that giant bird! That'll be $9, thanks. Enjoy your show."

Peter HowellToronto Star:

"The parental interest is admirable, especially Will's thoughtful decision to downshift his own acting so as not to upstage his son. Will hasn't been this immobile since he was poisoned by a jellyfish in the calamity called 'Seven Pounds.'"

Lou LumenickNew York Post:

"Eleven years and several progressively more dreadful movies after 'Signs,' director M. Night Shyamalan would be lucky to get a gig directing traffic. His work on this reported $150 million vanity project manages to generate no suspense or excitement. Only yawns."




Blogs
  • |

More: Barbed Wire

You might also like:

4 Comments

  • Donella | July 21, 2013 9:14 AMReply

    On Jaden Smith's second outing as lead actor, $220,000,000 worldwide for a $130,000,000 budget isn't that bad. Because he's only just starting out, the only other basis for comparison is The Karate Kid $359,091,618. In the face of relentless criticism, nepotism accusations, and a degree of religious bigotry akin to the Muslim smears used against President Obama, the box office take for After Earth is certainly better than most lead actors have earned at fifteen-years-old.

  • Donella | July 21, 2013 11:18 PM

    What do you know? 12 hours later I discover that, per boxofficemojo's latest update, the box office tally for After Earth is now $235,000,000 and counting. Pretty much on par with The Pursuit of Happyness ($306,096,398); The Day the Earth Stood Still ($233,066,978); and The Karate Kid ($359,091,618). Not a flop, or a bomb, or a turkey.

    In fact, Jaden led Will Smith's supporting actor effort to a higher box office take than his other roles as supporting actor--Where the Day Takes You ($390,152); Made in America ($104,942,695); Six Degrees of Separation ($6,284,090); Legend of Bagger Vance ($39,235,486); Jersey Girl ($47,066,129); the sole exception is Shark Tale ($367,825,111).

  • veverly brown | June 1, 2013 11:26 PMReply

    all I would like to say is I think that the movie is great and to all you hater don't hate will smith son is a good actor he is just like his father and he will go very far he is also handsome just like his daddy give credit where credit is done just because you cannot act don't get mad at the young men the people I have talk to that have seen the previews think the movie is good so good luck to the smith famliy

  • Ted | June 1, 2013 11:12 AMReply

    I hate these kind of snarky reviews. Not to much because they are not entertaining, but because they are indicative of the larger film reviewing culture. Truly great critics / theorists educate the reader, even when you disagree with them. The same is true in cinema and I've learned so much from the writings of people Gilles Deleuze, Andre Bazin, Jean luc Godard, Christian Metz, Jean Mitry etc. Even more popular, though not really mainstream, critics like Jonathan Rosenbaum or James Agee were enlightening. Obviously there isn't much to learn from After Earth, but the goal of being edgy, snarky, and cute is indicative of the larger film review enterprise that is less about educating and more about who can write the snappiest one-liner. I blame Pauline Kael.

Email Updates