By Leonard Maltin | Leonard Maltin May 31, 2013 at 12:07AM
Hollywood keeps telling us that the earth is doomed in such
movies as Oblivion, The Host and even
the upcoming comedy This is the End.
But if anyone can survive a depleted planet, you’ve got to figure it would be
Will Smith—who actually concocted the story for After Earth. He plays against type here as a stiff, by-the-book
general who isn’t much of a family man, but has conquered the emotion of fear.
The same can’t be said for his callow son (played by real-life son Jaden
Smith), who accompanies his dad on a journey to dispose of a hideous monster
who attacks humans on their new home planet.
It’s not giving away too much to say that the spacecraft crash-lands on earth, which has become a hostile environment for humans. The elder Smith is badly injured, so it’s up to young Jaden to prove himself by traveling 100 kilometers on foot and salvage a rescue beacon. Jaden is no sissy, but he’s haunted by a traumatic childhood experience with a deadly monster and isn’t eager to encounter another, in any form.
Jaden carries himself well in this futuristic adventure, which was filmed in a variety of lush locations around the globe. His father is appropriately stoic, and has to deliver some straight-faced dialogue that elicited sputters of laughter at the screening I attended. Younger audiences might have an easier time taking it at face value and investing in the story of a boy who’s trying to earn his father’s respect.
I wouldn’t recommend After Earth to anyone who’s highly squeamish. Oddly enough, the wildlife creatures (including baboons and an enormous eagle) are rendered in all-too-obvious CGI form, but the main monster is truly fearsome.
As to the screenplay, its awkwardness is heightened by some typically heavy-handed philosophizing from director M. Night Shyamalan (and co-screenwriter Gary Whitta).
As a juvenile adventure yarn, After Earth is adequate but hardly inspired. It may satisfy undemanding moviegoers but it won’t add luster to anyone’s career.