MCN Columnists
Mike Wilmington

By Mike Wilmington

Wilmington on Movies: After Earth




U.S.: M. Night Shyamalan , 2013

You’ve got to feel, a little, for Will Smith and M. Night Shyamalan  as you watch their misbegotten science fiction movie After Earth — of which Will was the producer, co-star and original story writer, and his 14-tear-old son Jaden the star and which became a critical unching bag last week. It’s not a good movie, but Is heart, or hearts, were in at least some of the right places. In making this big, slow pretty but pretentious and often preposterous movie, producer-writer-star Will was making a multi-million dollar present to his son — giving him the prime slot in an epic science fiction movie  — only to get stomped on by a lot of  the reviewers and shoved into third place (behind Fast and Furious 6 and Now You See Me) in the box-office wars.

That’s a beating for a movie with good pedigrees, that’s actually somewhat  ambitious and even heartfelt: .a film   about a father’s love for his son, and the son‘s desire to be worthy of it,  to become a Space Ranger and maybe help spawn a sequel. Does After Erath deserve all that abuse? Partly yes, partly no. It’s what critics like to call a “disappointing” movie — in this case, a show that reaches too high and comes up with a pterodactyl egg on its face.

After Earth, as the title suggests, is a science fiction movie about what happens after the end of Earth as we knew it: after humankind, a millennium ago, left the planet for a new home called Nova Prime, after big, creepy prehistoric-looking monsters took over Terra, forcing us into that new habitat — a desert-looking wasteland packed with even more creepy monsters.

Will Smith and Shyamalan and their company have  imagined a universe where Earth is abandoned by people,  and taken over by monstrous creatures, foliage and plant life. Visually, the concept is impressive,  and the themes are big and ambitious and sympathetic. It’s what we might also expect from  Shyamalan , who often tries to bend the genres of horror, mystery and science fiction in order to examine something serious, often involving families. Sometimes he succeeds, as The Sixth Sense. Sometimes he doesn’t, as in this very slow, self-important movie..

As Shyamalan and the Smiths tell their  story, the plot thickens (but doesn‘t quicken). First we get back-story:  1,000 years or so ago, Earth was evacuated and humanity resettled on Prime, populated by our space cadet descendants as well as those ravenous monsters with their I’ll-bite-your-head-off expressions, who want us to leave, but who are kept at bay by heroes like the legendary Cypher Raige (Will Smith), who is able to become a ghost and “disappear,” fooling and slaying the monsters. (Shades of Sixth Sense.) .

After we learn all this, the action starts, in a manner of speaking. Onto the vaguely Avatar-looking New Earth, comes and crashes a space ship commanded by  Cypher , with a crew that includes his son Kitai (Jaden), who has just been denied advancement to the Space Rangers and is visibly upset.  When the ship hits an asteroid storm, or vice versa, every human but the two Raiges, gets killed or lost or forgotten .Cypher himself is pinned down in the wreckage and  able to communicated only in pained, stoic tones that suggest a mortally wounded archbishop presiding at his own funeral.

It’s all up to Kitai now, as his father, using a futuristic walkie-talkie and a variety of other compact wilderness techno-gizmos, tries to guide  the lad through the monstrous  foliage and the treacherous fluctuating heat, and  a fierce flying mama pterodactyl-thing and bad dreams).  Their destination is more wreckage and a space beacon that will allow them to call for help.  As we sit there watching this, perhaps dying of suspense, and as Cypher sprawls in the crash, broadcasting directions and stoic wisdom, Kitai makes his way though what used to be Earth, but now might better be caller Creepy Monster Land  or Rite of Passage Land or Slow Movie Land — or maybe Shyamaland. And, if you’re in the mood for life lessons, the movie has plenty of them for you. Such as that useful axiom: “Danger is real. But Fear is a choice.”

Stories about the end of Earth — or the end of  humanity on Earth, have been fairly numerous ever since World War II, and   atomic  and hydrogen bombs, made us more conscious of  the possible mortality of our world. and the vulnerability of our collective lives. (More recently, global warming has been another wake-up call — to some.)  Shyamalan doesn’t preach about the End here though, or try for a surprise ending, though it might be surprising if the film  woke up.

As mentioned, After Earth has gotten really zonked by critics, and probably deserved it, though the picture does have its good points (the lustrous visuals wrought by production designer Tom Sanders and cinematographer Peter  Suschitzky) as well as its bad ones (the lugubrious pacing and the incessant fatherly wisdom slowly and stoically imparted by Cipher).  A lot of After Earth’s problems also stem from the fact that Jaden looks too young for his part, or for the Rangers. He’s no tyro. He’s already had a successful career as a child and boy actor, in The Pursuit of Happyness, the recent Karate Kid sequel, and the Day the Earth Stood Still remake. But maybe his dad should have waited three or four years before ending Earth for him .

There’s no denying it’s a failed show, so listless that it sometimes has a semi-narcotic effect. Yet it’s not quite as bad as some people say — such as  Joe Morgenstern who wondered, in a funny review, whether After Earth wasn’t really the worst movie of all time. (Not while the works of Ed Wood. Jr. and Dwain Esper, or Uwe Boll  survive.) The movie won’t kill you, though, a lot of the time, it looks as if it’s killing Will Smith. It’s just another grand folly: a Beyond the Last Airbender, a Snoozer in Shyamaland. One can only hope we won’t really get an After Earth II (or an After “After Earth”), even though it’s already in dvelopment, and by the time the show starts shooting, Jaden will probably be the right age.

Be Sociable, Share!

Comments are closed.


awesome stuff. OK I would like to contribute as well by sharing this awesome link, that personally helped me get some amazing and easy to modify. check it out at All custom premade files, many of them totally free to get. Also, check out Dow on: Wilmington on DVDs: How to Train Your Dragon, Treasure of the Sierra Madre, The Darjeeling Limited, The Films of Nikita Mikhalkov, The Hangover, The Human Centipede and more ...

cool post. OK I would like to contribute too by sharing this awesome link, that personally helped me get some amazing and easy to customize. check it out at All custom templates, many of them dirt cheap or free to get. Also, check out Downlo on: Wilmington on Movies: I'm Still Here, Soul Kitchen and Bran Nue Dae

awesome post. Now I would like to contribute too by sharing this awesome link, that personally helped me get some beautiful and easy to modify. take a look at All custom premade files, many of them free to get. Also, check out DownloadSoho.c on: MW on Movies: The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest, Paranormal Activity 2, and CIFF Wrap-Up

Carrie Mulligan on: Wilmington on DVDs: The Great Gatsby

isa50 on: Wilmington on DVDs: Gladiator; Hell's Half Acre; The Incredible Burt Wonderstone

Rory on: Wilmington on Movies: Snow White and the Huntsman

Andrew Coyle on: Wilmington On Movies: Paterson

tamzap on: Wilmington on DVDs: The Magnificent Seven, Date Night, Little Women, Chicago and more …

rdecker5 on: Wilmington on DVDs: Ivan's Childhood

Ray Pride on: Wilmington on Movies: The Purge: Election Year

Quote Unquotesee all »

It shows how out of it I was in trying to be in it, acknowledging that I was out of it to myself, and then thinking, “Okay, how do I stop being out of it? Well, I get some legitimate illogical narrative ideas” — some novel, you know?

So I decided on three writers that I might be able to option their material and get some producer, or myself as producer, and then get some writer to do a screenplay on it, and maybe make a movie.

And so the three projects were “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep,” “Naked Lunch” and a collection of Bukowski. Which, in 1975, forget it — I mean, that was nuts. Hollywood would not touch any of that, but I was looking for something commercial, and I thought that all of these things were coming.

There would be no Blade Runner if there was no Ray Bradbury. I couldn’t find Philip K. Dick. His agent didn’t even know where he was. And so I gave up.

I was walking down the street and I ran into Bradbury — he directed a play that I was going to do as an actor, so we know each other, but he yelled “hi” — and I’d forgot who he was.

So at my girlfriend Barbara Hershey’s urging — I was with her at that moment — she said, “Talk to him! That guy really wants to talk to you,” and I said “No, fuck him,” and keep walking.

But then I did, and then I realized who it was, and I thought, “Wait, he’s in that realm, maybe he knows Philip K. Dick.” I said, “You know a guy named—” “Yeah, sure — you want his phone number?”

My friend paid my rent for a year while I wrote, because it turned out we couldn’t get a writer. My friends kept on me about, well, if you can’t get a writer, then you write.”
~ Hampton Fancher

“That was the most disappointing thing to me in how this thing was played. Is that I’m on the phone with you now, after all that’s been said, and the fundamental distinction between what James is dealing with in these other cases is not actually brought to the fore. The fundamental difference is that James Franco didn’t seek to use his position to have sex with anyone. There’s not a case of that. He wasn’t using his position or status to try to solicit a sexual favor from anyone. If he had — if that were what the accusation involved — the show would not have gone on. We would have folded up shop and we would have not completed the show. Because then it would have been the same as Harvey Weinstein, or Les Moonves, or any of these cases that are fundamental to this new paradigm. Did you not notice that? Why did you not notice that? Is that not something notable to say, journalistically? Because nobody could find the voice to say it. I’m not just being rhetorical. Why is it that you and the other critics, none of you could find the voice to say, “You know, it’s not this, it’s that”? Because — let me go on and speak further to this. If you go back to the L.A. Times piece, that’s what it lacked. That’s what they were not able to deliver. The one example in the five that involved an issue of a sexual act was between James and a woman he was dating, who he was not working with. There was no professional dynamic in any capacity.

~ David Simon