Take Will Smith, add the apple of his eye and throw in a little direction from M. Night Shyamalan. This should have given Hollywood a major blockbuster, but instead the audience was left with a less than nerve-wracking, sappy father-son story.
"After Earth" could end up being the disappointment of the summer, so far. Will Smith and wife, Jada Pinkett Smith, were credited with writing the story, which could explain the cheesiness of it. It seems as though Jada wanted to make a less impressive version of The Pursuit of Happyness and Will wanted to make an action, sci-fi film to brag about his son almost reaching puberty. It's hard to tell if "After Earth" is a sci-fi film with too much mush, or a nice, family film with too much blood.
The issue with this film starts at the beginning where the already muddled plot was doomed to underdevelopment throughout. Jaden Smith, Will and Jada's real son, plays Kitai Raige and begins the film with a short narration explaining why the human race evacuated Earth and now lives on another planet. It could have been the extreme rushed feeling of this narration, or the actor's odd, misplaced southern accent, that left the audience even more confused than before.
For the people who could not care less about a plot and simply want to see Will Smith killing aliens, circa his "Men in Black" days, that element was nonexistent. Will's character, Cypher, is injured the entire film. Can Jaden save the movie and give the audience quality action scenes? If a quality action scene involves running away and telling CGI new-Earth animals to leave him alone, then yes, he saves the movie.
The underdevelopment of the plot, as well as the lack of face-to-face interaction between the two lead characters, makes it difficult to produce character development. It is clear that Kitai and Cypher have issues, but it is hard for the audience to see any depth to this since Kitai is constantly running and Cypher is half dead.
An effort to develop the story is made through the use of flashbacks, but this also falls short. These flashbacks introduce an unnecessary sister, who is supposed to be the root of the family issues. With such short flashbacks, the audience does not have time to get to know the sister in order to understand the entire plot.
The creative design of "After Earth" was also subpar. This film takes place on Earth hundreds of years after human evacuation; this had enormous creative potential. However, the only differences between Earth today and future Earth were pigs with stripes, bigger birds and every animal has, conveniently, evolved to kill humans.
The fact that these animals have evolved so fast, but Earth's landscape and plant life looks exactly the same makes the whole concept very unbelievable. There was an empty canvas of imaginative opportunity with this film, and the best thing to look at ended up being the magically color-changing costumes the actors wore.
"After Earth" may be the film to bring M. Night Shyamalan's once promising directing career down a few notches. As for Will Smith? Well, he's still Will Smith. Jaden Smith is still the son of Will Smith. These two may have wasted a lot of promoting time, but at least they gained some good father-son time, which seems to be the point of "After Earth" as a whole. Jada should be well pleased with this one.