This was the 3rd big scifi movie that I was waiting with anticipation to watch in 2013 and – Oblivion is the first and Star Trek : Into Darkness, was the other one. The movie I am talking about today is After Earth starring Will Smith and is son Jaden Smith. This action – adventure – scifi movie was directed by M Night Shyamalan who co-wrote the film Gary Whitta, based on an original story idea by Will Smith. The problem is the story is quite simple and the end result is a bit of a let down.
Alright what’s the movie about? In the future an environmental change occurs on earth forcing all the humans to leave the planet (a huge multi-government project) in huge spaceships and settle on a new one called Nova Prime. A 100o years later an alien race attacks Nova Prime intending to conquer it and fight the human soldiers called Rangers. The aliens’ secret weapons are the Ursas, large, blind predatory creatures that hunt by “sensing” fear. This gives them the edge as the creatures are huge, intimidating & can kill you easily. However it takes a General Cypher Raige (Will Smith) who develops a technique called “ghosting” which he uses to supress his fear, thereby making him invisible to the Ursas. He teaches this technique to the other rangers he leads the Ranger Corps to victory. Cypher’s son Kitai blames himself for the death of his sister Senshi, who was killed when an Ursa sneaked into their home and killed her. Kitai was very young at that time and was made to hide by his sister. As Cypher returns from his latest mission he finds out that Kitai, who had tried out for the Rangers, was rejected due to his recklessness. As Cypher considers his son to be a disappointment, his wife convinces him to take their son on his next mission.
On the flight the spaceship is caught in an asteroid shower and is hit forcing them to crash land on a planet – which happens to be the abandoned Earth! Post crash we find out that the only survivors are Kitai – who was buckled up in his seat – and Cypher who’s legs are broken. As their main beacon has been damaged Kitai has to trek about a 100 kms on his own to retrieve the beacon in the tail section of the ship and signal Nova Prime for a rescue. Armed with a weapon, a wrist communicator and six capsules of a fluid that enhances the oxygen intake so he can breathe in Earth’s low-oxygen atmosphere, Kitai sets off on his own. Cypher is able to guide him on the screens. Kitai is attacked by vicious baboons, poisnoned by a leech and also finds out that 2 of the capsules were damaged. He lies to his father about the number of capsules he has left and when Cypher does find out he orders his son to come back. Believing his father still sees him as a disappointment, Kitai blames Senshi’s death on Cypher’s absence on the day of the attack. As he dives from the cliff he is captured by a giant condor that drops him into it’s nest. Kitai wakes in a nest of the condor, where he is surrounded by huge saber cats attempting to get hold of the condor’s chicks and he joins the condor in fighting them off before escaping. However the communicator is damaged and father & son can no longer contact each other. While floating along a river he falls asleep on a raft and dreams of his sister who tells him that his bitterness is because he blames himself for her death. After he wakes up he finds himself freezing in the cold and faints but is rescued by the condor who keeps him warm.
Finally Kitai reaches the tail section and gets himself more oxygen capsules and recovers the beacon but needs to reach a higher altitude to activate it. He also finds out that the ship carried a captured Ursa which was being transported for training purposes, escaped and killed the remnants of the crew. As he heads to the top of the volcano he too is attacked & injured by the Ursa but remembers the ghosting technique Cypher taught him is able to control his fear and “ghost” himself from the Ursa enough to kill it. He then fires the beacon. A rescue team arrives, and after a corny scene that shows that his dad now respects him, the two travel back to Nova Prime. Kitai decides not to become a ranger and work with his mother instead.
The film is a bit boring in places and does not really take off. You can guess the outcome of a lot of situations. Plus the acting by Jaden Smith is terrible as he looks like he is out of his element. He also cannot show emotions properly and for a long time in the movie has that stupid expression on his face (as shown on the poster). Will Smith is a stoic, sterile & strict military man who shows no emotion and is stiff throughout the movie hence robbing it of his usual charm. The direction lacks everything needed to make the film a success. Yes some of the effects are great but that’s about it. 6 outta 10!