By M. Scott Morris/NEMS Daily Journal
Here’s a question: When is a Will Smith movie not a Will Smith movie?
The answer: “After Earth.”
Smith came up with the idea for the science fiction film set on a post-apocalyptic Earth, and he gets a fair amount of screen time. But the movie rests on the shoulders of his son, Jaden Smith.
In the distant future, Earth becomes uninhabitable. Humans are forced to turn another planet into home. Cypher (Will Smith) is a general and an all-around tough dude, which makes him a hard role model for his son, Kitai (Jaden Smith), to live up to.
With gentle persuasion from his wife (Sophie Okonedo), Cypher agrees to take Kitai on a training run. A convenient disaster ensues that kills everyone expect Kitai and Cypher, and the old man suffers two broken legs.
They become stranded on Earth, where everything has evolved to kill humans. In addition, a nasty beast from their home planet escapes in the crash, so it’s running loose, too.
Kitai has to face this daunting landscape and its super-predators in order to save his father’s life and his own. There are small surprises here and there, but most viewers will see the big showdown coming from light years away.
I don’t want to dump on Jaden Smith because “After Earth” isn’t his fault. He might have the stuff to become a bankable star someday. Besides, the movie has plenty of problems that have nothing to do with the younger Smith.
For one, the elder Smith doesn’t pull his weight. Will Smith seemed determined to keep any of his trademark charm out of his performance of Cypher, a character with little give or warmth, even when things are going his way.
Save some blame for writer-director M. Night Shyamalan and his co-writer, Gary Whitta. Straightforward stories can be profoundly entertaining, but “After Earth” offers us nothing new about the eternal struggle of a boy trying to live up to his father’s example.
There are some exciting chases and fights in the movie, and I was intrigued by the computer-rendered Earth, as well as Cypher and Kitai’s home world. Kitai’s sister (Zoë Kravitz) adds something extra to the flashback and dream sequences. More screen time for her might’ve helped.
But in the end, “After Earth” is the sort of vanity project that should remind other stars to think twice before embarking on their own vanity projects.
I give “After Earth” a D.
It’s showing at Malcos in Tupelo, Oxford, Corinth and Columbus, as well as Hollywood Premier Cinemas in Starkville and Movie Reel 4 in New Albany.
Look for movie reviews in Scene on Thursdays, and listen each Tuesday morning on Wizard 106.7 between 8:30 and 8:45 a.m.
Kelli Karlson Wizard 106.7
She gives it an F.
“I love Will Smith. I love sci-fi. This is not anything I love. Go see “Star Trek.'”