I sincerely feel bad for M. Night Shyamalan, though the consistency with which he continues to release films, despite his numerous critical and box-office failures of recent past proves that he doesn’t necessarily need my pity. Still, it must be difficult to go from being called the next Steven Spielberg to becoming the next Uwe Boll. Even when his films are not terrible, they are light-years away from the quality of his first few features.
With all that being said, After Earth is not as terrible as you might imagine. It also isn’t exactly great, but I would place far more blame on the Pinkett/Smith family for the biggest issues the film has. This became a family project, and I think that paired with Shyamalan’s overly imaginative science fiction narrative led to a sillier film than necessary. Tamed down a small amount, this may have been a wonderfully adequate family film. Kids are less inclined to notice awkward acting or absurd plot twists.
The glaring issues with After Earth have nothing to do with the polished visuals of seamless computer graphics. The story is even decent in its basic structure, though there are certain developments within the screenplay that take on a kind of logic which seems to come from the mind of a child. Animals suddenly act selflessly to protect a human for no apparent reason and a suit gives the ability to fly when the screenplay is suddenly backed into a corner: these are apparently normal occurrences in a Gary Whitta/Shyamalan feature.
These are all forgivable and campy errors in filmmaking judgment, but the choice to cast Jaden Smith in the leading role was a mistake that can’t be as easily ignored or dismissed. The film is produced by many people, but the majority has a blood relation to Jaden, including Caleeb Pinkett, Jada Pinkett Smith his father Will Smith, who has far too little screen time to save this movie. Jaden may be a good actor. To be honest, I would need to see more of him in order to determine what kind of talent he has, but his performance in After Earth leaves a great deal to be desired. It is underwhelming to say the least. I hesitate to say more, because every way I try and word it will sound like cruel verbal bullying.
The DVD includes a featurette about the father/son acting team of Jaden and Will. I don’t blame them for playing those elements up, because they are a selling point even if they don’t work. There is also some behind-the-scenes footage from the set and a featurette about the landscapes where After Earth was filmed. The video contest winner that was held online is also included, with an intro from Jaden.
Entertainment Value: 8/10
Quality of Filmmaking: 4/10
Historical Significance: 5/10
Disc Features: 7/10