movie film review | chris tookey

After Earth

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  After Earth Review
Tookey's Rating
1 /10
Average Rating
2.97 /10
Jaden Smith , Will Smith , Sophie Okonedo
Full Cast >

Directed by: M. Night Shyamalan
Written by: M. Night Shyamalan, Gary Whitta , based on a story by Will Smith

Released: 2013
Origin: US
Colour: C
Length: 100

The Scientologists are back.
Reviewed by Chris Tookey

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Up to now, the most notorious attempt to sell us Scientology in the cinema was John Travoltaís legendary stinker, Battlefield Earth. Hubristically, Will Smith Ė who donated $122,500 to the cause in 2007 - and his more openly Scientologist wife Jada Pinkett-Smith thought they could produce better. After Earth is the catastrophic end product.

A strong contender for 2013ís worst film, it educates us about several precepts of Scientology Ė suppress emotion, be in the present moment alone, earn the respect of your father-figure, and become a kind of human robot. That last bit is, incidentally, terrible advice to give actors. On the evidence of this movie, it makes them all look and sound like Keanu Reevesí attempt to be English in Bram Stokerís Dracula.

The first abysmal blockbuster this year to have a Scientology subtext was Oblivion, starring the most famous member of the cult, Tom Cruise. This is worse.

Not only is After Earth a tedious sermon on Dianetics. Itís as inept as you would expect from writer-director M. Night Shyamalan, not as far as I know a Scientologist, but the man responsible for three of the most ponderous and unwatchable films ever made, Lady in the Water, The Happening and The Last Airbender.

Even worse news is that his co-writer is Gary Whitta, a former computer magazine editor whose only previous offence was the pompous and humourless action film The Book of Eli.

After Earth stars Will Smith and his 14 year-old son Jaden, and is based on a story by Will that suggests writing is definitely not his talent. Although Jaden was passable in his previous movie, The Karate Kid, heís grown into an uncharismatic teenager with no observable acting skills.

Jaden plays Kitai, a boy who is a repellent combination of cocky and whiny. He desperately wants to impress his stern military commander dad (Will) and atone for failing to rescue his teenage sister from a creature called Ursa, which Ė despite its name Ė is not in the least bit bearlike. Itís how Tolkienís creation Shelob might have looked, had she undergone ill-advised plastic surgery.

When Kitai and his characterless dad, all too aptly called Cypher Rage, crash-land on Earth, killing the crew and breaking both the fatherís legs, dad is suddenly dependent on his son to rescue them. And thereís an Ursa on the loose.

The cinematography by Peter Suschitzky is initially good enough to lull one into false optimism that the film may not be as bad as just about everyone says it is.

However, every set-piece turns into a poor imitation of some other movie, the dialogue is platitudinous and delivered in odd, stilted accents, and the structure is that of a very dull video game made by someone who once watched The Lord of The Rings.

As sci fi, itís rubbish. We are told that Earth has been uninhabited for a thousand years, but that all the creatures on the planet have evolved to kill humans. This seems unlikely, as there would be no purpose to animals changing in order to destroy creatures that donít any longer exist, and anyway evolution doesnít happen that quickly. For good measure, it emerges that not all animals on Earth do try and kill humans. And itís hard to know why the point is raised in the first place, as there are plenty of deadly creatures on Earth right now.

The computer-generated special effects are jerky, easily the worst Iíve seen in any recent blockbuster. Especially after The Life of Pi, theyíre unforgivably amateurish.

But itís the script that makes this a toe-curling embarrassment. Unlike Shyamalanís previous movies, thereís not even an attempt at a twist. Throughout the second half, the robotic Will Smith tries not to fall into a coma. He succeeds, but Iím not too sure about the audience.

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