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Mario Bautista, has been with the entertainment industry for more than 4 decades. He writes regular columns for People's Journal and Malaya.

Jun 22, 2013

Review: After Earth - The Revenge Of Planet Earth

M. NIGHT SHYAMALAN soared to fame directing the Oscar-nominated “The Sixth Sense” in 1990. It’s been downhill for him since then. His last work was a big flop, the fantasy-action flick “The Last Airbender”. He now tries doing sci-fi in “After Earth” and unlike his past films noted for its surprising twist near the end, this one is straightforward storytelling, but it can be quite a test of patience you’d wish he just had another jarring twist in store for us.

The story is set more than 1,000 years from now. Man has abandoned Earth after killing it with so much pollution and lives somewhere called Nova Prime where they conquered aliens called Ursa (such ugly CGI monsters). Will Smith plays Cypher Kaige, a top military officer who’s not in good terms with his son, Kitai (Jaden, who starred with him in “The Pursuit of Happyness”), a boy who has many issues about his dad but still wants to be a soldier like him, but he can’t qualify.

In a voyage in outer space, their space craft is ruined by asteroids and they crash land on Earth. Our devastated planet turns out to be very beautiful and has already repaired itself after the apocalypse, but it has become very hostile to humans and even its air has ceased to become suitable for people. Talk about the vengeance of Planet Earth. Serves us right.

Everyone on board dies except for father and son. Will has a badly broken leg so his son must travel 100 km. to get the rescue beacon from the tail of their space ship. As he travels along, he is assaulted by many mutated creatures, including a monster Ursa who can “smell his fear” in their climactic final battle. In flashbacks, it’s also shown that Jaden blames dad Will for the death of his only sister.

Will is credited to have written the film’s story. Obviously, it’s his aim to boost the career of his teen son in a big-budget futuristic coming of age story. Talk about nepotism. Sadly for him, it doesn’t work, which is why the movie flopped in the U.S. The attempt to show the transformation of Jaden from a bumbling kid to fearless invincible hero (just like his dad who has mastered the technique of suppressing fear or “ghosting”) is just difficult to believe because it is rushed and comes out forced and sudden.

From the start, we never really doubt that Jaden will survive his ordeals in the hands of baboons who chase him, a giant bird who wants him to make him food for her babies, an organism that poisons his blood, even the very harsh environment that could freeze him overnight. We also do not doubt that he can go up to the very top of an active volcano just so he can get a wi-fi signal for SOS.

But Will really lets him go to town with his “drama” acting. Will even intentionally under acts all the time and he’s just seated there inside the remains of their ship, devoid of energy, while Jaden does all the action scenes. His charisma lights up the screen in his past movies. But here, he purposely turns off the wattage to give way to his son. The problem is Jaden doesn’t quite fit the bill and simply lacks the acting chops and the star quality. He was better off with Jackie Chan in “The Karate Kid”.

But the cinematography is surely commendable, with the CGI quite impressive, like those striped zebra pigs running in the river, the herd of thousands of buffalos running across the plains, the leaves of trees and plants folding up in the cold, the whales swimming in the distance in the final scene, and many more.

Honestly, we’re already sick and tired of movies that show our planet already decimated in some apocalyptic future just for the sake of entertainment, like in the “Planet of the Apes” series, “I Am Legend”, “Prometheus”, “Total Recall”, “Oblivion”, “World War Z”, “After Earth”, etc. We promise not to watch anymore any movie of this kind in the future.