Friday, June 21, 2013

The Case for Earth Ever After

After Earth, the latest Will Smith movie, came with a lot of warnings, mostly to do with it being not that good and that it has overt Scientology references.  But I am a sucker for Science Fiction flicks (mostly) and so went along anyway.

As I can't claim to be well versed in the tenets of Scientology, I didn't really pick up on the emotionless bit and the stuff about volcanoes, but I could pick up on the "bad" bits that mainly revolve around Smith's son, Jaden.

He is the "hero" of the film and while he has been a leading man before in films I haven't really seen, he mostly fails to provide an interesting character for the audience to invest in.  He is, for lack of a better term, irritating, all whines and deaf to sense even when, one assumes, his reactions run counter to his basic junior ranger training that he was apparently so obsessed with.  So he ends up as another lead character that I actually want to die - I end up rooting for all the beasties trying to track him down.

But then, the ads for the film give a false impression of where the dangers lie.  Smith's serious tones indicate that Earth's biosphere has "evolved" to hate and kill humans, but the biggest animal danger is the one that these travellers from another planet bring with them, everything else either oblivious to them, treating them like any other creature, or else getting aggressive only when provoked.

The story itself is utter rubbish: mankind has fled a dying Earth to another planet where another alien race (who is never encountered or mentioned outside back story) didn't want them to be and so these aliens created a blind and deaf creature that tracks humans by smelling their fear.  A thousand years later, Smith and son are on a transport taking one of these beasties to another planet for training purposes (why the humans don't move to that planet and leave the beasties behind is never really explained) when the ship, for  no real reason, flies to close to an asteroid field and makes an emergency crash landing on Earth.  The two survivors need to find a beacon to save them, while avoiding the dangers - mainly the danger they brought with them.

The creature is a terrible creation on so many levels, its irritating to list them.  But on the bright side, I did find the idea of the humans' organic/hemp based technology quite interesting.  Smart fabric seems to be used for everything, and in clothing can change colour to match the conditions outside, though the fabric seems smart enough to detect danger that no human sense can, and while it will turn white in snow it won't actually provide any more warmth.

Considering how many things are wrong with this film, its probably fairer to lay blame with the director, the disappointing M Night Shyamalan, whose name has been stripped from almost every poster.  After a strong start with the Sixth Sense, Shyamalan's films have been fairly underwhelming - not awful, just uninteresting.  And his After Earth is definitely not a return to form.

For all that is wrong with it, the film kept me in my seat and didn't offend my cinematic sensibilities too much, even if I was rooting for the Ursa creature to rip off the hero's head.  The nonsensicality comes so thick and fast at the start that the rest of the film almost seems to make sense (the eagle... please...), and if people next to you speak Japanese for almost the entire film, you will find  (much like I did) you won't really mind too much.

Verdict: There was no reason for this to be about revisiting Earth AT ALL as the fact they are on a "future wild" Earth is almost completely irrelevant, but After Earth is a less than okay film that really should be marketed as a kiddie flick.  There is no real reason to see it on the big screen (none of the effects are that special), and even on the small screen, its viewability is questionable.  Perhaps on a long haul flight... 4 after dinner mints out of 10.

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