As much as I love Shyamalan and often find ways to defend his misfires, there’s no getting round the fact that he absolutely lost his way here. Regardless of Jaden Smith’s acting chops – he clearly doesn’t have the goods to imbue this with the heart and emotion it demands – and the fact the film delegates one of our most charismatic movie stars, Will Smith, to playing a stoic, humourless general who spends most of the film sat down trying not to fall asleep, After Earth‘s biggest problem is the misjudged tone. Shyamalan wrongly treats this silly sci-fi caper as a solemn father/son melodrama. Endless ridiculous lines are exposed further because they are delivered with upmost sincerity.
It’s clear to everyone in the audience that this would be far better served if treated as a cheeky, swashbuckling space adventure. It’s a daft 90s movie at heart – Will Smith’s character is called Cypher Rage for crying out loud – and adheres more to video game plotting than a traditional;y substantial narrative. It’s a story about achieving goals; checkpoints not plot points. Embrace all this with a smirk and a wink and all the clunkiness would not only be forgiven, it would be entertaining. I definitely feel like Shyamalan caught his error though as his subsequent “comeback” films, The Visitand Split, are full of the kind of sly, dark comedy After Earth is tragically lacking and are all the better for it.
Watched on blu-ray.