Cocktails and Movies Review: “After Earth” – Nepotism Lives 1000 Years Later

“After Earth” leaves Cocktails and Movies wishing for better casting

cocktails and movies

See? There’s the problem.

When we walked into the theater to screen “After Earth,” we had heard all the rumors pointing about it being an ode to Scientology. We knew that it was directed by M. Knight Shyamalan. And we knew that it was suffering from some questionable casting choices involving the main actor who is also the producer… Still for some reason we went. Being geeks (nerds, dorks, whatever you want to call us) and lovers of sci-fi, we HAD to go see this movie. Besides we promised we’d wait to see Now You Seem Me with a friend. Luckily, we found ourselves one of four people inside the largest theater at the Arclight Beach Cities and we could tweet our thoughts (@cocktailsmovies) on Twitter on how bad this turkey was. 

As of this writing, After Earth has made a lot less than the LOWEST studio expectations and scored a dismal 11% freshness rating on Rotten Tomatoes. But, we’re here to say that it’s not a bad film, if you can get past a LOT of different aspects of it.

But, if you look at it as a purely sci-fi film, it’s not bad. The whole post-apocalyptic Earth thing is all the rage and there are no shortage of end-of-the-world films already out and coming out this year. The technology and the visuals are almost passable. It’s just that it suffers from a little heavy handedness and horrible miscasting.

One thousand years after leaving Earth, humanity, now settled on Nova Prime is led by the The Ranger Corps, a peacekeeping organization commanded by General Cypher Raige (Will Smith), who is the original “ghost,” a warrior who can conquer and suppress his fear, which comes in handy when fighting the S’krell (alien creatures who intended to conquer Nova Prime, but we never see). Their weapons are the Ursas, large predatory creatures that hunt by “sensing” humans fear. Scientology is thus reborn!

Cypher’s son Kitai Raige (Jaden Smith) blaming himself for the death of his sister at the hands of an Ursa, trains hard to become a Ranger. His application for the Ranger Corps is rejected due to his recklessness and Cypher views him as a disappointment. Kitai’s mother Faia (Sophie Okonedo) convinces Cypher to take Kitai on his last voyage before Cyphers’s retirement. Evidently, the old one-last-day-before-retirement story arc hasn’t died 1000 years into the future.

Forced together by the mission, father and son start to bond during the trip in one of the most awkward father-son bonding scenes ever made. You have to wonder here 1. how Kitai got a Southern accent and 2. if Will Smith was thinking throughout this whole film “how the hell did I let my son talk me into this.” Luckily, they crash-land on Earth. Bonding over. Both of Cypher’s legs are broken and the main emergency beacon has been damaged so he tells Kitai that he has to locate the tail section of the ship and get the backup beacon to send a rescue signal. It will take 4 days to get there. He takes his father’s weapon and 6 asthma type inhalers so he can breathe the air, but apparently food isn’t an issue.

Kitai is soon attacked by giant baboons (who hate water apparently) and ends up being bitten by a poisonous leech. Although Kitai successfully administers an antidote, two of his oxygen capsules are damaged and his nervous system shuts down for hours. When Kitai awakens, he narrowly escapes one of the planet’s thermal shifts. Upon discovery of his damaged capsules, Kitai lies to Cypher about the broken oxygen capsules.

Kitai reaches the tail section and realizes the ship was carrying an Ursa meant to teach the cadets how to “ghost” themselves which has escaped in the crash. When the emergency beacon does not activate Kitai realizes he must get to higher ground. Kitai heads to a nearby volcano (yes, a volcano!) from which he can launch the beacon when he is attacked by the Ursa and injured. However, Kitai is able to control his fear and “ghost” himself from the Ursa enough to kill it. (Congratulations, Jaden, you have taken your first step in the long path to brainwashing, er – the Glory of Scientology). Kitai then launches the beacon and a rescue team soon arrive. Cypher recovers from his injuries and salutes Kitai for his bravery. At the end, they travel back to Nova Prime.

Just like Battlefield EarthAfter Earth suffers from its thinly veiled Scientology story arc. That and horrible miscasting in Jaden Smith. And probably casting Will Smith. Look, Will Smith is a strong actor, but he’s better with parts in which he can sink his teeth and use his charisma to shine. He gets none of that here, stuck with two broken legs in a crashed spaceship, playing a character that is emotionless by nature. The film then relies heavily on his real life son, Jaden who does not have the chops to carry this picture. He’s caught in that not cute, not adult, but just awful teenager stage. Think Peter Brady’s voice and Urkel’s awkwardness. Then there’s the Earth, 1000 years later. The effects are not stellar for a $130 million Sony picture. The landscape and shooting locations are nice, but even a 1000 years later, there’s NO sign of humanity?

If you do go see this, you’ll spend the first 30 minutes asking “why?” And the rest asking, “really?”

Cocktails and Movies Rating: 1 shot (Everclear, in order to destroy the brain cells that remember watching it)