Other films by M. Night Shyamalan: The Sixth Sense, Unbreakable, Signs, The Village, The Happening
Director: M. Night Shyamalan
Stars: Jaden Smith, Will Smith
Genre: Science Fiction, Post-Apocalyptic, Adventure
It's really not as bad as so many might lead you to believe.
Yes, the science is completely ridiculous and unbelievable, the story and universe are riddled with plot holes and inconsistencies, it's completely predictable, the special effects are at times lacking visually (they do look nice at other times though), the action could have been more exciting, the film comes off as a bit too serious at times to the point where certain scenes are sort of cheesy, and the whole thing with the birds is the goddamn silliest thing I've ever seen in my life.
I never said this was a good film. It's just not an awful one. Mediocre, really. I did like the premise, though. It's essentially a plane crash survival flick set on a post-apocalyptic Earth. But this was a very ideal set-up to display what the story is really about: a father and his son.
The son, Kitai, lives under the scrutiny of his hero-father, Cypher Raige (it's assumed that in the future we will all have names equivalent to Xbox LIVE gamertags). Not only does Kitai have high expectations to live up to, he also senses that his father blames him for letting his sister get killed by an alien creature called an Ursa many years before.
So when the ship that Kitai and his father are on crash lands on an abandoned Earth, Kitai must go and retrieve a rescue beacon from the other half of the ship which landed some ways away (his father, the badass war hero, can't do it because his legs were conveniently broken). Kitai does however have his father to guide and support him via a control room from the ship, from which his father can communicate with him and watch him through various cameras (the scrutinizing eye of dad is always watching!). During his adventure, Kitai stumbles upon some prehistoric cave drawings which would usually take an archaeologist a lifetime to find, and he meets a very kind and caring bird who also happens to be a deus ex machina. But it isn't until Kitai's cameras break and he loses contact with his father (he was already dozing off in the control room anyway) that he really gets to prove himself. Kitai must prove that he can do the right thing without being ordered to do it and in a final showdown he alone faces the inner demon of his past that was haunting him: an Ursa, like the one that killed his sister, which he must overcome.
Yeah, it's cheesy and predictable but I sort of liked the premise and thought parts of it were executed pretty well. A nice little father-son drama / inner discovery story. I also liked the whole fear aspect as well, especially how it functioned in relation to the aliens: they can smell your fear, ergo if you overcome your fear you become invisible to them (yeah, I know it's biologically implausible).
Where I think a lot of people are wrong is in their criticism of Will Smith's performance as the father. He plays the role perfectly in my opinion. Claims that Smith was disinterested are absurd (he produced the film and wrote the story, plus his own son is in it! He was most certainly involved! There's even rumors that he secretly directed the film). He's playing a father who was hardened by war and can't quite find the right way to connect with his son. A character so obsessed with eliminating fear that he often forgets how to express his other emotions as well. Will Smith fucking nailed the character. He's very strict, uptight, and stern but also knows how to sprinkle little hints of emotion and feeling in there at just the right times.
The problem is that Will Smith is only in a supporting role. His son, Jaden Smith, really plays the lead. He does an okay job (sometimes a little hammy) but I think he may not yet be a strong enough actor to carry a film on his own.
After Earth is not a great film but it's competent in a lot of areas. At times awful, at times decent, but mostly mediocre.