After Earth: It leaves a bad movie aftertaste

Gary Wolcott, atomictown.comMay 30, 2013 

After Earth is a simple story about a return to Earth after the polluted planet has been abandoned for 1,000 years. Will Smith and son Jaden Smith star, and M. Night Shyamalan directs and co-writes with The Book of Eli's Gary Whitta.

Smith the elder plays a humorless, all-business military leader and father who takes his son - done by Jaden - on a mission to another planet. An asteroid collision causes a crash. Earth is the only landing option. The badly injured father must rely on the inexperienced and unreliable son to retrieve a beacon from the tail of the craft that landed 1,000 meters away.

The two stay connected via futuristic technology, and dad directs the boy's movements through the perilous terrain and away from creatures that want him for lunch. Also dangerous for the boy is a mortal enemy of humans from their new home planet Nova Prime. It escaped when the ship crashed.

Jaden gets top-billing. Gossip mongers contend the movie is a star vehicle designed to bump up the boy's budding career. Unfortunately, and unlike his father, the 15-year old Jaden doesn't appear to demonstrate much talent and has zero charisma. The key word is "appear." With a script this bad, and dialogue this badly written, it's hard to tell.

To give Smith, Shyamalan and Whitta some credit, the story is a decent idea and the effects are terrific. Shyamalan actually gets you believing the two have crash landed on a rejuvenated Earth.

Movies like After Earth are often about mojo.

Will Smith used to have mojo in the spring and summer. Put him in a movie, and it was an instant blockbuster. What didn't hurt is flicks like Men in Black and Independence Day actually being good movies.

The mojo began to fade at Men in Black II and Bad Boys II.

Shyamalan had mojo after The Sixth Sense and even wowed some of us with Signs. His mojo faded with 2010's awful The Last Airbender and a couple of preceding flops.

Jaden Smith has never had mojo. His only serious acting claim to fame is the dismal remake of The Karate Kid with Jackie Chan.

Will Smith - who also produces - should have learned something from his early smash summer hits. Those films are fun. They are funny. They have mojo and they are everything After Earth is not.

Many of the movies you will see in the highly competitive spring and summer releases will lack mojo. Few of them will lack it like this one. Will Smith is a funny guy. In person, he has good energy and is good for lots of laughs. But his movie is no fun. This is sci-fi and the kind of sci-fi that screams for some fun and a few laughs.

The only laughs to be found here will be that of Smith, Smith and Shyamalan as they head for the bank.

Director: M. Night Shyamalan
Stars: Will Smith, Jaden Smith, Sophie Okonedo, Zoe Kravitz
Mr. Movie rating: 2 stars
Rated PG-13 for mature themes, violence. It's playing at the Carmike 12, the Fairchild Cinemas 12 and at Walla Walla Grand Cinemas.
5 stars to 4 1/2 stars: Must see on the big screen
4 stars to 3 1/2 stars: Good film, see it if it's your type of movie.
3 stars to 2 1/2 stars: Wait until it comes out on DVD.
2 stars to 1 star: Don't bother.
0 stars: Speaks for itself.

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