Friday, June 14, 2013

After Earth (2013/US)

Julien Faddoul

(0 stars)


d - M. Night Shyamalan
w - Gary Whitta, M. Night Shyamalan, Will Smith
m - James Newton Howard
ph - Peter Suschitzky
ed - Steven Rosenblum
pd - Thomas E. Sanders
cos - Amy Westcott
p - Caleeb Pinkett, Jada Pinkett Smith, Will Smith, James Lassiter

Cast: Jaden Smith, Will Smith, Isabelle Fuhrman, Sophie Okonedo, Zoë Isabella Kravitz, David Denman

I sauntered into the cinema, ticket in hand, preparing to prepare for the latest picture that stars Will Smith, his son Jaden Smith and was directed by M. Night Shyamalan and brought to me by Columbia Pictures – a laundry list of prattle that I am requisitely aware of when walking in to see any movie; as well as the title, of course. Before I sat down in my seat I perused the area, examining the near-packed theatre. As I ended my pirouette, I thought to myself “Yes. This seems about right.”

As the film began – opening with catastrophic images of a destroyed earth – I recall something: myself at five-years-old. I find an inchworm coiled above a rock and beneath another. I am immersed for hours dichotomizing its elaborate specifics; its details, the petite pegs beneath lime-green scales where once were feet, a cleft tongue, encrusted streaks and a fascinating discovery of a brown, almost chocolate patination on the left dorsal side. The next decade-or-so of my life seem insignificant when likened to this encounter. I have not seen, or even spoke about, an inchworm since.

I have been sitting in the cinema for 40 minutes now, which makes up a little more than a 289,000th of my life thus far. I am reminded of this because of the eleven-year-old (I suspect) stranger in the seat next to mine. Time for him must be so potent. I am deeply jealous. These kind of thoughts return to me quickly and often throughout the film. His father (I suspect), sitting in the adjacent seat, was drinking a small bottle of Bundaberg Australian Ginger Beer. What if it was actual beer, I imagined. I remember when a cousin of mine first offered me a glass of beer. The glass made my hand look microscopic, the smell was unenticing. I politely declined the offer. This, much to my bewilderment, offended my cousin. I would spend the rest of my life declining offers of alcoholic drinks, in which the reaction of the other party was almost always exactly the same. I continue to be bewildered by this.

It is now 86 minutes into the film. I scratch my knee. As I do, the edge of the nail of my middle finger snaps back. I gaze at it and foolishly predict that I can remove the now encumbering edge-of-nail. I do this and in the process accidentally remove a teensy bit of skin. I feel a little sting and am now irritated. I think to myself: why must our nails grow? This evolutionary progression adds nothing to our lives. I continue with these bitter thoughts until I realize that I am whining about a broken nail. I feel bad about myself.

At this point, at 100 minutes, the movie ends. The lights go up and I examine the cinema for the final time: people seem lethargic and surly and I think to myself: “Yes. This seems about right.”

After Earth is the name of this movie. It is vapour. It is chewing gum. It enters the mind as air and just as dispiritingly leaves as air. It is so vacuous, so dull, that one can’t help but ponder about anything else in existence just to stay awake. I must admit that After Earth certainly affected my stream of consciousness for those 100 minutes. I mean, if there is a gigantic screen with something on it then one will, most likely, look at it, no? That’s about as complimentary as I can be about After Earth.

What is the movie about? Well, it’s the most expensive home-movie ever made. The home in question: The Smith Family. As I said earlier, the film is directed by M. Night Syamalan, which is shocking to comprehend, for not one morsel of Shyamalan’s sensibility is in evidence here. Upon immediate construing, this might not be such a bad thing, since Mr Shyamalan’s last inspired film came to us in the year 2000. Everything since has been junk. His last film, The Last Airbender (2009), was as low as I felt he went. After Earth is not as bad, but trust me, he did not direct it.

This movie is clearly – and by clearly, I mean as crystal – another smug dive into this narcissistic hole that the Senior Smith has constructed for himself. The plot is this: 1000 years in the future, an international combat force known as the Rangers systematizes the mass migration of a contaminated, uninhabitable Earth. Humankind's new home is subjected to sightless, lethal monsters known as the Ursa, and Ranger Cypher Raige (Will Smith) becomes legend when his absence of distress makes him entirely undetectable to the Ursa, who track people by the scent of their fear. Cypher's son Kitai (Jaden Smith) wants desperately to be like his father, but the Rangers will have none of it; Kitai is physically capable, but he vacillates in the arena-meadow because of a juvenile event in which his older sister (Zoë Isabella Kravitz) died saving him from an Ursa. Cypher and Kitai, through a series of circumstances, end up crash-landed on Earth, with Cypher being badly injured. Earth is run amok with powerfully morphed animals (the film expects us to believe that all of earth’s animals can evolve into monsters in only 1000 years). Because of his father’s injuries, it is up to Kitai to save the two them, proving himself-worthy in the process.

We spend the remainder of the film watching Mr Smith and Mr Smith show us how perfect they are and how condign, benefiting and correct their way of life is. The Scientological aspects of the film are hard to discount. The film is also dull not only thematically but visually. These dystopian earth movies by all these directors who fancy themselves Kubrick are fatiguing the genre and they need to stop.

The Junior Smith is asked to carry most of this film on his shoulders and, unfortunately, he can’t. He is devoid of any charisma or stature or discernible acting ability, but at the same time I don’t feel right blaming him. The problem with the film comes from the root. I feel fairly confident in whom I blame for this mess – like I said, crystal – but if you unwisely decide to see the film yourself, I’ll let you decide whom to blame.