Thursday, May 30, 2013
After Earth or After Thought
People are very polarized by Michael Bay, but another name has been known to draw the same ire. M. Night Shyamalan. I loved The Sixth Sense, was OK with Signs and felt that Unbreakable was a very underrated movie. Good films but I cannot say the same for The Village, The Happening, and the dismal Last Airbender. M. Night is back and this time he jumping in to science fiction with some stat power courtesy of Will Smith. The Big question is does it work?
In the future, about a thousand years, we were forced to evacuate earth after an alien war began. Nova Prime is our new home and it is defended by Rangers. They battle alien creatures called Ursa who hunt and see us through our fear. The greatest ranger is Cypher Raige (Smith) who has a rare ability called ghosting. It enables you to eliminate fear and become invisible to the alien threat. Raige is returning home to his family and preparing to retire. His son Kitai (Smith) is trying to become a ranger and make his father proud. In an attempt to bond with his son Cypher brings him along on his final training mission. The ship sets off with an cage alien on board and after an asteroid storm crash lands on earth. Kitai must find and recover the rescue beacon while his father lays dying. Can the young boy overcome his fear and survive an earth that is no longer friendly to human kind?
I am not a fan of Jayden Smith, but in this one it is great casting. I love the father son demographic almost as much as did in the Pursuit of Happiness. Will is great as the disapproving task master who has little choice but to put faith in his under achieving son. You get a feel of real parental strife between them at times and it truly works in the film. Wil is finally starting to show his age, but he still has the chemistry and likability in every role he plays. Big Will still has plenty of swagger.
Visually the film is great. It is very easily on par with oblivion and the design is very cool. It has a strange "bio organic" feel to it. The ships and buildings are all advanced yet very primitive feeling at the same time. It made for a very cool look. Kitai wears a life suit that changes color based on danger and environment. The concept plays very well. The rangers carry these lance type weapons called cutlass and they too work well. No lasers, no explosion, and yet a very good sci-fi concept. The computer generated animals are OK and world, at times, looks breathtaking.
M. Night has a reputation for strange plot altering twists and being somewhat unpredictable. After Earth is very simple plot. It is easy to follow and figure out. The story is about a father and son and their quest to survive. Simple. So simple that it works and works well. I am not sure how much influence Will Smith had over the direction of the film, but it is better than I think most would expect. Take the kids or leave them at home. It is entertaining and maybe a little redeeming for it's director. My advice, give After Earth more than an after thought.