Cast: Will Smith, Jaden Smith
Director: M Night Shyamalan
Clearly intended as a vanity project to showcase his 14-year-old son Jaden's action-hero skills, 'After Earth', conceived and produced by Will Smith, is part-sci-fi, part cautionary tale, yet always a snooze-fest. It doesn't help that director M Night Shyamalan, far out of his comfort zone of twisty thrillers, sucks the film dry of any potential for humor, and delivers what is probably Will Smith's only film in which he never cracks a smile.
Smith Sr plays the aptly named Cypher, a fearless military Ranger who protects humans on Nova Prime, the planet they were evacuated to, after Earth became an uninhabitable wasteland some 1000 years ago. Jaden is Kitai, his Ranger-cadet son, who is traveling with him on an interplanetary mission. When an asteroid storm forces their spaceship to crash-land on Earth, Cypher is badly injured, and it's left to Kitai to brave the dangers that roam the planet and retrieve a beacon that will save both their lives.
Shyamalan gives us some striking visuals of a future Earth, but the action scenes between Kitai and the hostile beasts he encounters feel strangely underwhelming. Jaden is earnest, and sure he's got something charming about him - we saw that in the Karate Kid remake - but what he doesn't have, unfortunately, are the acting chops to pull off this starring role. His character spends a lot of time alone on screen, and this kind of a role requires an actor with a much stronger presence.
Yet, nothing or no one is more disappointing than Will Smith, who has such a morose expression throughout, it's as if someone really sent him into the future and showed him the box-office collections of this film! As he sits there, injured and immobile, blankly doling out life lessons to his kid, you wonder if Daddy left his charisma at home so Junior wouldn't have a complex.
Although it's only 100 minutes long, 'After Earth' feels unending and uninspired, and while it's not as godawful as Shyamalan's 'The Last Airbender', it's a far, far cry from his earlier, original films. I'm going with one-and-a-half out of five for 'After Earth'. Prepare to be bored out of your mind.
Yash Sharma, Mumbai
Sreedhar Thanthry, Mysore