Will Smith

Will Smith

After Earth a family trip to nowhere

After Earth is so staggeringly ill-conceived, you almost have to admire the moxie of all involved with it. First you have a major studio (Sony), rolling the dice on a summer sci-fi blockbuster by an auteur director (M. Night Shyamalan), whose previous attempts at popcorn thrills (The Last Airbender, The Happening) were greeted with raspberries.

After Earth

1.5 stars (out of four)

Rated: PG

After Earth is so staggeringly ill-conceived, you almost have to admire the moxie of all involved with it.

First you have a major studio (Sony), rolling the dice on a summer sci-fi blockbuster by an auteur director (M. Night Shyamalan), whose previous attempts at popcorn thrills (The Last Airbender, The Happening) were greeted with raspberries.

Then you take your marquee star (Will Smith), add 10 pounds and remove any trace of charisma, while benching him for most of the movie. The burden of the picture falls upon the star’s 14-year-old son (Jaden Smith), who is simply not up to the task of emoting within a CGI-heavy environment.

Add to this misguided literary pretensions, through constant bizarre references to Herman Melville’s Moby Dick, a novel of adult obsession and revenge that has little connection with the Boys’ Own Adventure in which the film steadily devolves.

If you’re going to fail, you might as well fail big. The result is a movie that should have been called Death Wish, had that title not already been nabbed long ago. And the only value in watching it is to see an expensive disaster slowly unfold.

The time is some 1,000 years in the future, after negligent Earthlings have turned their planet from a paradise into a garbage dump. Regular humans have been evacuated to a new planet, Nova Prime, while the bravest and strongest of them work as Rangers, intergalactic policemen who tangle with bug-like alien monsters called Ursas (shades of Starship Troopers) who constantly threaten Earthlings just for the hell of it.

The bravest and strongest of the Rangers is Cypher Raige (Will Smith), who has learned how to defeat Ursas by suppressing his fear, which the beasts can smell. This skill is called “ghosting,” and it’s just one of the things Raige’s son Kitai (Jaden Smith) aspires to do, on that happy day when he becomes a Ranger himself.

But as the story begins, Kitai is told by a Ranger chief that he’s “not ready” for prime time, because he has a tendency to fade in the field — a comment that also serves as criticism of Jaden’s underachieving acting.

Daddy Raige, small on emotion but big on bromides (“Danger is very real, but fear is a choice”), decides the thing to do is to bring brooding Kitai along on a patrol. And when their spaceship crashes on a planet very much like Earth (twist alert!), sans humans, it’s suddenly up to Kitai to save the day.

Cypher breaks both legs in the crash, obliging him to remain in the ship (which resembles the interior of a whale). He Skypes commands to Kitai while the lad embarks upon a 100-km jungle trek to recover a lost homing beacon that may save them. The beacon was in the tail of the ruined spaceship, which also contained an imprisoned Ursa.

We’re advised that this hostile land freezes solid each and every night, but this doesn’t seem to affect the flourishing greenery, flowing rivers and waterfalls that Kitai must traverse. Nor does it stop the baboons, birds of prey, carnivorous animals and other subpar CGI creations that Kitai must fight, when he’s not falling into a coma, as he regularly does.

Details, schmetails. They obviously didn’t concern Will Smith, who wrote the story that Shyamalan and Gary Whitta (The Book of Eli) have awkwardly adapted for the screen.

Will and his wife Jada Pinkett Smith, Jaden’s mom, also have production credits on After Earth. The family connections give the strong aroma of a vanity project designed to bolster Jaden’s dubious acting career, which his inert performance in The Karate Kid remake should have already settled.

The parental interest is admirable, especially Will’s thoughtful decision to downshift his own acting so as not to upstage his son. Will hasn’t been this immobile since he was poisoned by a jellyfish in the calamity called Seven Pounds.

Yet we all know what road is paved with good intentions, and it’s not the one leading to multiplexes showing After Earth.

Peter Howell is a syndicated Toronto Star movie critic.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

COVID
Red Deer down to 313 active cases of COVID-19

Alberta reports an additional 411 COVID-19 cases

Friday, Alberta Health Minister Tyler Shandro announced the province’s plan to reduce surgical wait times over the next two years. (Photo by Paul Taillon/Office of the Premier)
Alberta provides more funding to reduce surgery wait times

The province is working to provide better access to surgeries over the… Continue reading

RDC Queens volleyball players Sydney Rix and Emma Holmes gave blood as part of the Bleed Green Challenge, in partnership with Canadian Blood Services. (Photo courtesy RDC Queens Instagram)
Blood donation: RDC Athletics give back with Bleed Green Challenge

In what has been a challenging year for everyone across Alberta, Red… Continue reading

Eastview Middle School’s Jeremy Spink was selected as the 2020/21 NHL/NHLPA Most Valuable Teacher for February (Photo Courtesy of Red Deer Public Schools)
Red Deer teacher earns NHL’s Most Valuable Teacher Award for February

Eastview Middle School’s Jeremey Spink picked up the honour

Bryson, six, and Mara, eight, play with puppies from Dogs With Wings Saturday. (Photo by Sean McIntosh/Advocate staff)
WATCH: Dogs With Wings introduces Red Deer program

A program that trains puppies to be certified service, autism, facility and… Continue reading

Supporters rally outside court as Pastor James Coates of GraceLife Church is in court to appeal bail conditions, after he was arrested for holding day services in violation of COVID-19 rules, in Edmonton, Alta., on Thursday March 4, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
‘Law remains valid:’ Pastor accused of violating health orders to remain in jail

‘Law remains valid:’ Pastor accused of violating health orders to remain in jail

A flare stack lights the sky from the Imperial Oil refinery in Edmonton on December 28, 2018. The federal government is unveiling proposed regulations for its greenhouse gas offset program that will govern how developers can register and sell credits earned through projects that reduce emissions. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Proposed federal carbon offset credit regulations raise farmer advocate’s concern

CALGARY — Projects that qualify to sell federal greenhouse gas emission credits… Continue reading

The National War Memorial honouring Canadians who served in the military is shown in Ottawa on Sunday, March 31, 2019. A member of the Canadian Armed Forces has died in Afghanistan. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang
Canadian soldier found dead in his quarters in Afghanistan: military

OTTAWA — A member of the Canadian Armed Forces has died in… Continue reading

A flare stack lights the sky from the Imperial Oil refinery in Edmonton on December 28, 2018. The federal government is unveiling proposed regulations for its greenhouse gas offset program that will govern how developers can register and sell credits earned through projects that reduce emissions. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Ottawa unveils proposed federal carbon offset emission credit regulations

CALGARY — The federal government is unveiling proposed regulations for its greenhouse… Continue reading

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau holds a press conference in Ottawa Friday, March 5, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Trudeau holds firm on premiers’ health-care funding demands, COVID-19 aid comes first

OTTAWA — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says the federal government will keep… Continue reading

Supporters pray outside court in Stony Plain, Alta., on Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2021, as a trial date was set for Pastor James Coates of GraceLife Church. He is charged with holding Sunday services in violation of Alberta's COVID-19 rules and with breaking conditions of his bail release. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Judge rules Alberta pastor accused of violating health orders to remain in jail

EDMONTON — A judge has ruled that an Alberta pastor will remain… Continue reading

Image courtesy Creative Outlet
Man found guilty in attack that left Winnipeg teen with hammer in head

WINNIPEG — A Winnipeg judge has found a man guilty in an… Continue reading

Pictured here is Stettler’s Jenner Smith with a guide dog from Aspen Service Dogs. An online auction will be running soon to help raise funds for Jenner to receive his very own service dog later this year. Jenner, who is four years old, was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder in 2019. photo submitted
An online auction is planned to raise funds for a service dog for a Stettler family

Jenner Smith, four, was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder in 2019

Most Read