[Movie Review] After Earth is All About Choice

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After Earth is a story about choice. As the movie’s tagline says, “Danger is Real. Fear is a choice.” Whatever happens in a given life or death situation, the danger does not go away, but what you choose to do during that situation will determine the outcome. You can choose to be afraid and die or choose not to be afraid. Boom. In the same way, going into the theater is real, but you can choose to enjoy this movie or not.

After Earth is about the relationship between father and son. The fact that both main characters are also father and son outside of the movie theater might have also helped in building that believable bond. I was kind of excited when I first saw the trailer for this since I rarely see a Will Smith movie that’s bad.

Plot
The setting is a thousand years in the future and Earth has (again) been trashed by mankind. The air is toxic and wild animals and aliens now roam free. So people are forced to settle into a different planet. During the evacuation process, there are aliens that pop out to kill man. These aliens are blind but can smell and sense fear which made them very effective since that’s the normal reaction when you see a huge monster running towards you.

Cypher Raige (Will Smith), which is a cool name by the way, is a war hero famous for being able to wreck these aliens because he’s not afraid of anything. He went through a life changing experience which enabled him to eliminate any trace of fear. His son, Kitai (Jaden Smith), is an up and coming space cop in training who is trying his best to live up to his dad’s reputation. This is made even more difficult since he has an emotionless dad (not clear if he chose to ignore his bratty kid or not). Cypher (dad) then asks Kitai (son) to join him in one of the missions. Of course something goes wrong and they end up stuck in Earth. They must then work together (bonding time) to try and survive. This is made even more complicated since Cypher (dad) has a my-son-is-noob-and-sucks complex.

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Characters
There are only 2 main characters. Kitai (Jaden) and Cypher (Will). Jaden is his normal self being the son always looking for someone’s approval (dad in pursuit of happiness and mom in karate kid). Here, it’s dad. The difference is that he’s grown up quite a bit and has like a british-like accent. Will is his same character from I am legend. I make these comparisons but that does not in any way mean anything bad. Both play their roles here very well.I must highlight that there is a scene near the beginning where their crewmates have a few speaking lines and that was the worst acting and dialogue delivery I have ever seen. Good thing is that those guys only have 2 minutes screen time.

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Story
After Earth is all about the dynamics of father trying his best to reconnect with son while son tries his best to live up to his father’s expectations. They put a story somehow in the far future so they can add aliens, cool gear, and spaceships. The story doesn’t waste time to establish any of the peripheral characters, it gives the background then gets rid of everyone else so we get to the father and son arc immediately. After Earth reminded me of I am Legend where the whole movie is just a few characters versus the world. When it all boils down, it’s just get from point A to point B and overcome obstacles along the way like giant animals, unbreathable air, high drops, and aliens.

Side notes
I saw in the credits that Gary Whitta (writer for some great Walking dead AMC TV episodes and Episode 4 of Telltale’s the walking dead game which I am a huge fan of) was involved. I’m almost sure that the Walking dead-influenced scene was his doing. You’ll know it when you see it. The director, M Night Shyamalan, though, might have had something to do with why this movie turned out the way it did. He started strong with The Sixth Sense, then followed up with… (ready?), Signs (Mel Gibson), The Village (that other , The Happening, and The Last Airbender (the other Avatar movie). So take that as you will.

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Overall
After Earth is not a great movie. It's an ok movie. It’s something you can watch if you don’t have anything better that’s on. There are some really good performances we’ve come to expect in Will and Jaden Smith as they play their roles very well, but it’s unfortunate that they got caught in something that has such a weak storyline. Again, you have a choice whether you want to enjoy After Earth or not. You also have a choice on whether you’re willing to drop your cash for this or something else.

After Earth is from Columbia Pictures and Overbrook Entertainment / Blinding Edge Pictures and is now showing in all Philippine theaters.

Score: 2 out of 5

I dare you to find a scene in the movie where emotionless Cypher smiles. Go ahead, I dare you.
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