At the Movies: After Earth

It’s a busy time of year entertainment-wise. Concerts, barbecues, pool parties, Shakespeare in the Park, baseball (if you’re into that kind of thing), the Muny will be starting up soon… And every weekend brings a potential movie blockbuster or two to vie for your attention.

Feeling overwhelmed? Can’t take it all in? Feel free to take a pass on this week’s sci-fi spectacle, “After Earth.” It’s not a bad film, but it’s pretty lackluster. It will be just as entertaining six months from now on your home theater setup.

The story takes place in the far distant future. Humanity has abandoned Earth after alien attacks and has found a new home many light years away. The home world has been declared uninhabitable as Earth has taken over by many strange, wild creatures who just want to eat people — if people were available.

after-earth-movie-trailer-2Will Smith stars as Cypher Raige, a no-nonsense general in the Ranger Corps. His son Kitai (Jaden Smith) has just been rejected for admission to the Ranger Corps, despite his high test scores. Father and son are traveling across the galaxy when their spaceship is damaged in an asteroid shower.

The ship crash lands on — you guessed it — Earth with Cypher and Kitai the sole survivors. Cypher is badly injured and cannot leave the ship so it is up to young Kitai to venture into the inhospitable landscape and recover the rescue beacon from the ship’s tail section.

Directed by M. Night Shyamalan and based on a story by Will Smith, “After Earth” is as predictable as it is flat. Given that Shyamalan is best known for movies with twist endings (“The Sixth Sense,” “Unbreakable”), the biggest twist here is that there are no twists.

The film is also a waste of Will Smith’s talents. Instead of the charming, charismatic characters he usually plays, Cypher is practically devoid of emotion and certainly devoid of humor. Plus, he spends most of the film immobile and talking to his son through their futuristic communications system.

That means all the heavy lifting for the story must be carried by Jaden Smith. And while he’s a decent young talent, he still has a way to go to measure up to his father.

One final nit-picky complaint: If you’re going to make a movie about post-apocalyptic Earth, then you really need some evidence that the story is taking place on Earth. You know, Statue of Liberty half-buried in mud; Capitol building covered in vines; Gateway Arch broken in two. See “Oblivion,” they did it right.

If all you’re showing me is a jungle and weird animals, then the story could take place on Naboo for all I care.

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