“After Earth” brings back the father-son tandem of Will and Jaden Smith, now playing problematic and marooned fighters in the M. Night Shyamalan-directed scifi-adventure flick. Such a collaboration between them seems promising; it’s the Smiths’ movie years after “The Pursuit of Happyness” and Shyamalan’s got some respectable films under his belt (let’s not talk about “Airbender,” now).
It’s actually a very simple parent-child bonding movie, well-acted by both Smiths, undoubtedly, but there isn’t much to see and enjoy aside from that. In the far future, their characters are trained to destroy savage alien beasts that can literally smell humans that fear them. The older Smith plays Cypher Raige, a much-revered warrior that can calm himself, “ghost” past the aliens and destroy them, while the teen Smith plays his guilt-ridden son Kitai. Both are stranded on an abandoned planet, the now-unrecognizable Earth, after their ship's crash-landing.
“After Earth” is predictable and slowly paced. Will Smith’s original story is written for the screen by Shyamalan and two others. It’s mostly about an initially dysfunctional bond between the two family members, a problem that will undoubtedly be resolved once the characters learn new things and accept change. We see both Cypher and Kitai go through the motions, but it’s the latter who gets more action scenes, and more opportunities to tangle with hostile
The Smiths’ bond is genuine, however, so there’s no trouble with convincing the audience about their emotional states. The science is a bit interesting—the changed atmosphere and fauna of the forgotten Earth, and the sensory configuration of the aliens are among the parts that should’ve been explored more, for a more complex and sturdy backstory. Also, the father-son characters become dull after some time, leaving us indifferent to their familial issues and anticipated transformations.