Friday, May 31, 2013

M. Night Shyamalan made another horrible movie and the critics haven't been kind - why does this please me so much?

From usatoday, Though it's meant to be pulse-pounding, After Earth is a lethargic slog.
This is not particularly the fault of its stars, Will Smith and his son, Jaden, though the latter could benefit from some acting lessons.
Rather, director M. Night Shyamalan seemingly puts more effort into production design and overbearing music than into dialogue or interplanetary action scenes. What remains is a floundering, futuristic coming-of-age saga (** out of four; rated PG-13; opens Friday nationwide).
The film's look is striking. A ship that father and son ride resembles a manta ray zooming through space. But their dialogue is mostly repetitive psycho-babble, broken up by tedious silences.
The story is set 1,000 years from now. Kitai (Jaden), his aptly-named father Cypher (Will) and mother Faia (Sophie Okonedo) live on a planet called Nova Prime. Cypher brings Kitai along on a mission, but their spaceship is struck by asteroids and crash-lands on Earth. Everyone aboard perishes except for father and son. Cypher suffers two broken legs, so it's up to Kitai to retrieve a beacon that landed miles away, so they can signal for help. Catastrophic events on Earth rendered it uninhabitable for humans, though it looks homey, complete with roaming buffalo.
Shyamalan makes an inexplicable and distracting choice when he has future humans speaking with an awkward dialect. It sounds vaguely mid-Atlantic and also approximates how Elmer Fudd might have spoken as a toddler. When Jaden first speaks, it's hard to tell if he has a slight speech impediment or if the mangled pronunciation is intentional.

And what is spoken adds to the tedium. Cypher makes goofy guru-like pronouncements like: "Recognize your power. This will be your creation."
Given that the film was intended as an intergalactic adventure featuring vivid computer-generated animals, an immersive 3-D environment might have induced more thrills. It would have intensified the sense of peril when Kitai leaps off a cliff and is dive-bombed by a cross between a hawk and a Dodo bird.
Instead, we're left with an inert tale of a boy coming into his own. While Jaden was adorable at age 8 in The Pursuit of Happyness and was capable in the remake of The Karate Kid, the now-14-year-old doesn't have the skills to pull off this starring role.
His character spends a lot of time silent and alone, hiking through unfamiliar terrain. A more powerful screen presence is needed for such a passive part.
With the story credited to Will Smith, After Earth is a pricey vanity project. It features only three action sequences — Kitai being chased by baboons, dodging the oversized bird and fighting a snarling alien. That leaves more than an hour where the audience must endure Cypher's terse orders and wan platitudes and Kitai's vague reactions. For highly evolved beings, these two specimens are surprisingly insipid.


JPX said...

Excerpt from Slate,

"In the last half-hour, after Kitai slips the bounds of his father’s tech-assisted overparenting, the movie gives full voice to its animating philosophy, which resides somewhere at the convergence point of Life of Pi, Dianetics, and Stuart Smalley’s daily affirmations. Fear is not real; be in the now; you had the power in you all along. In the climactic scene, cut off from communication with Cypher, Kitai performs a kind of channeling act in which his father’s voice, now internalized as his own common sense, talks him toward a solution which I won’t detail except to say that it involves some of the most triumphantly phallic use of technology since Luke Skywalker first brandished a lightsaber. Kitai’s dad-assisted apotheosis serves as an almost too-precise metaphor for what’s been happening the whole movie, with the hardworking but less than mesmerizing Jaden Smith standing in as proxy action hero for his sacrificially self-sidelined father. In his defense, the kid is saddled with a task that even a more experienced actor might have trouble pulling off: He must carry an entire action movie on his slender shoulders, given little more to act opposite than a succession of green-screen predators. Even with his charismatic dad in his earpiece calling the shots, Jaden can’t turn himself into a movie star by sheer force of Will."

From New York Times,

"Those images are few and far between in a movie that loses its way long before Kitai reaches the belching volcano that leads to his inevitable destiny. Mr. Smith and his wife, Jada Pinkett Smith, are producers on “After Earth,” which suggests that there was no one on the production who could really say no to him. An often affable screen presence, he spends much of the movie in a chair on the spaceship pursing his lips and watering his eyes. It’s a calamitously one-note, unpersuasive performance that’s a match to that of Jaden, a pretty teenager with jumpy eyebrows whose character remains an insufferable brat. Once upon a time, Hollywood parents gave their children sports cars as gifts. These days, apparently nothing less than a big-screen vanity project will do for Junior."

From ew,

We're not used to seeing Will Smith shorn of his lightness and humor, but in After Earth, he's solemn and heavy-lidded, and he speaks with grave deliberation, never even using contractions. He tries to make Cypher a kind of Obi-Wan figure, and Smith is charismatic enough to pull this off, but the father-son, mentor/disciple relationship is better than the rest of the film, which is like a plate of sci-fi leftovers. The knives have been out for Jaden Smith, who is routinely dismissed by blogosphere snark as a lucky-duck celebrity offspring whose dad will do anything to make him a star. I'm someone who thinks that Jaden Smith has a lot of talent; his moody melancholy held that Karate Kid remake together. But a movie like After Earth, in which he mostly has to act all by himself, taking orders from his father as he dodges post-apocalyptic clichés, isn't doing him any favors.

Johnny Sweatpants said...

I'm not a fan of Will Smith. He's played the exact same role in everything he's ever been in. And Jaden Smith always has the same dumbfounded expression on his face, drives me mental.

Trevor said...

How in the world does Shyamalan still get hired? Seriously?!?

Johnny Sweatpants said...

I was thinking the same thing Trevor! Can't somebody do something about this guy?

JPX said...

"Jaden, a pretty teenager with jumpy eyebrows whose character remains an insufferable brat." That's all I need to hear to know that I will never watch this film. I despise films that feature a young teen as the 'hero' (T2). So basically in this film Will Smith sits the entire time while dispensing his wisdom to his young teen. Yuck. Another misfire for M. Knight.

Octopunk said...

I like Will Smith and I feel like there's a lot of enjoyable actors who always play the same role, but this looks baaaaaad.

A lot of times when actors get behind a production the results are surprisingly hammy -- I say surprisingly because sometimes it's good actors that do this and you'd think they would spot the difference between quality and quackery, but no.

And Shyamalan needed to disappear several movies ago.