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.