I remember watching a video called Embracing The Remix part II by Kirby Ferguson on YouTube a few weeks ago, and how he perceived films as a product of adaptation or remake of a previous works as well as genre movies that have certain templates, that can be divided into specific subgenre with certain elements. One of the movie he used as an example is James Cameron’s Avatar (2009) which is a sci-fi genre, with sub-genre that he playfully called: ‘Sorry About The Colonialism’ (where white people feels sorry about the bad things that they did, of course the leads are dominantly black here… great now i feel like a racist).
Well, After Earth is sort of not like that.
In a dystopian future, the humans no longer occupy planet Earth, apparently become hostile for human a by-product of human’s own error. The surviving population occupy a new home they called Nova Prime. After a significant period of time away from his family General Cypher Raige (Will Smith) finally had the chance to reconnect with his adolescent son Kitai Raige (Jaden Smith). When their spacecraft got caught in an Asteroid storm, it crashed and burn, leaving the father and son as the two sole survivor. Trying to weather the virulent environment of the estranged planet they called Earth.
I was very drawn into the trailer, when the father and son arrived in the foreign place that are supposedly hostile and the irony that the planet is actually Earth, a home for human generations before the timeline of this movie started. The movie itself as it turned out a bit underwhelming.
The beginning of the movie literally explained the background of the story through a long extensive monologue delivered by Will Smith. This part feels rather lazy for me, as if the only way to part the knowledge about the planet is by the extensive monologue itself, not conveyed or incorporated in the film itself. As i was thinking this is movie supposed to carry a moral dilemma for human behaviour vs the environment, i found it lacks fundamental proof that support the premise. Cypher Raige told Kitai, ‘everything in this planet has evolved to kill humans‘, and based on that sentence alone i expected the film to deliver a level of hostility and savagery of the new earth species that proves the truth of this sentence. Instead we got apes and tigers that got savage when provoked and an indebted mother bird who protect Kitai when he was in need. I feel that if you remove the earth reference of the movie and substitute Earth with any planet at all, it would still brought the same result, because the Earth reference itself was so weak anyway.
As i read about the production detail, the story was intended to be a tale of a father and son journey in facing danger together. And essentially it was what i got. However, i do not think the message was well delivered with all the CGI, alien, post dystopian future gimmick that distracts from the core point. I have to wonder, maybe the filmmaker (script writer and director, especially) are trying to make secondary premise using this profound statement about the state of humanity and how we waste our resources on our egoistic whim. A message that failed to be delivered, maybe because it was too literal in its approach anyway, and in the end over shadowed the father and son aspect of the movie.
While there are beautiful visual in the movie, being the first Sony Films movie that was shot in the new 4K resolution technology (Ultra HD), well at least half of it was (for maximum enjoyment you probably would want to catch its IMAX show). Acting wise, there was nothing stood out for me, Jaden Smith’s acting still remind me of him in The Karate Kid (2010) with the knitted, frowned eyebrows and puppy eyes.
So yeah, in general i was underwhelmed by the movie and left the theatre feeling highly unsatisfied. If there were one thing i enjoy from this movie it was the talk about fear itself. But if you like sci-fi, you probably would enjoy it anyway…
Fear is not real. It is a product of thoughts you create. Do not misunderstand me. Danger is very real. But fear is a choice.
– Cypher Raige, After Earth
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