Reviewed for Metro’s home entertainment section:
If any filmmaker needs a win right now, it’s M. Night Shyamalan. Since bursting onto the scene with The Sixth Sense and Unbreakable, the Indian-American director has seen his career swerve spectacularly off course thanks to a series of critically-trashed flops. Sadly, however, After Earth isn’t the film to turn his losing streak around, even if it isn’t quite the all-out disaster some would have you believe. Conceived from a “story idea” by Will Smith (who must share some of the blame), Shyamalan’s post-apocalyptic tale is plodding and unavoidably underwhelming, hampered by unconvincing sci-fi jargon and unintentionally humorous dialogue. Smith also stars as Cypher Raige (seriously), a legendary military general who crash-lands on Earth with his teenage son (played by Smith’s teenage son, Jaden) 1000 years after the planet is rendered uninhabitable. With Cypher badly wounded, the leading role falls squarely to Jaden, as his petulant cadet is forced to trek across hostile terrain in order to recover an all-important distress beacon. On the positive side, some lush location work results in a few nice visuals and the odd shot of genuinely stunning scenery. But while young Jaden has proved capable on screen before (see The Pursuit Of Happyness or The Karate Kid for evidence), he struggles here with both the accent and the demands of shouldering the film. Smith senior, meanwhile, is also unsuccessful in a role that sees him playing against type, with his natural, mega-star charisma utterly wasted as the emotionally closed-off father who spends the movie slumped in a crashed spaceship.