Saturday, June 15, 2013

After Thought

The post-apocalyptic After Earth weighs in as a far-future tale that is both gritty and adventurous in its mediocrity.

ARTH VADER (AV):  After Earth is an original screenplay that doesn't play well, Pontificator. In a summer loaded with already seen and as yet to be seen fallen-Earth storylines, this movie struggles to be relevant in a sea of standout summer sci-fi blockbusters. After Earth is eerily close in story to this spring's Oblivion (Tom Cruise) and the forthcoming Elysium (Matt Damon) among others, and fails to truly establish it's own unique tale. While it has sparks of legitimacy and even moments of brilliance, After Earth–for me–fails to engage the viewer and offers a rather empty overall moviegoing experience. 

THE PONTIFICATOR (TP): An original story, the only continuity to be followed are the events within the film itself. With that, I only had one question about the history in the film Vader, and that was the whereabouts of the aliens that originally unleashed the Ursa into the human population.


AV: With a screenplay that was clearly developed for the Smith family, this movie's big reveal is the direction of the controversial M. Night Shaymalan. This was slipped in way under the radar of all but the most ardent movie watchers. The downplay of this director's interaction was almost deceptive given M. Night's recent track record of under-performing films. The real story here though Ponty, is Jaden Smith.

Big Daddy Big Willie Style (Will Smith) was a stunning, believable badass general–Cypher Raige, mentoring his prodigy, the up-and-coming ranger-want-to-be, Kitai Raige (Jaden Smith). This film–which focuses almost 90% of it's energy on Jaden/Kitai fails because young Jaden carries neither the acting maturity nor the onscreen presence to make this character relevant. P-Man, how say you?>

TP: Will Smith is an excellent actor, without a doubt one of the premier talents in the industry. Here he is asked to limit his range (after all, how hard is it to play a rigid military type?) and still try to convey some embers of actual humanity. Jaden Smith did very well here, but again, the main role was to be constantly scared once he reached Earth. Since I was annoyed at the character throughout the film, I’d say he pulled it off. The direction of the film kept it moving forward, even though the story was predictable, the delivery still had some surprises.


AV: In a movie like this, special effects matter. After Earth is wholly reliant in the effects as a story-telling element and they don't disappoint. The animals are captivating and look great but the winning effects shots in After Earth are clearly the environments. Dark caves, lava pools, frozen Tundra and impressively expansive Conifer forests make the world(s) of After Earth breathtakingly beautiful and remarkably both Alien and familiar at the same time. 

TP: For a film that doesn’t seem to be doing very well at the box office, the special effects were absolutely beautiful. The future tech was very interesting and didn’t come off as cheesy or ridiculous mainly because the CGI was flawless in these endeavors. Some of the animal shots, particularly the big cats, still didn’t sell me as real, but just real good CGI. The scenery was incredible and really showed how beauty can hide extreme danger. I was particularly fascinated with the smart fabric body suit both regarding the costume design and with the CGI that gave it “intelligence.”


AV: For all the great hype, look and original screenplay, this movie was flat. It was very hard to care about the characters—even Kitai (J. Smith)—whose onscreen presence was whiny and stiff. There were moments there downright awkward to watch, notably the "I won't fail" speech on top of a mountain the character has with his Dad. Insipid, empty and vapid. Which in the end is surprising, both because Will Smith as Dad (both onscreen and for reals) and the fact that Jaden has acting chops he's displayed previously (The Pursuit of Happyness, The Day The Earth Stood Still and the Karate Kid). Hopefully this is just a bump in a what should be a bright and promising career.

TP: Aside from my earlier question about the whereabouts of the aliens that unleashed the Ursa to eradicate humanity, this film was more than just a science fiction popcorn film, it was a story about the relationship between a father and his son. Despite the box office reviews and ratings, I think there are many that can identify with the sometimes turbulent bond between a man and his son. Here, we have a boy that needs the nurturing of his father as only a father can, and doesn’t know how to get it any other way than by emulating who he thinks his father is. His father doesn’t understand the needs of his son, and doesn’t know how to fill those needs, even after they are brought to his attention. As much as this film is about seeking a way to survive and be rescued from Earth, it is about two people seeking each other and trying to rescue their relationship.


AV: Just when you thought you've had enough of this lackluster story, After Earth 2 has a scheduled 2015 release date, Ponty. Personally, I am neutral as this film did NOT engage me emotionally nor did I hate it.  Backed by the entire Smith clan (both Will and Jada Pinkett Smith are co-producers and co-storytellers) this one remains to be seen (or unseen).

TP: The story completes itself and really doesn’t call for a sequel. That said, I can certainly see a door here that can be opened wide provided somebody wants to do a follow-up (and apparently, they do). I’m talking, once again, about the missing aliens that are responsible for the Ursa. Returning them to Nova Prime will have you instantly back into a Will Smith science fiction war film which can revisit the father and son dynamic of the first... or just be a visual popcorn action blockbuster.


ARTH VADER rates After Earth: Even though it's a Sci-Fi wonder with incredibly interesting ammorphic, alternative material-looking tech, this movie never quite takes off. Shoddy, peace-meal storytelling, sloppy acting and an empty seen-it-before premise, After Earth–for me–offers little. In all fairness, I did like the movie, but nothing to write home (world) about overall. And even though fear is a choice, I'm afraid my choice is to release just 5 busted blocks for After Earth. 

THE PONTIFICATOR rates After Earth: A great film visually, although the conclusion of the story was predictable, the road to the end was full of surprises. The exploration of the father and son resolution was nice and added more depth to what was an easily predictable film. With great special effects and good performances, this film busted seven (7) untamed Earth blocks.

After Earth – 6/10 Busted Blocks:

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