Saturday, June 8, 2013

Film Review: M. Night Shyamalan's After Earth

With the director's last few films, M. Night Shyamalan has more than proven that he is an atrocious storyteller and just a god-awful filmmaker.  Sure, once upon a time, the director had a few films ranging from okay-but-overrated (The Sixth Sense), surprisingly enjoyable (Signs), and even kind of good (Unbreakable), but with each subsequent film, from The Village to Lady in the Water to The Happening to The Last Airbender, Shyamalan has managed to do the seemingly impossible - make a even worse movie than the last one.  After seeing The Village, and its array of preposterous narrative and ridiculous acting, one would have thought it near impossible to make a film that was worse than this.  With Lady in the Water, Shyamalan proved those naysayers wrong.  After the nonsensical bunk that was that film, the guy actually proved us wrong again with The Happening (Mark Wahlberg and Zooey Deschanel run from the wind...and actually outrun it!!??), and, with The Last Airbender, one of the epic crash-and-burns of modern cinema, on a par with monstrosities like Waterworld and Battlefield Earth, the so-called filmmaker proved us wrong once again.  Wow!  I must admit that in a warped kind of way, that is a pretty impressive feat indeed.  But the question remains, has he proven us wrong again?  Has he made a film even worse than The Last Airbender?  It seems highly unlikely that such a thing would be possible, but if anyone could pull off such a feat, it would be M. Night Shyamalan.

In a weird way, I now look forward, ofttimes with a giddy demeanor, to each of the director's films being worse than the last.  I think I would be doubly disappointed if he were to actually pull off a good film again.  I would be more upset with that outcome than with  having to sit through yet another atrocious M. Night Shyamalan train wreck of a movie.  Well, I am here to tell you that even though he did not pull off the seemingly impossible again - After Earth is not as terrible as The Last Airbender (what the hell could be!?) - I am not doubly disappointed, for this film is just godawful bad.  The best you are going to get out of this critic is the following statement: "After Earth is not the worst movie ever made."  Let's just leave it at that, shall we.  When you keep setting the bar so high (or so low, if you will), it will just naturally become more difficult over time to sustain such a level of, let us say, consistent descendent filmmaking behaviour.  But enough of this ripping apart on the director's past foibles and failures (not unlike beating that old dead horse we've heard tell about), for this is a time to be ripping apart the director's latest creation - even if, according to some people, it isn't the worst movie ever made.

After Earth.  What can one say about After Earth?  Without getting too mired down in such adjectives as terrible, horrible, ridiculous, ludicrous, or even godawful (my favourite), one can surely discuss how this story, about a military father and his less-than-militaristic son, both of Earth lineage, living on a somewhat distant planet, a thousand years or so after Earth became inhabitable, who crash land on, you guessed it, the aforementioned uninhabitable planet Earth.  This father and son duo, in a blatant nepotistic vanity piece, are played by Will Smith and son Jaden.  Now Columbia Pictures really knows how to sell such a film.  Never even mentioning Shyamalan, aside from a the briefest of small type print, in the trailer, and instead opting to highlight the Smith father and son team, those put off by the ever-declining quality of M. Night's oeuvre, may still actually go and see the damn movie - even if it still looks the steaming pile of batshitcrazy psycho baboon feces that it is.  Oh, have I not mentioned the batshitcrazy psycho baboons yet?  My bad.  You see, apparently (and this is said in dialogue), all the creatures of this futuristic killer Earth have evolved over these last thousand years to hate humans. How this came about without any humans being on the planet over these same thousand years, I am still not sure, but stupidity of narrative aside, what brings this film down most is the godawful (oh, I used that word) boredom that comes with having to sit through the damn dreck.

Though he is often considered something of a great actor by many, my thoughts on Will Smith tend to lean more toward the mediocre side of things.  Granted, I like the guy when he is doing comedy - his true calling I think - but when it comes to drama, the schtick just gets too thick for me to enjoy.  This is no different in After Earth, as both pére and fils Smith are far more serious about their circumstances than anyone could possibly be while watching their quite ludicrous (another word I said I would put aside) predicament.   Far more serious than the film actually deserves.  Then again, no matter how pedestrian I happen to find papa Smith's acting, it is nothing compared to the atrocious acting that Jaden shows here.  Seriously, as the fourteen year old actor ran around Killer Earth, trying to evade those batshitcrazy psycho baboons, some pretty fucking shitty-assed weather patterns, and a space spider-thingee who's sole purpose is to hunt and eat Jaden, tracking him by the fear he puts off, I kept hoping the baboons or the weather or the goddamn space spider-thingee would finally put an end to his miserable, bawl-baby character.  But alas, this is a Smith/Smith project, so nothing bad can really happen, right?  Whatever the case, this inane family therapy session - even M. Night should have bailed on this one - turned into the dumbest of sci-fi snooze-fests, is one to be avoided like the proverbial plague of batshitcrazy psycho baboons.

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