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The Independent Critic

Will Smith, Jaden Smith, Isabelle Fuhrman, Sophie Okonedo, David Denman, Zoe Kravitz
M. Night Shyamalan
Gary Whitta (Screenplay), M. Night Shyamalan (Screenplay), Michael Soccio (Writer), Stephen Gaghan (Writer), Will Smith (Story)
Rated PG-13
100 Mins.
Columbia Pictures
"A Father's Legacy" featurette with Will and Jaden Smith; an on-location and "The Nature of the Future" featurettes. Also, on Blu-ray: alternate opening sequence; three other making-of featurettes.

 "After Earth" May Qualify as Child Abuse for Papa Will 

How bad is After Earth?

Let's just say that I'd rather be locked in a room for an hour listening to Willow Smith screeching out "Whip My Hair" at full blast in Dolby Stereo than have to ever watch the film again.

Is it really that bad?

Yes. Why yes, it is.

After Earth is so bad that I think there's an argument for calling Child Protective Services on him for thinking this would somehow qualify as father/son bonding or furthering son Jaden's career. While he's at it, why not take Jaden out walking across the Sahara Desert in a tuxedo? It would be infinitely more enjoyable and at least the memory of it all would come to a merciful end.

The memory of After Earth is so painful that I still feel like my eyes are burning, their light and life flamed out by the ghastly sight of Jaden Smith floundering as an ill-prepared leading man and Will Smith stripped of his usual personality by a character so completely devoid personality that it makes his appearance in Seven Pounds seem downright hopeful and vibrant. After Earth is a dreadful experience and it's difficult to imagine that it won't end up comfortably in my Bottom 10 Films of 2013. While I've never quite been as solid on Will Smith as an actor as everyone else has been, truthfully I'm rather astounded at how completely nonsensical and painful to watch this film becomes as M. Night Shyamalan throws away yet another chance to rejuvenate his barely afloat directorial career.

After Earth takes place 1,000 years in the future after man has, of course, decimated earth and been forced to relocate to an exoplanet known as Nova Prime. Apparently, Nova Prime is somewhere along the Mid-Atlantic given the hideously silly accents utilized by Will and Jaden.

But, I digress.

Will plays Gen. Cypher Raige, most likely named Cyper Raige because Battlefield Earth already laid claim to Terl. Or Hurl. Or Swirl.

But, I digress.

There's a lot of digressing in After Earth. There's a lot of repetition. There's a lot of really cheesy special effects, lame plot threads and scenes of Jaden Smith shrieking in fear, recoiling in whatever you recoil from and, ultimately, learning to overcome his fear in what amounts to a poorly produced lesson from A Course in Miracles - Nothing but love is real. Fear is imaginary.

Blah. Blah. Blah.

Jaden's Kitai is forced to confront all of these these because he's accompanied his father on a routine mission that predictably goes awry. Already traumatized from a childhood event that we all relive way too many times, Kitai must find his inner strength when his father is injured and those evil things that are always around the corner can easily smell fear and aren't hesitant to exploit it.

Blah. Blah. Blah.

There was a time when the release of an M. Night Shyamalan film was an "event." Heck, even if you scoffed at his predictable twists you at least looked forward to doing so. These days, M. Night has been on such a downward spiral that it's not even fun picking on the guy anymore. The only real debate here is whether or not After Earth is better or worse than The Last Airbender.

It's really close.

While Will Smith may have failed in providing his son with a meaningful cinematic experience, at least they have the pleasure of getting to join together in one of life's greatest lessons - Absolutely failure and how to respond when announced as a Razzie nominee.

© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic