HTS Moderator , Reviewer
Title: After Earth
HTS Overall Score:85
I have a love, hate relationship with M. Night Shyamalan. On one hand he started out his career with a bang. “The Sixth Sense” was received incredibly well and he followed up his first film with a one-two punch in the form of “Signs” and “Unbreakable”. It seemed that he was on a roll, the studios were willing to bankroll him and he was on top of the world. Then it seems that he stumbled and put out the controversially received “Lady in the Water” (which I think is my favorite of his films for some reason), and then just dove off a cliff with “The Village”, “The Happening” and “The Last Air Bender” with each film getting worse and worse. “The Last Air bender” being on the verge of a career killer. It seems that the once brilliant director lost some of his creativity and went from heralded as the next great director to a studio Pariah. Now Will Smith called upon him for one more sci-fi film and he partially redeems himself for past failures, but also fulfills some of the doom and gloom prophecies about himself as well.
It seems that mankind has once again destroyed the Earth and left it a smoking ruin. Now that they have destroyed their home the world bands together and evacuates the dying planet and creates a new home upon the planet “Nova Prime”. Now it seems that they weren’t the only ones there, the native aliens fought back and unleashed the URSA, a genetically engineered killing machine that can sense the pheromones released under the strain of fear and home in on their prey. Effectively blind otherwise, this is the creature’s main source of its power. Vicious and relentless it has only one objective. Kill those who are not its master. Almost defeated by these aliens the humans are saved when one human realizes that if he suppresses his fear he is able to become effectively invisible to the URSA, becoming what is known as a “ghost”. Now that the tide has turned humans are living large on Nova Prime with several other colonies. One of the greatest of the ghost rangers is a man by the name of Cypher Raige (Will Smith), wanting to retire and come home to be with his family, Cypher is about to announce his retirement from military service. Called away on one last training mission he takes his son, Kitai (Jayden Smith) with him to show him the ropes. Kitai is training to be a ranger himself but can’t seem to pass the final tests. It appears that on paper his is a brilliant cadet, but he falls apart in the field, haunted by the demons in his own past.
The problems start when the ship they are travelling on experiences a meteor storm. To escape said storm the crew has to do an uncharted hyperspace jump and ends up orbiting the one planet they never thought they’d see again, Earth. During the last 1,000 years the earth has evolved and adapted to the destruction that the humans brought down upon it so many millennia ago. As a result the entire planet is basically one giant death trap for humans, slightly toxic still, filled with creatures who can kill a human in an instant and now Kitai and Cypher are the only two humans left alive. To make matters worse the spacecraft was carrying a captured URSA that was being transported with them to the training facility to be used in “Ghost” exercises. With Cypher injured beyond help at this point, Kitai must make a journey of over 50 miles, amidst the horrors of the planet and avoiding the merciless URSA in order to get to the emergency beacon in a separated part of the downed craft. Now he has to overcome his own fears and bond with the one man that he has idolized from afar for so many years in order to survive the planet that they once spurned.
“After Earth” is not a horrible movie as Rottentomatoes would have you believe. It is MOST definitely a flawed movie, but it’s still a decently entertaining sci-fi flick that has one major major flaw…..Jayden Smith. It’s obvious what happened here. The rumors, the behind the scenes dealings, the blatant pushing of his son into the limelight. Will Smith is trying HARD to get Jayden to become the next major successful child actor. He brought him into films in “The Day the Earth Stood Still” and got him the lead role in the “Karate Kid” remake, but this time it’s a tailor made suit for Jayden. Will wrote the screenplay and got M. Night Shyamalan to be a “yes man” director who he could control and pretty much put Jayden in the driver’s seat for this film. The problem is that while Will is an incredibly charismatic actor, his son Jayden, is nowhere near that level of skill or intensity. While will can pull off both dramatic and action roles with great aplomb, Jayden comes across as stilted and a whiny little baby. No matter the role he’s in I just hope for a tree to fall on him just so he can stop WHINING!
The story itself actually has a lot of potential (the whole movie just screams missed potential) and M. Night Shyamalan does his best to work with the tools at his disposal. The aliens and their war with the “ghosts” is mainly glossed over, but the rest of the story is a pretty well done father/son bonding adventure. The action is done well and while Jayden’s severe lack of acting skills hampers the movie greatly, the ending battle with the URSA is the highlight of the film and for ONCE you don’t want Kitai to fail miserably. Now I don’t blame “After Earth” for dive bombing at the theater on M. Night Shyamalan himself for this one, I actually put a lot of the blame on Will Smith’s shoulders for getting WAY too involved with his son’s career and trying to tailor make a movie that would serve as a vehicle for Jayden’s acting career rather than trying to make a good movie from the start. M. Night is caught in the middle and does the best he can with the tools at his disposal (albeit some of the plot contrivances could have been handled better with a different director in my opinion).
Rated PG-13 for sci-fi action violence and some disturbing images
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=12905[/img]I knew that Sony has some great encodes, and in the past they have been stellar, but this one just takes the cake. Absolutely impeccable from beginning to end. Shot digitally, “After Earth” is about as pristine and clean a picture as one could hope for with some of the most BEAUTIFUL landscape shots I have ever seen. Being that 95% of the film takes place in the outside wilds of Earth you are privy to a ton of pristine and sweeping countryside shots, ranging from snow covered wastelands to the lush green forests and even a lava filled volcanic mountain. The detail is absolutely breathtaking. I was marveling at the picture and thinking that the detail was about as good as I’ve ever seen it only to be taken by surprise in a scene where Kitai passes out from the cold and you can see the individual ice crystals forming and bursting on his face. While you can fault MKS for a lot of his directing choices you can’t fault him for the incredible use of CGI that he employs in his films. Stunningly realistic and seamless it blends with live action shots so well that most of the time it’s hard to see where reality ends and CGI picks up the slack. Colors are lush and saturate the whole film with rich blues, greens and browns with aplomb. Blacks are right on target with deeeeeeep inky levels that never have greying issues or obscure fine detail with black crush. Just a fantastic transfer that I can’t help but marvel at.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=12906[/img]Right on par with the video, the audio is a dynamic track that fits the film to a T. The film starts out with a bang, lighting up the entire soundstage with a wildly immersive flash forward scene. The surrounds explode into action and the LFE lights up the low end with some impressive roar. Then the track softens as the drama starts and rises back to a thunderous crescendo when Kitai starts out on his adventure across earth. The dialogue is crystal clear and fits in the front channel with ease, while still keeping room for a wide dynamic range that includes the soft whisper of the wind around Katai’s face to the deep guttural roar of the Ursa as it battles its prey. The beautiful ambience of the forest is replicated with stunning clarity, the cackle of birds, the rush of the river and the crack of branches all are crystal clear with some fantastic directionality. The LFE channel is used quite well, always there, but never getting bloated or over the top. Beautifully balanced and dazzling in its range, “After Earth’s” 5.1 DTS-HD MA track is definitely one to test out the surround system with, for sure.
• A Father's Legacy
• Alternate Opening
• Building a World
• Pre-Visualizing the Future
• The Animatics of "After Earth"
• 1000 Years in 300 Seconds
• The Nature of the Future
• XPrize After Earth Challenge
Now “After Earth” is a movie I have a hard time recommending, and a hard time panning at the same time. The potential for a nice solid Sci-fi flick was there in spades and we even had the wildly charismatic Will Smith at the help. The problem lies with the blatant Hollywood nepotism that allowed Jaden Smith to be pushed HARD as the front and center star. It went so far as Will Smith hiring M. Night Shyamalan as a yes man director and used this film as a vehicle to push his son to stardom. The problem is that Jayden CAN NOT ACT to save his life. The film teeters on being really good at times, but Jayden’s presence as the lead severely impacts the quality of the film. However it’s not a bad film at all and certainly not deserving of the incredible amount of hate this film saw in the ratings boards, and the impeccable audio/video score is definitely an appeal. The best I can say is rent the film, for it may be one you need to see before making up your mind.
Starring: Jaden Smith, Will Smith
Directed by: M. Night Shyamalan
Written by: Will Smith
Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1 AVC
Audio: English: DTS-HD MA 5.1, French DTS-HD MA 5.1, Spanish DD 5.1
Studio: Sony Pictures
Blu-Ray Release Date: Oct 8th, 2013
Buy After Earth Blu-ray on Amazon
Recommendation: Rent It
More about Mike