After Earth

Movie Review: After Earth

After EarthReel Rating: 4 out of 5 Reels
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for sci-fi action violence and some disturbing images
Released in Theaters: May 31, 2013
Genre: Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi
Runtime: 100 minutes
Directed by: M. Night Shyamalan
Cast: Jaden Smith, Will Smith, Sophie Okonedo, Zoe Isabella Kravitz, Glenn Morshower
Official Site: “After Earth

Director M. Night Shyamalan has not fared well at the box office lately. Well, since 2002’s “Signs,” which landed $228 million at the U.S. box office, and before that, 1999’s “The Sixth Sense,” which scored $294M. Those are not bad numbers.

Then there was 2004’s “The Village” (an acceptable $114M), 2006’s “Lady in the Water” ($42.3M), 2008’s “The Happening” ($64.5M), 2010’s “The Last Airbender” ($132M), and 2010’s “Devil” ($33.6M). So, you can see that the numbers have been trending down, and I was hoping “After Earth” would reverse that trend, because I do think Shyamalan is a good storyteller. Things aren’t looking good, though, since the movie’s opening weekend scored only $27.5M, coming in third after “Fast & Furious 6” and “Now You See Me.”

But I hope those numbers don’t dissuade fans of sci-fi thrillers or Will and Jaden Smith from seeing “After Earth,” because it’s a compelling story, and a good performance by Jaden Smith. With his A-List family creds and leading roles in both this movie and 2010’s “The Karate Kid” (he also starred with his dad in 2006’s “The Pursuit of Happyness”), Jaden is poised to become a big star, and I can’t wait to see where he goes from here.

The story takes place a thousand years in the future, and the humans have all been driven off of Earth and now reside on a distant planet. (And by the way, why is Earth always uninhabitable at some point in the distant future? It doesn’t say much for humankind, does it?!).

While on a space mission, Young Kitai (Jaden Smith) and his stern military-leader dad Cypher (Will Smith) are the only survivors when their spaceship crash-lands on Earth. With both of Cypher’s legs broken, Kitai must embark on a journey across a scary landscape rife with scary creatures to find a distress beacon that can save their lives (it’s in the other half of the spaceship, which is several days’ walk away).

Cypher is guiding Kitai via remote technology, but communications are cut off along the way, leaving the boy to make his way alone through dangerous territory. He’s burdened with memories of not being able to save his sister Senshi (Zoe Kravitz) from an alien creature back on their home planet, and he’s also somewhat estranged from his strict, emotionless dad, who’s often away from home on long tours of duty, leaving his wife Faia (Sophie Okonedo) to raise the kids. So the journey is not only a physical journey, it’s also an emotional one for both father and son.

After Earth

“After Earth” has some great special effects (the crash-landing is especially harrowing), and parts of it were filmed in locales like Northern California and Costa Rica, which is absolutely stunning with its lush forests and landscapes. Will Smith is convincing as a stern dad, and while Jaden has a few weak spots in his performance, including an odd accent here and there, he carries the bulk of the action admirably. I can easily see him becoming a big action star, but can also envision him doing other genres, as well.

The father-son bonding story is somewhat predictable; you pretty much know where it’s headed from the beginning, but it’s a lot of fun watching them get there. I love that this family, even though they’ve had their issues, is still strong and caring. There are some intense moments when things look dire for Kitai on his journey — he’s pursued by a scary alien creature, not to mention large birds and other animals — but he learns a few things about fear that both kids and adults can appreciate.

“Danger is very real, but fear is a choice,” his dad tells him. Kitai is able to take his dad’s message and use it when the going gets tough. There’s also a really sweet scene where Kitai is “paid back” for a kind gesture on his part.

Overall, “After Earth” is a solid sci-fi movie with thrilling action, awesome special effects, and strong messages about family that kids 12 and older will enjoy. Don’t let the less than stellar reviews or box office numbers dissuade you from seeing this movie.


Sex/Nudity: A husband and wife show affection and kiss in flashback scenes.

Violence/Gore: The crash-landing is perilous, causing most of the crew to perish. A few scenes show blood, including when Cypher must operate on his own leg. Kitai is bitten by a bug that causes paralysis and must inject himself with drugs to survive. Baby eagles die after they’re attacked by a creature. Human victims of the alien monster are shown impaled on tree branches. In flashbacks, Kitai’s sister is killed by a scary alien.

Profanity: Fairly mild, including “damn,” “oh God,” and “this sucks.”

Drugs/Alcohol: As mentioned, Kitai must inject himself with drugs to survive a bug bite. Cypher nearly takes pain killers after both legs are broken, but decides against it in case Kitai needs him.

Which Kids Will Like It? Kids 12 and older who like Will Smith or Jaden Smith, or who like sci-fi action thrillers.

Will Parents Like It? It’s a thrilling tale, and a good father-son bonding story.

One Reel – Even the Force can’t save it.
Two Reels – Coulda been a contender
Three Reels – Something to talk about.
Four Reels – You want the truth? Great flick!
Five Reels – Wow! The stuff dreams are made of.


3 responses to “Movie Review: After Earth”

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  2. paula Avatar

    I have to disagree. This movie was slow and insipid, downright boring.nothing happens for the first 30 minutes. Will Smith is confined to a sitting position – he breaks both legs in a crash – for the duration of the film. All rests on Jaden Smith’s shoulders and although he’s a pleasing presence he’s not up to the task. It’s entirely a vanity production. A few exciting things happen but once they do – after a long, slow slog – the movie is over. This movie is dead in the water. Stars should thing hard before pushing their kids in front of cameras.

    1. Jane Boursaw Avatar

      Tell us how you really feel, Paula. 🙂

      True, it wasn’t a high-action thriller, but I liked the father-son story and thought Jaden did ok. Especially loved the scene where he jumped off the cliff. And the locations are so lush.

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