M. Night Shyamalan, what else is there to say about this guy?
I'm actually familiar with his earlier films, IE, the good part of his career where it seemed like we had one of next great, coming of age film makers. The Sixth Sense was incredible, Unbreakable was really good, and Signs, being the first movie I've seen by him, is one I'm willing to call a great horror flick.
And then he came out with The Village, which was an incredibly poorly made, boring film with a supposedly clever twist that also had nothing interesting going on before the beginning. And while I remember actually liking Lady in the Water when I first saw it, keep in mind that it has been a really long time since I last saw the movie and, if I saw it now, my reaction to the movie is subject to change. But, suffice it to say, it's one of his movies that has panned the hardest. I haven't seen The Happening or The Last Airbender, but with the consistent reception his movies seem to keep making, nobody has there hopes up for After Earth.
But is After Earth really as bad as you've heard? Well, I'm not sure if I can say.
To be honest, I was never bored throughout the movie and it does seem to hold together well even with its problems that you can go through. So, I'll give this movie a big 'maybe' I suppose.
If it's one thing that did intrigue me about the movie is that it actually plays by video game rules. The movie is about Jaden Smith and his father, Will Smith, getting trapped on a post apocalyptic Earth that has be vacated by civilized life. In order to escape, Jaden Smith takes orders from his father, who has been injured by the crash that lead them to this planet, in order to make it all the way to the end of the level by way of limited resources, a weapon that can change into many different blades, and checkpoints that he has to go through before the planet becomes to cold for some unexplained reason. This may not seem like it can be good story telling for a movie, but I kind of dug it, even if they never really do anything interesting with this whole concept. You can take your average first person shooter, where, throughout the entire game, there's somebody yelling orders at you to where you have to follow them in order to advance the plot, and you'll get a good idea of what this movie is like, except, unlike most of those games, the main character is actually a character, albeit, a very messy character.
The whole movie is kick started by having Jaden Smith narrate this battle that took place with these monsters who hunt their prey by sensing fear. By removing his fear, Will Smith was able to help win this battle. Jaden Smith hopes to live up to his father's legacy, and there's where the plot of this movie comes from. The movie isn't about a battle or what happens on Earth after Earth(even though it's the title of the freakin' movie) but more about a kid who wishes to be as cool as his father. Talk about a squandered concept.
The reason why I referred to the protagonist as being a bit of a mess as a character is because all of the pieces don't come together until the middle of the movie where we find out that he has a tragic history. To which I have to ask "Why did they wait til then to reveal that?" Well, my only guess is that since M. Night Shyamalan has also become a synonym for 'plot twist,' the director has to live up to his reputation of having a twist in every movie he does even if the movie is worse off because of it.
Well, since this is a movie that takes place in a post-apocalyptic setting, the obvious reference I can make has to go to that boring mess that was Oblivion, which might have been smarter(even if pretty dumb in hindsight) but also more boring. So, I'll give After Earth this. At least their's an actual plot. At least there are things that actually happen in the movie. At least it wasn't boring.
And, when it comes down to it, I'll take something that's dumb rather than boring any time.