When it comes to cinema, I enjoy viewing a film with zero expectations, so I generally avoid watching previews. This was the case with ‘After Earth‘, and as I entered the theater, I knew nothing more than a few simple facts: it starred Will Smith & Son, was set 1000 years in the future, and boasted the tagline ‘Danger is real: fear is a choice’. That little phrase promised a movie embedded with deep metaphorical gems, and as the opening scenes began to roll, I braced myself for a philosophical brain massage. Unfortunately, I remained in that state of limbo for the next hour and a half.
Within the first few minutes, the plot depicted that Humans had traveled to other worlds and encountered alien races, and yet their cities, modes of communication, and medicine were outdated even by today’s standards. To a person who understands exponential growth in technology, those predictive mishaps were just silly, but could have been overlooked were it not for the complete and utter lack of one thing: artificial intelligence. There was never even any hint of robots or artificial beings, autonomous or otherwise, anywhere to be seen.
As the story continued to unravel in a series of cliché, Saturday-morning-cartoon plot lines, I quickly discovered that metaphorical overlay was also vacant. The most powerful concept ever spoken was the same one used in the movie tagline, and even when the time came to explain the ‘rid thyself of fear’ mantra, it didn’t go very deep. Most of the scenes were slow-moving, although the suspenseful musical score suggested otherwise, and when the climax of the film came you could practically predict the scene blow-by-blow. Yet, this all made sense when the end credits rolled – displaying M. Night Shaymalan as the director – and I realized the movie was never intended for adults.
With that in mind, I will say that it is a decent film for kids. The family ties and basic moral lessons taught are atypical of a young hero’s journey, complete with cool gadgets and creatures, but unless you have a flock of preteens begging you to take them to see it, I would recommend saving your money. I guarantee you’ll be able to catch it on a cable family channel within the year.