[ A few spoilers but nothing you don’t learn in the first 3 minutes of the movie’s narration. ]
I would like to say that After Earth is a movie worth watching. I’m a huge fan of Will Smith and believe him to be one of the most talented all-round actors in Hollywood, ever. And I think his son Jaden has a bright future in front of him. But that isn’t enough to carry the movie which suffers greatly from amateurish writing. Not surprising since this is Will Smith’s first story.
The story focuses on putting a father and son pair in a specific situation where the father can teach his son about fear. There’s nothing wrong with that, and if done correctly could make a compelling story. However, the entire framework that props up that central message is so maddeningly incomprehensible that it ruins the movie.
You learn the entire back story through narration at the beginning of the movie. Humanity has been evacuated to another planet and then some aliens don’t like it so they drop off these creatures to kill humans. That’s all we ever see from the aliens – ten seconds of a ship hovering and dropping off these creatures. The creatures, called Ursa, are huge, ferocious, and completely blind except they can smell fear. Even with all those disadvantages the creatures supposedly threaten humanity with extinction. The only way to kill them is to be completely free of fear and then use a futuristic sword to chop them up. Of course Will Smith is the guy who is fearless enough to learn how to kill them.
We learn all of that in the first 3 minutes of the movie and I can’t help but think, “So, I suppose they don’t have rocket launchers 1,000 years in the future. Because I wouldn’t be afraid of a T-Rex if I had a rocket launcher. I’m just sayin.” Nope, humanity has advanced to the point that they can travel huge distances across space in a few days, move all of humanity to another planet, build fantastic cities, but they forgot to bring any rocket launchers. Okay???
Some people might think that I’m being nit-picky but I really believe that the universe created by the story teller has to be consistent and believable.
I could go on and point out other inconsistencies and manufactured drama but I think you get my point. There is the seed of a decent story here but it’s planted in a garbage heap.
Note to Will Smith: Please don’t stop writing. You’ll get there eventually. But please find some people who can be critical of your story before it gets released to the wild. It will take much longer to grow as a story teller if you only get feedback from sycophants.