Hu­mour­less sci-fi yawn

The Gold Coast Bulletin - Play Magazine - - MOVIES -

HE flash­ing ‘‘may cause ex­treme drowsi­ness’’ warn­ing on a pain killer Will Smith takes af­ter break­ing both his legs in his new movie, Af­ter Earth, is a cau­tion that ap­plies equally to the film.

Af­ter Earth is ba­si­cally Smith and his real-life son, Jaden, talk­ing their au­di­ence to death for 90 min­utes be­fore the cred­its roll. Thank heav­ens Smith’s long­time en­ablers at Sony en­cour­aged him to whit­tle this hu­mour­less sci-fi epic down from a much longer movie.

The back story in the open­ing nar­ra­tion – Earth’s evac­u­a­tion fol­low­ing a vague en­vi­ron­men­tal catas­tro­phe – is boiled down to a cou­ple of sen­tences.

A thou­sand years later, Smith is Cypher, a gen­eral in the United Ranger Corps, the mil­i­tary arm of the for­mer Earth­lings who have set­tled on a dis­tant planet and pro­duced dull descen­dants.

On the verge of re­tire­ment, Cypher de­cides to take his 14-year-old son, Ki­tai, along on his last mis­sion. The two have a frosty re­la­tion­ship, we’re told, be­cause Ki­tai blames his fre­quently ab­sent fa­ther for his sis­ter’s death.

A me­teor shower forces their space­craft to crash land on Earth, where Cypher and son are the only sur­vivors in a hos­tile en­vi­ron­ment.

‘‘Do ex­actly as I tell you and we will sur­vive!’’ the dis­abled Cypher barks at Ki­tai in an or­der that would prob­a­bly sound bet­ter de­liv­ered as a rap lyric.

Most of the film con­sists of Ki­tai trav­el­ling kilo­me­tres on foot to re­cover a res­cue bea­con, and then, even less in­ter­est­ingly, try­ing to find the in­ter­galac­tic equal of a phone sig­nal. There are two ac­tion se­quences – a brief pur­suit by what look like de­ranged orang­utans and a cli­mac­tic bat­tle with a badly ex­e­cuted spe­cial ef­fect sup­posed to rep­re­sent a deadly ex­trater­res­trial.

Eleven years and sev­eral pro­gres­sively more dread­ful movies af­ter Signs, di­rec­tor M. Night Shya­malan would be lucky to get a gig di­rect­ing traf­fic. His work on this re­ported $150 mil­lion van­ity pro­ject man­ages to gen­er­ate no sus­pense or ex­cite­ment. Only yawns.

Will Smith, who co-pro­duced with as­sorted fam­ily mem­bers, also con­trib­uted the vaguely L. Ron Hub­bard-ish story, for what is laugh­ably de­scribed in the press notes as a ‘‘fran­chise’’. The erst­while box-of­fice king, who ap­pears to be suf­fer­ing from delu­sions of grandeur in re­cent years, re­ally should stick to his day job.

Sep­a­rat­ing fa­ther and son for most of the film lim­its the dra­matic pos­si­bil­i­ties. What’s more, while Jaden Smith pulled off the re­make of The Karate Kid, he’s not quite a good enough ac­tor (or suf­fi­ciently charis­matic) to hold the screen by him­self in scene af­ter scene.

We’re left to pon­der how Earth re­mains so green and leafy when the tem­per­a­tures drop be­low freez­ing ev­ery night or why all that plant life can’t sup­ply enough oxy­gen for Ki­tai’s im­per­iled sup­ply of in­halers.

He is able to re­ceive Dad’s over­bear­ing self-help lec­tures via a com­mu­ni­ca­tion de­vice which, like all the 31st-cen­tury tech­nol­ogy on view here, is sur­pris­ingly more frag­ile than any­thing you’d find in stores to­day.

‘‘Fear is not real, it is a pro­duc­tion of your imag­i­na­tion. Dan­ger is very real but fear is a choice,’’ Cypher tells Ki­tai. And so is avoid­ing the crash­ing bore that is Af­ter Earth.

– LOU LU­MENICK, The New York Post

Af­ter Earth opens on June 13, with ad­vance screen­ings on Sun­day.

Will Smith and So­phie Okonedo in a scene from Af­ter Earth

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.