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Article by Teddy Durgin

'After Earth': Stop This Future World, I Wanna Get Off!

So, I saw the new sci-fi thriller, "After Earth" the other night. Or, as I have been calling it ever since... "The Passion of the Jaden." Oh yeah. This is the latest cinematic collaboration between movie star Will Smith and his sleepy-eyed spawn, Jaden. The former "Fresh Prince of Bel Air" star produced the film and is given story credit here. And, man, does he put his kid through the ringer! The flick is essentially one of those "Most Dangerous Game"-esque survival stories where Jaden's Kitai Raige and his dad, General Cypher Raige, embark on an interstellar mission together. But their spacecraft comes out of hyperspace into a meteor shower and some kind of asteroid collision. With their ship disintegrating, they are forced to crash land on a future Earth that mankind deserted 1,000 years earlier. Cypher is gravely wounded in the crash, and everyone else onboard not played by an actor with the last name Smith is killed. It falls on Kitai to travel a great distance on foot to the ship's second wreckage site to retrieve and activate a homing beacon so some uniformed extras can come rescue them. Along the way, Jaden will be attacked repeatedly by vicious, wild animals; bitten by a leech-like bug; and nearly paralyzed. He will have to jab a syringe into his heart to keep living. He will be nearly frozen to death by a freak temperature change. He will have to climb at least two tall mountains, jump off another, fly through the air via a super-suit and evade a bird of prey. And if that weren't enough, the script calls for him to affect a truly odd "future" accent AND act opposite a ton of computer-generated critters. His character will also have to deal with daddy issues, of course. And, for good measure, he will be constantly haunted by memories of watching his sister, Senshi (Zoe Kravitz, daughter of Lenny Kravitz and Lisa Bonet) slaughtered by an alien creature when he was 9 while he hid nearby and did nothing. Okay, it seems that if you don't like Jaden Smith, you're labeled a "hater" or "just jealous." Well, I don't hate the kid, and I'm not jealous. The kid had the luck of the genetic draw. The problem is that Jaden Smith is a truly, deeply limited actor. And when you call on him to do this much on screen, it's not good. He's the Tori Spelling of young, African-American actors, and you never really buy him in "After Earth." This movie needed Will Smith to be more of the star, to at least do some of the heavy lifting. But, instead, he is stuck back in the wreckage of the spaceship, playing a rigid and charmless character and also speaking in this weird accent that is never once believable. Seriously, he sounds like Terrence Howard doing bad Sidney Poitier. Even worse, neither he nor Jaden are consistent with the accent throughout. Its just a bad, bad choice. On the positive side, the film makes terrific use of Northern California and Utah locations. Sure, the future Earth looks a heck of lot like the forest moon of Endor. But the Redwoods are still a great and largely untapped movie location and perfect for an overgrown Earth. And for those who wince at the increasingly base content of today's motion pictures, I think it's worth noting that the film contains almost no profanity, no sex and no smoking or drinking. The future Earthlings apparently don't believe in guns either. All this technology, and they choose to fight with spear/sword-like weapons known as "Cutlasses." It's just too bad this isn't all in service of a better film. I didn't hate "After Earth." I just never bought into it. "After Earth," I'm ready for a movie with a real script and real actors.


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