Movie Reviews
After Earth : Titan AE Meets Bambi Meets The Cosby Show
By Hervé St-Louis
June 14, 2013 - 13:07

Studios: Sony Pictures Entertainment, Relativity Media, Overbrook Entertainment, Blinding Edge Pictures
Writer(s): Stephen Gaghan, Gary Whitta
Starring: Jaden Smith, Will Smith, Sophie Okonedo, Zoë Kravitz
Directed by: M. Night Shyamalan
Produced by: James Lassiter, Caleeb Pinkett, Will Smith, Jada Pinkett Smith
Running Time: 100 minutes
Release Date: May 31, 2013
Rating: PG13 (Parents Strongly Cautioned)
Distributors: Columbia Pictures

In 2000, when Jaden Smith was about two years old, celebrated animation director John Bluth released Titan AE, a coming of age for a young impulsive man estranged from his father who lived in a colony in space that had to fend for itself against aliens wanting to destroy all remnants of the human race. Throughout the movie, Cale Tucker, the young hero had to learn to appreciate the legacy of his father. In After Earth, directed by M. Night Shyamalan, Jaden Smith, in the role of young cadet Kitai Raige has to discover the same, as he struggles to survive with his crippled father, General Cypher Raige (Will Smith).

The movie has been out a few weeks now and reviews have not been kind to it. I just saw it without the benefit of any review and can say it’s a mix bag with one important message.  Titan AE was a rite of passage story about a young man becoming an adult and After Earth shares the same theme. Now both movies failure doesn’t mean that the theme of a son learning from his father is dead. So many other movies, like Star Wars have similar themes. Titan AE, however, had more meat and more stories packed in about as much length then After Earth. The villains were better and the cast was much wider. However, both movies were a bit too ambitious.

I see After Earth in another light than most critics. It is part of a planned series of films to explore a new universe. However, I’m not sure how much chance of sequels happening remains after the flop of the first film. Will Smith figuratively in this film is extending his hand to his son and telling allowing him to fly under his own wings. This is what the movie is really about. It is pure nepotism but the kind of gift any kids would wish for. Your own super hero fad is giving you your own feature film to star in. You may fail at it or never be a star like him, but at least you’ll always have that one credit.

Poor Jaden Smith is no Leonardo DiCaprio or Shia LaBeouf who at the same age were natural actors that captivated audiences. There is but one scene where he shouts at his father and cries where he shows the kind of emotion needed to do succeed in Hollywood. But relentlessly, again figuratively, Will Smith is propping up his son and asking him to rise up to the challenge. Jaden Smith doesn’t even look like a fifteen year-old. He looks younger and definitely less mature.

Will Smith in this film is a real father. Some have suggested that he is setting an example for other black fathers so that they know how to transmit important values to their young sons in this society. There are parallel to Bambi here as Kitai leaves his mother and the academy where he was training, to go learn to be a man with his father. The catalyst to this situation is the death of Kitai’s sister, years ago. The protective older sister died just like Bambi’s mother. It’s up to the General to complete the education his son’s life education. It’s something many American black males don’t often do. Because of that, I see Will Smith’s nepotistic film in a better light. If Jaden Smith is to continue in Hollywood, he needs the strong tutoring of his father. Few fathers of any race have such opportunity in life. Props to Will Smith for producing a film for his entire family the way Bill Cosby did decades ago on television. Will Smith continues a tradition begun by the likes of Bill Cosby in the 1970s portraying strong and positive black characters in electronic media instead of as thugs and lower class Americans.

The computer graphic animation was not very convincing. The Ursa monster felt generic. The large feline predators really looked artificial compared to the tiger in the Life of Pi. The gesture based computing interface was not as innovative as what can be seen in recent movies such as Star Trek. This, coupled with a light plot, made the movie an easy target for critics who have wanted to see Will Smith deliver a turkey for years.

Rating: 7/10

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