Tuesday, June 25, 2013

D.S. Brown - After Earth - Do Will and Jaden Smith Suck?

My wife will tell you, I'm a big man with a big heart and big desire to help, lead when necessary, and follow when required.  I use my strength to uplift and defend as best as I can.  I'm a man.  But ... when it comes to certain twists in drama, plot details, the heart tugging emotional moment on film, I'm a big softy.  I mean I shed tears.   There, I said it, I shed tears when watching the screen.  And I did shed a couple of tears for Will and Jaden Smith's new movie After Earth.

No, I wasn't crying because the movie was terrible.

Let's be clear on one very salient point when it comes to entertainment.  Critics don't know shit.  There, I said that too. And if you allow a critic to dictate how you entertain yourself I am perfectly willing to bet $1000 that as an average citizen 9 times out of 10  you will disappointed.

After Earth was not a complicated galaxy spanning tale.  It was not a story about alien invasion. It was not a story about complex societal structures, intricate government conspiracies, or high drama.  It was not a sci-fi special effects feast for the eyes.  It was not a Michael Bay screen explosion.

So what is After Earth?

It is a poignant father and son tale about survival.  The sci-fi in the setting and characterization only serve as the ground on which the story rests.  The future of humanity is one of scientific advancement and a constant fight for survival.  It is a testament to the indomitable will of the human spirit, with a core message being fear is not a function of human nature beyond our control.  Fear is a choice.

A very noble message and many have tied it to Scientology.  I say drop all the conjecture and just enjoy the film.

There are some things one might question about the plot, like the aliens, and their smelling of fear, and why not just wipe us out, and why can't we fight more effectively, and why don't we use blasters instead of a damn retractable multi-stick tool.  There are always questions, but in sci-fi fantasy the purpose is to entertain through the fantastical suspension of disbelief.  The premise need not be so logical.  Enfolding the fantastical in drama and complex morality can be an added benefit for the film, when done right.

In After Earth we find a stoic and rigid Will Smith as legendary General Cypher Raige, a young Jaden Smith who is simplistic but honest plays his son Kitai.  There is pain and loss in the story, a conflict that creates a family drama that works.  It's not too difficult to understand and embrace.  And it tugs at the heart. 

Director M. Night Shyamalan did not bring us a failure in After Earth.  He brought us a father and son tale of emotional distance forged in the heart of war, closed and mended in a life or death fight for survival on a hostile planet called Earth.  In the end, we see the love between father and son, and the respect created between them. 

I enjoyed After Earth.  My disbelief was sufficiently suspended, and I had fun.  And yes, I shed a tear.  To me, the story works.  I recommend After Earth.  Go see Mr. Fourth of July and his son.  You won't be dissapointed.

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