‘After Earth’ disappoints with predictable story, poor effects

Will Smith and Jaden Smith in ‘After Earth.’ Rated PG-13, 100 min. Columbia Pictures, 2013.

“After Earth” is based on a story conceived by Will Smith, presumably intended to help launch his son Jaden to super-stardom. Unfortunately, the film looks more like a made-for-cable-TV movie than the epic hero’s journey it wanted to be.

Director/co-writer M. Night Shyamalan leaves his trademark twists out of this tale, which finds Will Smith’s alien-slaying General Raige and his teenage son Kitai crash-landing on a long-abandoned planet Earth. The father is badly hurt, so it’s up to the son to save them both. It’s a standard coming of age story with an emphasis on facing your fears, but what makes the movie so infuriating are the computer-generated creatures that look weightless instead of threatening. Kitai’s blue-screen challenges come at convenient intervals, but you never believe he’s in any danger.

Jaden tries hard – too hard, probably – to act like he thinks a serious actor should, but he and his father are both hindered by needless and ridiculous faux Australian/South African accents. Shyamalan’s dialogue feels as forced and hollow as his special effects. “After Earth” takes the fun out of what should have been an enjoyable adventure.

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