The Loud Negative Reaction To After Earth

After Earth movie poster

I’ve been taking a look at the summer movies that we’ll be seeing in 2013. When I got to the month of June I began my thoughts about the Will Smith and son/M. Night Shyamalan directed/sci-fi adventure After Earth (technically it was released in the U.S. on May 31, but really what difference does it make).

I didn’t think it looked very good and chalked it up to a potentially lousy movie that I had no interest in, but might have watched a few minutes of it on cable one day, got bored with it and commenced flipping through the channels to see what else was on.

Now after it being released, I suddenly find myself completely transfixed by it. Not because the film suddenly looks pretty decent and I want to see it. It’s because the reviews and reactions to it are so overwhelmingly negative they’ve provided me with consistent amusement to hear and read audiences and critics thoughts on it. Awful movies can actually yield some kind of entertainment. This is a repeat of the Jack and Jill party of reviews from a couple years back.

After Earth is receiving such a dismal reaction that I find it kind of surprising. I figured the film would be bad, but not this bad! I’ve heard it being compared to Battlefield Earth, people calling it a ‘Taking Your Child To Work Day Film’ and a movie that would fit in perfectly for a Mystery Science Theater 3000 roasting.

It’s really amazing how a scathing, well-written review can provide more entertainment than the film it’s tearing apart. I guess Wild Wild West should be thanking After Earth since now it appears to have taken the place of the low-point on Will Smith’s cinematic resume.

Will Smith Jaden Smith After Earth bomb
After Earth the big summer crowd pleaser – NOT!

Admittedly I haven’t seen After Earth – nor do I still have any interest in doing so. Although now hearing how audiences and critics are describing it as such a train wreck I’m getting a little bit curious to witness some of it. Who knows, maybe I’d feel differently and actually like it. I’m sure there are people walking out of the theaters this weekend who did enjoy it. They might be the minority, but they’re out there.

I feel a little glow in my heart seeing After Earth take such a lashing. There are a few reasons. First, when I the saw trailers for it it looked like such a ham-handed attempt for Will Smith to make his son Jaden into a movie star that I immediately found it disgusting.

No one can convince me that after his performance in the Karate Kid remake – and I think he had some small roles in a few other movies – that he was the perfect actor for this part. It was simply because he’s Will Smith’s son that landed him this gig. Everyone knows that. Does anyone think he had to audition against any other famous kids? Seeing that Hollywood nepotism hard at work right in my face in this big-budget summer film made me hope After Earth would fail.

It’s nice to see that no matter how big a star Will Smith might be, no matter how much money they spent making this movie, the fact that he wrote this story specifically for his son, he’s getting the hard reality splashed in his face that he just can’t make audiences become a fan of Jaden and get excited to see him headline a big movie just like Dad.

Parents love their kids and think they’re the greatest things that ever walked the Earth. That’s understandable. But that doesn’t mean everyone else thinks they’re just as special.

Famous people all seem to be under the delusion that they’re offspring are just as talented and destined for stardom as they are. That’s not always necessarily the case. It sometimes simply means these kids have famous parents.

What Happened to M. Night Shyamalan director
Smith and Shyamalan on the set of
After Earth waving their hands
around

Second, After Earth marks another step in the directorial decline of M. Night Shyamalan. Can you believe that he was once compared to Spielberg and Hitchcock and was one of the most popular upcoming directors a little more than a decade ago? That must of been a really exciting time for him.

I find it very interesting that Shyamalan’s involvement in After Earth was so downplayed. Barely any mention of him was used in the promotion of the movie and the ads. His name doesn’t even appear on the poster. That really shows how far he has fallen.

He started out with a bang. The Sixth Sense, Unbreakable and Signs (I’ll give him that one even though I wasn’t that crazy about it). Three flicks that marked the exciting start to this young director.  Then came The Village, Lady in the Water, The Happening and The Last Airbender. It was like watching a big, beautiful red balloon gradually squeaking out air turning into a limp mess.

Now with After Earth, it has really tipped the scale into him being a director who has lost his way and any affection I might have had for him or any hope he would turn things around has completely disappeared. Now I essentially expect nothing from him. Actually that happened a long time ago for me, but After Earth just provides further proof that he is no longer relevant in my moviegoing experiences anymore.

Thinking about it, M. Night should be thanking the studio for not promoting his directing duties on After Earth. I’m betting most of the general audience has no idea it was directed by The Sixth Sense guy. They’re probably walking out the door focusing on the Smith clan for this fiasco. So he’s probably taking less heat from audiences this weekend than if his name was plastered all over the place.

After Earth bomb movie
The two stars of After Earth

After Earth might still make some decent money before the loud word reaches the masses that the consensus is that it’s a stinker. Overseas audiences will probably get drawn into the Smith name and the promise of special effects. However in a few months, After Earth will be pointed to as one of the low points of the summer. And June just began. The summer literally just started!

Will Smith will survive. He’s probably signing up for Men in Black 4 when got back to him about this. Jaden is going to have to deal with a lot of narrow eyes from movie fans for awhile, especially from the ones who read some of the interviews he’s given and heard how arrogant he comes off.

One interview I read said he and his Dad would be like Depp and Burton and DiCaprio and Scorsese who do movies together all the time. Yeah, he sounds awfully humble.

It would probably be best if he disappeared or at the very least stick to small parts in smaller films, get more experience acting and pay his dues. Or at least the Hollywood-child version of paying dues.

I’m thinking he’ll just be surrounded by ‘yes men’ who will gush over him, tell him how popular the film was overseas, how the audience loves him and he’ll be oblivious to the reality of the situation though.

M Night Shyamalan After Earth PremiereNight had better figure out what the heck he’s doing. I suppose he could still enjoy a successful director-for-hire career if worse comes to worse. The Sixth Sense magic will still work on some people who will think, “yeah his last five movies sucked, but once upon a time he made The Sixth Sense“. I’m not sure how much longer that goodwill can get him jobs though. He’s got to do something decent this century at some point doesn’t he?

Maybe he should focus on a getting back to making some smaller, personal stories or maybe change directions and work in TV. Maybe give a SyFy movie a shot and make one of those cheap monster movies for them. Why not? At least the expectations are low enough with them that he can’t mess it up too badly.

I’d certainly be more curious to watch a movie by him about a giant electric eel than any of his recent flicks!

He must be getting awfully tired of making movies that barely anyone likes.

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3 Responses

  1. Anonymous says:

    Saw the trailers for this film, and had no interest in seeing it whatsoever. It's true what some people say; 'In Hollywood, nepotism runs thicker then water' DiCaprio and Scorsese? At least these two did some great films, thankfully Smith Jr. did not mention De Niro and Scorsese.

    As for M. Night sure 'The Sixth Sense' but what of it? Unbreakable was decent, but then he disappeared for me, Signs was an aggravating experience and The Village even more so, Bryce Dallas Howard? Hammy and another 'victim' of nepotism. Sure the Smith's and the Howard's are guilty, but it has produced some good; i.e. Jeff Bridges and Michael Douglas, two phenomenal actors who easily gave their fathers a run for their money.

  2. Anonymous says:

    I enjoyed reading this take on the "After Earth" backlash. I was hoping it would tank as well. The huge egos of everyone involved just put me off. Your suggestions on what M. Night should try next are pretty good, however, there is no way it's going to happen. I am convinced he has more of an ego than all the Smith's combined. And he's probably delusional. I am not sure sure if he has or ever had talent. Maybe he just got lucky and now we are seeing who he really is.

    • Someone was telling me about when The Sixth Sense had just come out and it was all the rage there was a story about M. Night. Supposedly they asked him – 'are you the next Spielberg?' and he quickly said yes. I don't know what the article was from, but if that's true it's apparent he did have quite the ego to make that declaration. I remember reading a really interesting article about the production of Lady in the Water and M. Night came off as a crazed egomaniac. I think it might have been Premiere magazine.

      I saw on IMDB he's attached to some television show to direct, that's the only project I see he's got lined up. I'm very curious to see what happens next for him. Will Smith will shake the stink of After Earth right off after another Men in Black flick rakes in the dough, but M. Night he's going to be struggling and desperately needs to do something that will reestablish some kind of respect again.

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