Director M. Night Shyamalan has been living off the accolades he earned more than a dozen years ago with "The Sixth Sense" and "Signs." His latest effort, "After Earth," isn't going to change anything.
Shyamalan's sci-fi tale of a teen, Kitai Raige (Jaden Smith), and his military-minded father, Cypher (Will Smith), who get stranded on Earth 1,000 years after all humans have left for higher intergalactic ground, looks spectacular, but the direction feels like another Ice Age has arrived. And Shyamalan, who wrote the screenplay, has created a story that's rife with cliches, full of contradictions in its literary allusions and loaded with performances that are a half heartbeat stronger than a coma.
The list of problems starts with the father-son relationship. Considering the stars are actually related, they come across on screen as distant. That's because Shyamalan's script calls for daddy Smith's character to be so fearless that a group of monsters who hunt humans by following their fear-induced pheromones can't find him.
Being fearless and being emotionless should be two different things. But the director keeps the daddy Smith's performance so in check that it wouldn't have been a shock at the end to find out he's an android. Younger Smith tries his best, but the lack of anyone with emotions to work against coupled with the pair being separated most of the movie makes any plausible performance impossible.
Inconsistencies abound. Shyamalan introduces the book Moby Dick into the film, but instead of the movie's plot being inspired by the classic piece of literature, the only link is to set up that the human race has gone back to using harpoonlike weapons.
The future world can make spaceships that can travel the stars, but there's a complete lack of good firepower. But, heavy firearms would have ended early the tale of a teen and his monster as they can be killed with a couple of well-placed jabs. An early ending would have been considered a mercy killing.
Any tension is lost in the director's achingly slow pacing. There's an action scene here and there, but the majority of the movie is watching the younger Smith run through the woods. Take in a track meet instead. It will be far more interesting.
All of this turns "After Earth" into just another poorly executed Shyamalan offering. Sooner or later, the audience is going to realize they see a dead career.
Movie review"After Earth," rated PG-13 for violence, disturbing images. Stars Will Smith, Jaden Smith, Sophie Okonedo. Directed by M. Night Shyamalan. Running time: 100 minutes. Grade: D+ Theaters and times for this movie | Other movie reviews
TV and movie critic Rick Bentley can be reached at (559) 441-6355, rbentley@fresnobee. com or @RickBentley1 on Twitter. Read his blog at fresnobeehive.com.