Brian Henry Martin at the movies

The Stale Prince Of Hot Air

Published Friday, 21 June 2013
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What has happened to Will Smith? He used to be Hollywood's most bankable star, even his dud movies were mega hits. But his latest film After Earth has been savaged by the critics and avoided by the audiences.

For the first time in 20 years, Will is feeling an almighty chill. Has he finally lost his Midas touch?

After Earth was supposed to be a thrilling sci-fi adventure with father and son combo, Will and Jaden Smith kick starting the summer blockbuster season. What could possibly go wrong?

The intergalactic action begins a 1,000 years in the future with humans now living on Nova Prime after cataclysmic events forced Earth to be abandoned.

War weary General Cypher (Will Smith) returns from the frontier, ready to be a dad again to his precocious teenage son, Kitai (Jaden Smith). But when an asteroid storm damages their spaceship, father and son crash-land on a now unfamiliar and dangerous Earth.

Exciting? Not yet. Intriguing? Yes. But there is a major and unexpected flaw, an inexplicably downbeat and dreary performance from Will Smith. Of all actors, the last thing you expect is a monosyllabic and sullen screen presence. Gone is his trademark exuberance, energy and humour; bizarrely replaced with bloodshot eyes, a furrowed brow and robotic delivery.

"Both my legs are broken," Cypher tells his son. "You must retrieve the beacon or we are going to die." As his father lies dying in the cockpit, Kitai must trek across hostile terrain and battle apes, eagles and aliens to save them.

Unfortunately the film from this point on is as fractured as Cypher's legs, as father and son are separated and the paper thin plot falls apart. Action adventure turns into morose mutterings with preposterous lines like: "Fear is not real. It is a product of thoughts you create."

Young Jaden does his best by running around a lot but unfortunately Smith Jr's slim shoulders cannot carry the whole movie.

The dejected Will Smith is forced to inject himself with pain relief. The label warns that the drug could cause extreme drowsiness and impaired vision. One can only imagine that Will was suffering from both when he agreed to film this daft script. But then again, After Earth was his idea. How about my son and I crash land on Earth? Or how about you just both dive bomb at the box office?

But maybe the real culprit here is a director who has become as corny as a crop circle.

M. Night Shyamalan made his reputation with a film were a boy sees dead people. Now, he makes films were the audience feel like dead people. Gone is his sixth sense for unexpected twists and turns in favour of the blinding obvious.

It is sad to see an original movie flop in a summer of sequels, prequels and remakes. But when you spend $130m, give us something fresh (prince). We wait to see if Will Smith is bold enough to bounce back After Earth.

After Earth (Cert 12a) is now on general release.

© UTV News
B. H. Martin
B. H. Martin

Brian Henry Martin is an accomplished documentary filmmaker and UTV's resident film critic, appearing regularly on UTV Live Tonight.

No matter what the film, there's a good chance Brian has seen it.


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