She Said, She Said: Review of M. Night Shyamalan’s ‘After Earth’
With Emily Reubush and Reem Shaddad.
Warning: This review may contain spoilers… we are honestly not sure.
Emily Reubush: Reem! Reem, are you theeeere?
Reem Shaddad: ARGH! MY BODY SUIT IS BROKEN! WHAT WILL I DO NOW? Wait, I’m going to prove myself to you, Emily. I’m going to continue this conversation, imagining what you might say. I’m going to make you proud.
ER: We’ve… we’ve crahsh lahnded in some hhorriffic wohld. A wohld where the CGI is noht at all believable and everyone tahlks with a really odd accent – but none of our wohrds have changed at all!
RS: So, dear readers, as you may have figured out, Emily and I sacrificed our time, eyes and general wellbeing to review the new M. Night Shyamalan… masterpiece… ‘After Earth’. It stars Will Smith as a super-general who has taken his son (played by his son Jaden) on a work trip to reconnect. A meteor storm later, they’re the only survivors of a crash on an alien planet.
And yes, what on EARTH (excuse the pun) where those accents about?
ER: Maybe all of Earth’s survivors came from Saffa and Kiwi lineage.
RS: I think our South African and New Zealand readers may take offence at that.
ER: THEY have awesome accents. After-Earthlings do not… but the closest I can come to describing it is a mix of the two. It was one of the little OH-MY-GOODNESS-HOW-IN-MY-FACE-DO-YOU-HAVE-TO-BE things intended to move the story along, in this instance indicating that we’re no longer living on our home world. Because we destroyed it… with a montage of grainy news footage, apparently.
RS: That was the best part of the film. Then it started looking like a we were in a video game. ‘After Earth’ would make a great video game.
ER: I’d play it. I’d be the Ursa – a horrible beast that is named ‘ursa’ despite it being the polar opposite of a bear.
Haha… polar… bear.
RS: The Ursas – massive alien creatures sent to the new planet we humans inhabited after bleeding Earth dry of all its goodness – were actually pretty cool. A cross-breed of ‘Hellboy’’s reanimated demon Sammael and ‘LOTR’’s Sheba.
ER: Yes. Couldn’t agree more.
RS: You have no idea who or what I’m talking about, do you?
ER: Speaking of polar, most of the Earth – which the film goes through great, musically supported pains to show – is super-lush, teeming with life… and freezes every night. The science in this film is more likely to kill you than an Ursa, so Katai (the little Smithling) has to make it to little areas of warmth every night on his journey to retrieve an emergency beacon 100 kilometres away from where they’ve crashed.
RS: The film was produced by Jada Pinkett Smith, Will’s wife, which explains why an actor with skills as undeveloped as Jaden’s was cast as the unlikely hero, while Papa Smith lay snoozing with a broken femur for the duration. This is what happens when you misspell ‘happiness’. You are punished.
ER: Oh oh oh! I love the broken femur bit. So the first emergency beacon – you know, something built to survive a crash – broke in the crash, but all the computers in the bit of the ship that Cypher Raige (Will Smith) is in still function perfectly, so he can communicate with his son (via impossible camera angles, since all of Katai’s cameras are sewn into his clothes), and also be told he has a horribly broken leg and immediately needs an arterial shunt… but manages somehow not to die immediately. Again… I refer you to science.
RS: I am totally comfortable with the fact that Will Smith is always cast as someone unbreakable. Besides, his DIY attempt at a shunt was a FAR more believable medical adventure than, say, a recent prequel where a certain alien-impregnated character received, via genius machine, what would usually be an eight-hour surgical procedure, only to sit up and spend the rest of the film running around like a track athlete cough ‘Prometheus’ cough.
So yeah, mo’ shunt, mo’ problems. At least it was vaguely more realistic.
ER: Um… riiiiiiiight. But that might have been the most realistic part of the film – in that people do indeed have legs and femurs and arteries, and if they break, that sucks. ‘Suck’, by the way, is a word that has survived 1,000 years on another planet.
But Reem, I’m beginning to think that we’re looking at this all wrong. It’s a perfectly crafted film, it’s all laid out right in front of us. Cypher Raige is a man who has mastered the ability to not feel fear. Cypher = a code, Raige = um… sounds like being angry… and anger is born from fear (thank you, Master Yoda) – EVEN THE NAME IS SCREAMING MEANING AT YOU. Little Katai needs more than just an unforgiving landscape and animals who want to kill him to move his 100-km trek to a volcano along, so he has to hide from a deep freeze every night, and he only has a limited supply of meds that he has to have to breathe… because Earth, you know, doesn’t have breathable air… apparently.
I think we’re just missing out on all the amazingness of the film. Apparently so did the quarter of the audience who walked out during our showing.
RS: There’s actually a list of things I did find amazing during the film:
a) Zoe Kravitz, who is now beautiful and apparently can act. Better than Jaden Smith, anyway.
ER: Aww, poor Jaden. He wasn’t nearly the worst part.
RS: b) The soundtrack (well, it wasn’t awful), which was composed by James Newton Howard, Shyamalan’s long-time musical collaborator and multi-award winning composer for films such as ‘The Dark Knight’. Which was WAY better than this.
c) The body suit! I’d like one of those.
ER: d) We got to eat nachos before noon.
ER: So let’s wrap it up: yea, nay or meh?
RS: It’s a definite NAY from me. The script was … was there even a script? Sophie Okonedo was criminally under/mis-used/cast; the CGI work on the wildlife/landscapes on Earth felt like a Disney animation from 1983… it didn’t gel in any way or form.
ER: At least the ship breaking up into a billion tiny pieces and being strewn over such a large area gives us a perfect metaphor for the number and sizes of holes in the plot. There’s such a thing as good bad, but this isn’t it. An Earth-sized NAY from me as well. If you want to hit the movies this weekend, see Chris Wedge’s ‘Epic’ (which is good good) or, better yet, Sam French’s ‘Buzkashi Boys’ at the Museum of Islamic Art (once you’re done reading and ‘liking’ this, jump over to our events page to find more details).
RS: Nice plug!
RS: However, if you don’t mind a lot of nay-ness in return for a few moments of awesome with the Ursa, then sure, go knock yourself out. And maybe take your PS3 game controller with you.
Over and out!