Thursday, May 30, 2024

Review: Will Smith’s Summer Streak Is Over with “After Earth”: He WAS Legend


UPDATE 3:10PM: Down to 11%. 31 negative. 5 postive. Ouch.

UPDATE 11:40AM: “After Earth” has scored a lowly 13% on

Earlier: The days of Will Smith having a July 4th blockbuster are over. “After Earth” comes After Memorial Day and long before July 4th because it is a dreary mistake– a $200 million mistake. He WAS legend.

In “After Earth,” Will Smith and his real life 14 year old son Jaden fly from their planet to Earth, where their space ship crash lands. Will’s legs are broken so he stays in the ship while Jaden must go on a long journey through a forest to reclaim a piece of their ship. Or something.

Here’s the reality: a 95 minute movie, shot in low light, and in which Will Smith does not smile once the entire time. Smith, known for wise cracks and fun, looks like his face has been cauterized so he can’t move it. You see, he’s the serious father and admiral or general. He is instructing his son in the movie.

But there are big problems. The first is that M. Night Shyamalan has not made a good movie since “Signs.” He’s coasted an entire career on “The Sixth Sense.” Mostly he’s seen dead box office. But he just keeps going. How he landed a $150 million sci fi adventure like “After Earth” will remain one of the burning questions of all time. But I think he knew this was a vanity project from the get go. Not only does Will not emote in any direction, he’s got to deal with Jaden. A nice kid, I am sure, and bright, Jaden simply is not an actor. He sports an odd accent through the movie. He is height challenged. He is humorless.

Then there’s the production: most of “After Earth” looks like a crazy “B” movie. The asteroids look like painted styrofoam, or pieces of rock you buy in a museum gift shop. The Alien who eats Jaden’s sister (Zoe Kravitz) in flashbacks and then runs amok in the forest is from central casting. You’ve seen him before. You can actually imagine him smoking a cigar during breaks, wearing Bally slippers and reading the Racing Form.

Something happened to Will Smith after “The Pursuit of Happyness.” Little Jaden was in that movie, too. After “Pursuit” brought Will an Oscar nomination, he changed. He became self righteous and self important.  “Seven Pounds,”  which followed in 2008, was maybe the worst movie ever. Yes “Men in Black 3” was a big hit. But it was part of a beloved franchise.

Sony can absorb the loss from “After Earth.” But it’s hard to say whether Will can. This movie is so damn dreadful, it’s hard to imagine it having a second weekend. Jaden has been thrown into the tabloid world of the Kardashians and Justin Bieber– he’s dating one, best friend of another. That’s been amped up to fuel this movie’s p.r. It’s a shame. How do you tell a friend his child is not talented? This is how: Will Smith, please send your son Jaden to school and get him out of show business. Smith has made a $200 million vanity sci fi project around and about his 14 year old son Jaden. It’s just not fair to anyone: Jaden or the movie going audience.

Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman began his Showbiz411 column in April 2009 after 10 years with Fox News, where he created the Fox411 column. His movie reviews are carried by Rotten Tomatoes, and he is a member of both the movie and TV branches of the Critics Choice Awards. His articles have appeared in dozens of publications over the years including New York Magazine, where he wrote the Intelligencer column in the mid 90s and covered the OJ Simpson trial, and Fox News (when it wasn't so crazy) where he covered Michael Jackson. He is also the writer and co-producer of "Only the Strong Survive," a selection of the Cannes, Sundance, and Telluride Film festivals, directed by DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus.

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