As of writing this piece, the date is 11th July 2013. On 7th June 2013, Will Smith‘s current star vehicle, After Earth, opened in the UK. We are 5 weeks down the line. Some films have come and gone in that time – Michael Shannon’s The Iceman and Dwayne Johnson’s Snitch to name two – but After Earth is still showing. In a summer period that is currently offering Man of Steel, World War Z and This Is the End, that isn’t something to be sniffed at.
A two star review in Empire Magazine, 11% rotten on the Flixster/ Rotten Tomatoes app/ website and an imdb.com user rating of 4.9 from over 30,000 users surely says it all about M. Night Shyamalan‘s latest offering. What heightened my curiosity was how can a film that has been universally panned still be taking money 5 weeks later? I have to admit, based on the dearth of poor reviews, I’d decided that missing After Earth wasn’t going to be the end of the world. Yet here I am, attempting to make sense of it after watching it at my local cinema last night. Let’s not kid ourselves; as far as Hollywood is concerned, it’s all about the money. That’s why we still get the likes of Scary Movie 4 or any number of Eddie Murphy “comedies”! So the Sony/ Colombia execs must be heaving a collective sign of relief to see a near $200m worldwide return on their estimated $130m investment numbers from boxofficemojo.com). One can suppose that leaving a poorly reviewed film “out there” to try an eke as much out of its dead-on-arrival opening is one way of looking at it. But I’ve seen plenty of tent-pole releases that are quickly pulled from theatres and have sunk without trace. On glancing around last night, I would estimate around 30 people were in attendance. Once again, not bad for a poorly reviewed film in its 5th week of release.
Now let’s get down to brass tacks. Is After Earth as bad as the reviews suggest? Well we’re nowhere near the “how bad is Movie 43?” arena! First thing to say is that I’m not convinced about the acting prowess of Jaden Smith. He’s OK, but nothing more than that. And also, the emotionally constipated character Will Smith plays seems somewhat two-dimensional. It’s clearly a Smith & Smith vehicle – not surprising since Will Smith has a story credit. Smith junior is the one with more screen time, which makes you think this is a blatant attempt at using his father’s caché to push his career along. Or am I just being cynical? Don’t get me wrong, I like Will Smith; even the likes of I Am Legend and I, Robot, although I will admit to giving MiB II & III a body-swerve. I even enjoyed Jaden’s Karate Kid remake, but that may be due to the legend that is Jackie Chan. I’m not really doing After Earth many favours am I? As I write, it seems to me that I’m being quite negative about it. It also occurs to me that some of the bad press could be down to the negativity shown towards Shyamalan after his two previous efforts, The Happening and The Last Airbender flopped. I will admit to not seeing the former, but I did attempt to view the latter and had to switch off. It. Was. Bad. But I have to say that After Earth is OK. I quite enjoyed it. I liked the premise. I liked what they did with Earth 1000 years from now. I don’t actually feel that it’s as bad as you think it is. Perhaps I was pleasantly surprised by this and so am being kinder in my assessment. I’ve sat through worse, there’s no doubt about it. So, “Is After Earth really that bad?” No, it really isn’t. It’s worth a watch, but perhaps in the comfort of your own home.