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After Earth – review – minor spoilers

So, I know that this movie got horrific reviews, but I think it’s more a matter of false expectations from bad marketing, than a movie that’s actually bad. The few commercials I saw made it seem like a Will Smith scifi action flick and oh yeah, his kid’s in it too. Um, no. It’s a Jaden Smith scifi action flick and oh yeah, his dad’s in it, too. If they had marketed this movie in truth, it would have been seen as a coming-of-age movie in a scifi universe and the teen age boys would’ve been lined up around the block to see it, imo.

There’s another expectation that I want to talk about here, and that’s about M. Night Shyamalan. When he first came onto the scene, everyone was all, “ooooh!” because he did a great movie with a twist on the ending. But if you look at his credits, half of his movies are about, or for, children. It’s like everyone wants him to recreate The Sixth Sense, but you know what? He can’t. No one can because it’s been done now. I wish people would stop holding him up to past movies – at least ones that far back – and judge him on his current movies. And lest you think I’m a blind fan, I’m still aghast at the ending of The Happening and not all that sold on The Village.

Anyhoo. After Earth. This movie isn’t going to win any awards, but I still think it’s worth seeing. The FX are pretty standard – cool ships, cool space travel, and nifty colony set-up. I think the alien attack dog (we don’t actually see the aliens, just their evil killing monsters) was pretty nifty. Probably the coolest FX in the joint.

The story’s pretty good, but not outstanding. I haven’t read the novels, so I don’t know how good/bad a job they did in that respect, but they did a decent job with the “family torn by a death” and a dad who had no idea how to talk to a son who is both angry with him and idolizes him.

I liked the obvious bond between father and son and how it came through in the movie, but I think it’s cheating to have an actual father and son in those roles. They didn’t have to work for it and that came through to me in both good and bad ways. Honestly, I think the occasionally stilted performances came more from being forced to use a quasi-English accent than bad acting. Man, I want to slap whoever made that decision, even if it was Will himself. (Sorry, man.) It’s like they (Hollywood in general) think we won’t believe a scifi movie’s any good with American accents or something. (Superhero movies don’t count, they aren’t scifi like After Earth is scifi)

I will say that it earns the PG13 rating due to the violence. It’s not gratuitous or anything, but it’s definitely there. Know how your (pre)teen will react to animal deaths and dead humans bloody and spiked on tree limbs before letting him/her see it.

So yeah. A solid, scifi movie with a nice coming-of-age story at its center. It’s not a must-see for the theater like some scifi action movies (hello Prometheus, I’m talking to you, big boy), but you’re not going to waste your money if you do go see it in the theater, either.

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About Nancy M. Griffis

Author and screenwriter who loves scifi/action/adventure/urban fantasy genres. I have two published novels, Mind Games and Eternal Investigations, as well as a short story published for charity called "Home Fires Burning." All are available through amazon.com and barnesandnobles.com.

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Nancy at the Tim Burton exhibit in L.A.

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