Tuesday, 18 June 2013

Movie Review - After Earth

I was most disappointed -- not with this movie, but with the reviews it got. RottenTomatoes should fire its entire crop of critics and get another. M Night Shyamalan's movie got a measly 11% on the Tomatometer, which causes me to seriously question whether people can see a movie as a movie anymore. Many of the comments break the fourth wall (from the audience's side). Does it really matter if Will Smith is trying to promote his son? Or if Shyamalan's last few movies disappointed? Why should such considerations leak into a review of a movie? Nah, if I was RottenTomatoes, I'd fire my entire crop of reviewers. They're cynical, jealous curmudgeons who have so fallen in love with their own opinions that they've forgotten how to appreciate an interesting story well told.

Those who didn't like this movie ought to be made to face the Ursa

I thought this was a very well-made movie. Yes, the storyline follows a vaguely predictable outline, in a seven-basic-plots kind of way. There are shades of all these themes - Overcoming the Monster, The Quest and Rebirth. And yet it would hardly be fair to hold this against the movie. After all, the seven basic plots are so called for a reason. They are to be found in every major literary work, and one can hardly pan them all just because they share certain archetypes.

A good movie does one thing, and does it well. It entertains. If you can sit through an entire movie without feeling bored, it straightaway gets 3.0 stars out of 5. I didn't once get bored during After Earth.

Then there's how well a movie can mix and match prior ideas, because let's face it, most of the good ideas have already been taken. Space travel at warp speed? Star Trek's got that. Deadly alien creatures? A dozen movies have that covered. Predators that are blind to prey that don't move/show fear? Jurassic Park. Family dramas? Sons itching to prove themselves to demanding fathers? Flashbacks of tragedies past? We're running out of tissues here.

We've got all that and more here, but well-integrated into a coherent story. That's 3.5 out of 5.

Then there are the new ideas introduced by a movie - the term "ghosting" to mean becoming invisible to a predator, the Ursa's "signature" killing style, a chameleon body suit, the ironic twist about Earth itself being so deadly to humans as to be a Class 1 Quarantined Planet, plus all the breathtaking panoramic scenes - all these push the film into 4.0 territory.

There are a couple of uncredited sources of ideas for this movie, and not too many would have picked up on these.

The Science Fiction movie that this owes the greatest debt to is Starship Troopers, with its Mobile Infantry (the Ranger Corps in After Earth) and their war against the deadly Arachnids (the Ursa in After Earth).

M. Night Shyamalan also seems to have tapped into his Indian heritage for at least one montage - that of the self-sacrificing vulture.

But while this movie was definitely good for one viewing, I wouldn't want to see it a second time. That keeps it from getting 5 stars, but that's OK. In recent times, I have only been able to award 5 stars to one movie, and that's Star Trek - Into Darkness.


Thomas Davis said...

Great review. I think half of the people leaving negative reviews on Meta Critic haven't even seen the movie. It wasn't a perfect film but I enjoyed it.

I reviewed it also: http://wheregeeksgotodie.wordpress.com/2013/06/18/modern-tribal-mythology-my-after-earth-review/

Subbu said...

I finally managed to catch the movie on it's last screening at the local cinema and must say I completely agree with you - and so does my 13 yr old. We rated it a "Good" and a "Definitely worth watching". While the plot is predictable, the treatment is definitely novel. The movie revolves almost exclusively around the very few characters central to the story - you could be forgiven for thinking the cast is restricted to 4! I also liked the fact that the aliens have limited airtime and there aren't the big battles that seem to be de rigueur for a mainstream Hollywood production. Am I glad I ignored the review on IMDB and went with your review instead! Oh and BTW, wouldn't have picked up on the Jatayu bit if it wasn't for your review. Good work, mate!

Ganesh Prasad said...

Glad you liked it, Subbu.