1) Jaden Smith
I’ve seen two Jaden Smith movies.
In the first, The Persuit of Happyness, he plays the role of “adorable 6-year-old who emotionally manipulates the audience.” Because he was an adorable 6-year-old at the time, he really nailed it.
I have also seen After Earth, in which J. Smith is asked to portray a character with simmering anger, constant beneith-the-surface fear, a love / hate relationship with a distant father figure and a capable, willing solider all at the same time. It’s a hard role for anyone, let along a dude who probably only started liking girls in the last three years.
With that in mind, perhaps I should give Jaden Smith more slack for his terrible performance in After Earth, which is the worst part what is a pretty silly movie to begin with.
On the other hand, he is remarkably bad; from the film’s opening narration, it is obvious that the viewer is not in good hands. As I said before, the role is tough one and, because of the mechanisms of the script, Smith has to act alone for most of the movie, without someone else to play off of. The film asks a kid who has made three movies (none as a semi-adult) to carry its entire plot. Of course he folds like a cheap suit. It’s a performance worth some sympathy, at least until his screaming fit at the film’s midpoint when it becomes obvious that this dude can’t act a lick.
His family is rich, he’ll be fine.
2) After Earth, Ted and How I Hate Everyone
I saw the movie Ted in theaters about two years ago. On opening weekend. In a completely packed theatre.
I decided I hated everyone in the theater when, at a part of the movie when it looks like Ted, the pretend stuffed bear that tells dick jokes, is going to die. Everyone in the theater with me gasped and cooed as if they were sad that Seth McFarlaine’s avatar was going to stop making dick jokes.
I felt a similar hate for the After Earth crowd when a giant bird dies. The giant bird isn’t someone’e pet or anything. It’s in the movie for maybe three minutes Fuck you, audiences of America. Fuck you and your emotions. Have some more guile.
3) People are Dicks for the Wrong Reasons
I’ve read reviews of this movie that pick on some pretty small things, like Will Smith’s charters name, “Cypher Raige” (which is stupid), Smith’s bizarre accent (which is needless) and the loopy, weirdly complex early movie exposition (humans wreck earth, move to a new planet, the residents of the new planet don’t want the humans, the aliens use a second race of aliens to hunt the humans because they are lazy assholes, the second human-hunting aliens can smell fear, Will Smith fears nothing and uses his knife-stick to kill all the second human-hunting aliens).
All that shit is dumb and worth making fun of, but they are all such small parts of a flawed film that it seems like needless bullying to mention them.
What people should really be making fun of is how Will Smith decided that playing a man with no emotions would be a good idea for what is essentially a film about fathers and sons. I don’t mean “no emotions” the way Clint Eastwood plays guys with no emotions, where oceans of pain and hurt lay just below the surface and the laconic is used as a guard against a groundswell of shallowly-buried agony. I mean “yeah, this guy feels nothing and it’s going to be great.”
That said, I thought it was pretty weird that everything in the future is made of canvas, bones and snake skins.
4) I Think Signs is a Pretty Good Movie
M. Night Shyamalan is a pretty good director some of the time.
He’s very good at building tension making normal things seem creepy. He’s good with landscapes and making the environment seem threatening or welcoming depending on the needs of the film. He can’t really write a lick, but he’s not the complete failure that America seems to have decided he is.
Speaking of landscapes, there are a few parts of this movie that legitimately impressed me. Scenes in which Jaden Smith’s character has to face off against a hostile nature planet are uniformly well-shot and compelling, and Smith is fine when he doesn’t have to talk or emote or do anything other than stand there and react to the cool shit Shyamalan is shooting.
5) Important Questions
- Why didn’t Will Smith make an After Earth rap song?
- Men in Black III was way better than it had any right to be, considering how bad Men in Black II was.
- After Earth is kind of a disaster, but it isn’t without its charms. It’s bad, but it no where near as bad as you’ve heard.
Final Rating: One Nate Down