Review: Will and Jaden Smith explore father-son dynamics against a science-fiction adventure backdrop in 'After Earth'
"After Earth" is, all things considered, a fairly small-scale story, and the conscious decision to create such a large world and then focus on two characters almost exclusively feels at first like a mistake. Ultimately, though, the film reveals that its true intent is to create a boy's adventure movie that externalizes the basic stresses and fears of parenthood, and its modest goals turn out to be an asset. This may not be the biggest bang for the buck this summer, but it's lovely to see something that is sincere, thematically focused, and that ultimately works in a way I didn't expect.
M. Night Shyamalan has entered the phase of his career where there is a certain amount of baggage that prevents a percentage of the audience (and the film press) from even remotely approaching a new film by him with an open mind. It's been fascinating to watch the fall from newly-annointed genius in 1999 to openly-reviled punchline in 2013. While he courted a certain amount of that with his Newsweek cover story and his self-commissioned immolation-in-book-form "The Man Who Hears Voices" and his ludicrous "documentary" about the making of "The Village," it is still discouraging to watch people spend weeks warming up for a new film of his by practicing their snark and trotting out their complaints about his prior work. At this point, Sony barely even acknowledged him in the marketing for this film, a clear indication that they were aware of the issue, and even so, I see people piling on already, and I'm baffled.