Shyamalan 8: After Earth (2013)

or, they tried everything to get you to see this film.


We feel the same way Will…

One of the more amusing aspects of Hollywood is observing the enormous disparity between how a star sees themselves and how we see them.  I am convinced that Ben Affleck thinks he is charming; we all know that his appeal comes from his inherent sleaziness.  Johnny Depp believes he is versatile.  Ben Stiller sees himself as funny…  True success only comes once you embrace your inner appeal – see how much more successful Alec Baldwin is since he denied his false heroism and embraced his inner malevolence.

Because being a star is a very specific thing.  It’s absolutely not about having a broad range, it’s about an engagement of presence in scenes even when you are still, and a series of vocal performances and physical actions that charm your audience regardless of the role.  We rely on our stars; they are the reasons we visit the cinema again and again (fuck auterism).  In Tom Cruise we trust…

Will Smith could be one of those people.  He is an almost effortlessly charming actor, and the affection the world has for him – in large part (and I mean this with no derision) for the joy of The Fresh Prince of Bell Air (part of the extraordinary post 6pm BBC2 line up of years gone by… The Simpsons, Buffy, Thunderbirds, the stuff dreams are made of.  Oh, and the genius (and I mean genius, even if I don’t believe in the concept) of Big Willie Style.  Right now, I am convinced there is no greater song in the universe than Miami (deal with it Bohemian Rhapsody and/or Imagine).  Those two things give him a lifetime pass.

But Will Smith, the movie star, is singularly disinterested in exploiting that charm.  Not since Hitch (2006 – Andy Tennant) has Will Smith been fully concerned with engaging the audience with Will Smith.  Since then he has appeared in a stream of tedious, self-important, profoundly dull films.  After Earth is no exception to this.

It is a sad day when an actor’s appearance on a chat show to publicise a film is more engaging than the film itself.

I hated this film.  Hated… to the extent where I started swearing out loud at the screen during the inane final fifteen minutes.  It was a profoundly dull film more concerned with providing endless exposition of a universe with a tedious history.  And if Will Smith is a wilfully charmless performer in this film, Jaden Smith is impotently charmless.  He speaks with the most un-placeable accent I’ve heard on screen since Shia LeBeouf’s cockney/Glaswegian/New York hybrid in Nymphomaniac (2013 – Lars Von Trier).


Shyamalan rankings:


  1. The Village
  2. The Sixth Sense
  3. The Happening
  4. Lady in the Water
  5. Signs
  6. Unbreakable
  7. The Last Airbender
  8. After Earth

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