Is After Earth Really THAT Bad?

June 3, 2013 at 10:57 am

Is After Earth Really THAT Bad? | After Earth Review 2013

I woke up this morning and wrote my review for Now You See Me. I saw it on Saturday night with a few friends. Choosing a film that night was a bit of a tough call as it came down to After Earth vs. Now You See Me. Ultimately, we chose the latter and it was disappointing to say the least. The problem is, I think it could have been lose/lose if the reviews for After Earth are any indication.

I almost wrote a post called “5 reasons why I’m skipping After Earth” today.  I had a change of heart when I dug up a post I wrote about a year ago called “After Earth Battle: Will Smith’s Hits vs M. Night’s Flops“.  I decided to find out the answer that question for myself.

Currently, the film has a 12% rating on rotten tomatoes. By my calculations, (read: not a actual statistic) there is an 88% chance After Earth may surprise me…  I’m writing this on the subway. The movie starts in about 30 minutes…

Will After Earth be as bad as critics say?

3 HOURS LATER

Well….. That wasn’t great but it was a lot better than I expected. I read a couple dismal reviews that tore the movie to shreds. Here are a couple quotes:

“From its opening montage to its closing shots, After Earth comes across as an extremely generic effort written by an elementary school student.” (Examiner)

“The characters are emotionally neutered.” (Reel Views)

“After Earth is a wasteland riddled with cinematic trash.” (Hollywood Chicago)

I don’t think it’s a total loss but I would have a better time agreeing with critics if the Tomatometer was around 40-50% instead of 12%.

After Earth is essentially a story about a boy, Kitai, trying to live up to his courageous and respected father, Cypher. It’s 1000 years after humans left the Earth. On their new home, Nova Prime, they are attacked by aliens who use fear smelling…. Alien… dogs to hunt humans down.

It’s a simple setup with a lot of promise but the film quickly morphs into something different.  At first, we are shown a fascinating world but then the movie forgets all that and takes us on a journey elsewhere. After an asteroid accident, we find the Will/Jaden Smith duo stranded on Earth.  (Those damn asteroids have kick started many science fiction stories don’t they?)

His father seriously wounded, the boy must venture into the world humanity left behind, find a beacon and avoid an Alien dog they brought along for the ride.

They don’t mention the aliens who want to exterminate humans again. They don’t delve deeper into why humans abandoned earth in the first place. We really don’t learn anything new once the lengthy, exposition heavy opening ends.

We simply follow Kitai as he dodges bad CG monkeys, birds and other carnivorous beasts like these:

Of course, at the center of the story is a boy trying to free himself from fear and be like his father. A talent known as ghosting. Why? Because it literally makes you invisible to the alien attack dogs… Who are conveniently blind.  I think a lot of people will compare this plot device to the water used in the finale of Signs.

Full disclosure: Signs is one of my favorite movies of all time. It came along at the right time and inspired me. I love that movie.

I did not love After Earth. The movie looks nice, aside from bad creature effects but manages to provide less answers than Prometheus.  Approaching Signs from the minimal perspective of a family on a farm worked. But shrinking such a grand mythology in order to focus on the father/son relationship backfired in my opinion.  I would have rather seen Will Smith in action more and wound him in the third act.  Then let the son rise up and make his father proud.  Of course, that’s my opinion.

What I did like was the tension Shyamalan created throughout the film.  A particularly strong moment occurs when Cypher can see & hear his son but cannot communicate with him. This leads to an emotional moment when he sees his son’s growth for the first time. It’s a great moment.  There just weren’t enough of them to make the film truly memorable. But that doesn’t mean that it’s as horrible as they say.

I think, realistically, After Earth should probably sit around 50% or slightly below. Some people will like it and some people won’t. I think the movie lost 10% because of bad CG. It lost another 15% percent because of the main characters distracting accents. (Something you learn to live with as the movie progresses) I think the final 10-15% is lost due to M. Night Shyamalan’s damaged reputation.

His movies started out amazing and I’m the first to admit I was a massive fan of his early work. I’m also the first to admit that I haven’t really liked a movie he’s made since The Village.  Still, After Earth is the closest I’ve come to liking a Shyamalan film in years. It’s not a come back but he still has a fantastic eye for filmmaking and I hope he matches that talent with a worthy story soon.

Prediction: Shyamalan will announce his return to the supernatural ghost genre soon. Or he will write Unbreakable 2. It will be an effort to remind people what he was once capable of. I’m still interested to see what he does next.

As for Will Smith, who is credited with After Earth’s story, it’s unfortunate that his attempt to do a big budget movie with his own son has seemingly failed. A summer movie starring Will Smith is SUPPOSED to open at #1. I’m willing to give him a pass on this as he did get to make this with his son and he spends most of the movie in a chair pressing buttons.

After Earth will probably be labeled as another Shyamalan flop in the history books but I still think there are people who will connect with the material. I certainly wanted to see more but I expected something a little different. I would still recommend it if you were curious before the reviews came out. You never know which movies will surprise you.  I certainly didn’t see Signs coming.

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To Enjoy ‘Now You See Me’ You Really Have To Look Closely

June 3, 2013 at 8:01 am

To Enjoy 'Now You See Me' You Really Have To Look Closely

SOME MOVIE TWISTS DON’T STICK

In every summer movie season, there are massive franchises that dominate.  This year is no different.  Movie studios have already unleashed Iron Man 3, Star Trek Into Darkness, Fast & Furious 6 and more…  Not too mention Man of Steel, The Wolverine and other big movies yet to arrive.

While the sequels, reboots and remakes command the majority of the attention, there are always underdogs looking to surprise audiences.  It’s hard to call giant blockbusters like Pacific Rim underdogs but they ARE new movies in every sense of the word.  These movies must find an audience amongst the weekly assault of studio tent poles.

Now, movies like Pacific Rim or Elysium will most likely do well because of the sheer amount of ambition shown in their trailersWhat about the smaller movies like Now You See Me?  They have ambition too!

As the summer approached, I was intrigued at the thought of a ‘magical’ caper.  I wasn’t expecting The Prestige but I thought it looked like a potential sleeper hit.  Still, even though I was looking forward to it, I felt like the film had to really deliver to stand out.

Now You See Me is like the shortest kid in class being forced into the back row of a class picture.  You know they are there but you can’t see them.  I’ve seen the film now and I can tell you it’s originality earns itself a place in that photo but it belongs in the back row.

Now You See Me begins with an intriguing premise and a rapidly developed mythology surrounding an ancient organization called The Eye.  Believing they are being recruited into this super secret organization, 4 magicians stage a series of robberies in an effort to impress.  But impress who?

That’s where the film lost me.  Everything was leading to a big reveal that ultimately felt disappointing.  I felt like they cheated by constantly including scenes with the sole purpose of throwing you off course.  These scenes work in some cases but if the twist doesn’t stick, they seem forced.  It comes across like the filmmakers were over confident in their big reveal but in the end, I think they underestimated audiences. 

By the time the story morphed into a revenge tale, they seemed to completely throw the mythology out the window.  The individual behind it all didn’t HAVE to come up with this overly complicated plan to succeed.  The 4 magicians weren’t needed.  As soon as the twist was revealed the movie ended for me and all I could see was a series of plot devices.  One after another built to make you think the movie is smarter than it is.  You could have removed The Eye from the film along with about 30 minutes of time they spent setting it up.  None of it was really needed in the end.

I really wish they followed through with the promises they made in the first act.  Instead you are forced to believe everything you see without question.  If you can do that, this film has a chance to surprise you.  If you can’t, you’ll see right through the illusions.

Movies like Now You See Me risk everything on the big reveal.   The ones that stick become classics like The Prestige.  The ones that don’t become movies like M. Night Shyamalan’s The Happening…  It’s an admirable risk and I certainly don’t feel like I wasted my money.   On the other hand, I do feel like renting this movie a few months from now would have sufficed.

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Screenwriting Sparks on Twitter

June 1, 2013 at 8:55 am

The Screenwriting Spark

50+ FANTASTIC FOLLOWS

So far, I’ve featured The Ultimate Guide to Screenwriting Websites and 25 Inspiring Screenwriting Blogs over at The Screenwriting Spark.  Now it’s time to switch the focus from screenwriting websites to screenwriting resources on Twitter.

Over at The Spark, you’ll find a page devoted to screenwriting on Twitter including a huge list of must follow screenwriters.  Over 50 passionate people tweeting about their screenwriting adventures and providing limitless resources that will surely inspire.

CLICK HERE FOR SCREENWRITING ON TWITTER

Follow The Screenwriting Spark on Twitter @writingspark.  Don’t forget to subscribe for email updates on all the latest sparks.

Discover 25 Inspiring Screenwriting Blogs

May 26, 2013 at 9:39 am

The Screenwriting Spark

SO MANY SCREENWRITING BLOGGERS TO DISCOVER

So far, I’ve highlighted The Ultimate Guide to Screenwriting Websites in this series of posts.  Next up, 25 of the best screenwriting blogs out there.  What I find fascinating about these blogs is the personal touch.  The screenwriting journey is different for us all and reading about different perspectives can definitely put things into perspective.

VISIT THE SCREENWRITING BLOGS HERE.

Check out more great features on The Screenwriting Spark here.  Don’t forget to subscribe for email updates on all the latest sparks.

Fast & Furious 6: Super Summer Blockbuster

May 24, 2013 at 2:16 pm

Fast & Furious 6: Super Summer Blockbuster | Review 2013

CARS, TRUCKS, TANKS, PLANES, CHASES, FIGHTS, EXPLOSIONS & MORE!

I love action movies. Actually I love movies in every genre… But holy crap do I love action movies! 

Fast Five was an entirely new direction for this explosive franchise but it was Rock solid.  They way this franchise has evolved over 6 films is truly remarkable.  But…  I have to tell you…  If they keep raising the bar like they did with Fast & Furious 6, I don’t know if my brain can handle  Fast & Furious 7,8,9, 10 and beyond!

Much like the series itself, this movie begins with a focus on the importance of family.  Before you know it, you’re right in the middle of a tank battle on the streets of Spain.  The action sequences just kept getting bigger and crazier and the film progressed.  It’s pure fun on the big screen.

Now, I’ve praised the film’s action a lot already but Fast 6 is not without it’s flaws.  This franchise has a reputation for giant plot holes and…  ahem…  convenient character moments.  Not too mention cheesy dialogue and awkward humor.  They are all back in the sixth installment…  But this movie recovers from these moments better than any other film in the franchise.

[Spoiler Alert]

For example, the way they handled Letty was a bit of a let down at first.  Memory loss is an awfully convenient story device to get her back on track.  It’s worth an eye roll or two but the filmmakers don’t let her off the hook so easily.

So many movies feature memory loss and all it takes is a good shot to the head and all is well.  I sat back waiting for Letty to fly out of a car, hit her head and remember everything.  That never happened.

Handling her story this way only strengthened the family theme woven throughout this adrenaline filled tale.  You never turn your back on family.

[End of Spoiler]

Sometimes, it’s okay to switch of and hit the gas!

Luke Evans is my favorite villain of the franchise.  He’s a ruthless and calculating foe who is miles ahead of Dominic and his team at all times.  You can’t raise the bar in terms of action without having a villain worthy of such chaos.  Shaw was everything he needed to be.

The team is all back including The Rock (in his 3rd summer movie of 2013) who is truly a part of this family now.  Dominic, Brian, Roman, Tej and the rest of the gang are all in fine form as well.  But these films are all about fast action and this movie delivers more than you can imagine.

Over the last few weeks, I’ve seen G.I Joe Retaliation, Oblivion, Pain & Gain, Iron Man 3 and Star Trek Into Darkness.  Each of these films delivers good action (maybe not G.I Joe) but none of them compare to this if you’re an action junkie.

Fast & Furious 6 is relentless.  The final act is non stop big screen mayhem.  Sometimes, you don’t need a deep story.  Sometimes, it’s okay to switch of and hit the gas!

I’ve always loved BIG action movies.  I’m honestly considering seeing the film second time just to experience that epic final act on the big screen again.  Fast & Furious 6 may not be my favorite film of 2013 thus far but it’s definitely the most fun.  If you love this franchise you don’t need convincing.  If Fast Five didn’t win you back after 2 Fast 2 Furious and Tokyo Drift, I’m willing to bet the sixth installment will.

Fast 6 knows exactly what it should be.  An action movie and it’s a damn good action movie.

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Excited about this summer’s movies?  Check out this preview of 2014’s biggest blockbusters.

PS: The way they set up Fast 7 in the credits literally made a woman in my theater yell: “Holy Sh*t!”  I knew the reveal was coming and I was still surprised.  This franchise is poised to get even bigger!?  Nice!