With Father’s day mere days away, what could be more heartwarming than a film starring a real-life father and son playing a father and son. The father is taking his son to work to bond with him, how it would warm the cockles of your heart!
Well not really, the father is an emotionally closed-down supersoldier, and his son is a wannabe supersoldier who – being 14 – is nothing BUT emotion and daddy issues. Taking him to work involves a routine space flight to another planet just days before father’s retirement (no really), during which some science happens and they plucky duo end up the only two stranded survivors on a quarantined Earth, now populated with terrifying beasts like birds, pigs, monkeys and a Cloverfield monster.
With Dad seriously injured, it’s up to the inexperienced son to go on a quest to find the nuclear-powered distress iPod, defeat the boss character and become a man.
I’m fine with this as a premise. They’ve set up the universe the film is set in, they’ve certainly pulled no punches in setting up the two main characters’ personalities and motivation, and everything else was just a side-effect of that.
I think I liked this film because it was trying to tell a story – sure, despite its sci-fi back story it was a fairly standard story about the dynamic between father and son. Will Smith came up with the story (apparently after watching a non sci-fi version of it on TV) and it was left to writers Gary Whitta & a certain M. Night Shyamalan to turn it into a movie.
Shyamalan, famed for this twist endings and occasionally dire movies has been away for a little while, and it seems the critics are still not on his side, panning “After Earth”. It wasn’t as bad as all that. While it might strive for mediocrity, I’ve seen a lot worse this year, and certainly worse from Shyamalan (“The Happening” springs to mind, yak).
Will Smith doesn’t have a lot to do, playing a stone-faced soldier only able to treat his son as a cadet. He spends a large part of the film near-comatose so let’s just tick that box as adequate. Jaden Smith isn’t the worst teen actor I’ve seen, I had to remember he’s still 14. His character is fairly true to the annoying and irrational kid template, which is lucky. His opening scenes had me cringing a little, but he put in a reasonable performance. It’ll be interesting to see if he can act though, as most of the film was pretty dialogue-free.
Yes there were naff moments (the bit with the birds), and a predictable ending, but all said and done I didn’t feel it was 100 minutes poorly spent. It just didn’t do anything to inspire much confidence in Shyamalan’s magic touch or the Smith dynasty’s careers. I did learn that if Jaden’s having a severe allergic reaction, he looks like Nelson Mandela, so that’s something.