The Sixth Sense was a good film. I know it was, I’ve gone back and checked. Unbreakable wasn’t bad either, and Signs was ok, even if it did get a bit rubbish once the aliens rocked up in the final act. But they must have been cosmic accidents, because quite how M. Night Shyamalan still has a career after pumping out such dross as The Village and The Happening, I’ll never know.
His latest offense against cinema is the Will Smith and son turkey, After Earth. Let’s get the good stuff out of the way, because there really isn’t much to love. It’s quite pretty. There we go. Yep, that’s it. Good location work, nice CGI, interesting low fi take on sci fi tech. Done. Now let’s get on with the roasting, shall we?
Jaden: Son of Will, in the role of Kitai, cannot act. Full Stop. As a young savior of the human race or some such nonsense termed a ‘Ranger,’ his deadly dull delivery and inability to move his face, beyond googling his eyes a bit and straining really hard to furrow his brow, as if an incredibly young devotee of Botox, is laughable.
What’s worse, Jaden has to carry almost the entire film single-handedly, thanks to a crash landing that renders his father, Cypher Raige – no, really – (Mr. Smith) unable to move, yet annoyingly capable of grumbling constantly via a comm link. All while whining about dad being an absentee father and his sister getting chomped by aliens while he cowered in a plant pot. No, also really.
Accents: I swear there was a ‘let’s see who can come up with the stupidest hybrid accent’ challenge on set. Jaden wins hands down with his horrible mangling of Cockney and Deep South. Will comes a close second by barking each of his lines in a dire, drawling monotone. They’re both ear-bleedingly awful, and everyone has to hack up brain cringing dialogue like particularly nasty phlegm too.
Exposition: After randomly starting with the spaceship crash that strands them on a future Earth abandoned after the human race, of course, fecked it up, the film immediately segues into a long, drawn out history dump that tells us all about the rangers and their lack of fear, and the fight against a nasty bunch of insect-like aliens, the Ursa, who cropped up on New Earth and promptly started killing everyone.
Show, don’t tell, please. And then they do the crash again for good measure, after a dreary family sub-plot with Sophie Okonedo that’s so dull it really doesn’t bare mentioning.
Survival: When Kitai heads off to find the tail section of the ship post-crash, which contains the only workable rescue beacon thingy and one of those nasty aliens, his father gives him a lesson on why fear isn’t actually a real thing. Which is complete bollocks, of course, if you have even passing knowledge of survival of the fittest, and why it’s actually hardwired into species.
Oh, and don’t get me started on my mammoth botanical knowledge, which at least tells me that tropical vegetation wouldn’t survive very well if temperatures dropped rapidly below zero every eve. Dumb. Oh, and killer eagles don’t get pally with you just because you tried, and failed, to save their young, methinks.
I could go on, but hell it was too boring to bother. How do you make killer alien monsters and scary wildlife boring? Perhaps Shyamalan really is a filmic genius after all? At least the plants weren’t out to get us this time, I suppose.
Stephen A Russell