Will Smith experiences some less-than-stellar box office returns. Was it the script’s fault, the director’s fault, or a certain casting choice?

Genre: Sci-fi
Premise: (from IMDB) A crash landing leaves Kitai Raige and his father Cypher stranded on Earth, 1,000 years after events forced humanity’s escape. With Cypher injured, Kitai must embark on a perilous journey to signal for help.
About: After Earth has a story created by Will Smith in order to work with his son, Jaden. The script was penned by Gary Whitta, who five years ago broke in with his hot spec, “Book Of Eli.” Smith hired M. Night to direct the film, who did enough script work to garner a co-credit on the writing. The film underperformed at the box office this weekend, and critics gave it some of the worst reviews of any Smith film (it is currently at 12% on Rotten Tomatoes). This isn’t the first time Smith has worked with his son, who he teamed up with five years ago for The Pursuit of Happyness.
Writer: Gary Whitta and M. Night (story by Will Smith)
Details: 100 minutes

after-earth-movie-2013

After Earth has had an interesting journey leading up to its release. It started out with a surprisingly cool trailer that everyone was abuzz over, but then, over the subsequent weeks, those same people began to rebel against it.  I’m guessing this has something to do with the nepotism involved here.  I understand why Smith wants to work with his son in his movies. If I were a giant movie star, I would want to work with my son too! But I’m not sure he considered how the pairing might be perceived. In America, we like and respect people who earn their way. In fact, that’s why we supported Smith’s ascent into the biggest movie star in the world. He embodied the American dream, coming from nothing, working his butt off, and becoming something.

So for him to just hand out film roles to his son, it looks bad. And I know Karate Kid did well and they did Pursuit of Happyness together, but Jayden Smith is not yet seen as someone who can do it on his own. He didn’t have to fight his way up the ladder like every other actor in Hollywood. It was handed to him. And there is something about him now being anointed as an action star just because his dad decided he could be one that’s annoying – and it probably had something to do with the movie underperforming this weekend.

When you then throw M. Night into the mix, it takes the bizarreness to a new level. What a strange choice, to pick a director who’s so vigorously alienated his audience. Personally, I think Night is a good director (just a bad writer). But to bring him in on a project like this, where you’re already gambling, feels like – I don’t know – almost like you want to prove you can do anything. You can make your son an action star and save a flailing director’s career all in one swoop.

All of this factors into the finished product in a fascinating way. If you strip away all these variables and just judge the script by itself, it’s actually pretty good. It has a clear goal, urgency, high stakes, character development. But it becomes very hard to see all of this when you’re so focused on the fact that Will Smith and his son are on the screen (as opposed to Cypher and Kitai, the characters the father-son duo are playing).

It’s 1000 years in the future. Humans have moved off the dying Earth to a much fresher planet. But on this planet are a lot of large, nasty alien creatures who are always giving them shit. These creatures can physically smell fear, which is how they take down their human prey. Cypher (Will Smith) is one of the few soldiers who have no fear (known as “ghosting” in this universe) and can therefore fight these creatures without them even knowing he’s there.

Teenager Kitai, Cypher’s son, is the opposite of his father. He’s racked with fear. He can’t fear enough. So (and this is where the story got a little confusing so bear with me) I think Cypher decides to take a ship and his son to another planet, along with one of these super-creatures, to train him on how to ghost. Why they don’t just do this on the planet they’re on is anyone’s guess. Along the way, the ship encounters a meteor shower and they crash-land on the planet humanity left 1000 years ago, Earth.

Everyone dies in the crash except for Cypher and Kitai, but Cypher is hurt badly, with a broken leg. If they don’t send a beacon back home for help, Cypher will most certainly die. So Kitai has to send the beacon. Here’s the rub. The beacon is in the tail section, which has crashed a hundred kilometers away. Kitai will have to travel there to get it. The problem, as Cypher points out, is that everything on Earth since they left has evolved into killing machines. So it looks like poor Kitai is going to have to have a crash-course in facing his fears.

The story consists, then, of Kitai traversing through the jungle to get to the tail section, all while Cypher guides him via a video and audio link. Throwing a huge wrench into this plan, finally, is the fact that that damn creature has survived the crash too, and humans are its favorite meal. So if Kitai is going to get past it and save his father, he’s going to have to learn how to ghost, a talent that will require him to overcome his flaw.

Okay, so like I said, the screenplay here was pretty well-plotted. We have a clear goal: Get to the tail section. We also have tons of urgency: Cypher is getting worse by the minute, and needs help immediately. And Whitta cleverly adds oxygen packets to the mix – little packets Kitai must take to be able to breathe on earth, where the atmosphere has worsened since we left. When two of these packets break, Kitai doesn’t have enough to get to the tail, adding even more urgency to his journey. And of course, the stakes are their lives. Dad’s dead if he doesn’t do this, and Kitai’s probably dead too. So the structure to this story is in place.

We also have some character development in the mix. Kitai’s flaw is clearly his fear, something he must overcome by the end of this journey if he’s to succeed. And we also have a somewhat broken relationship with his father that needs fixing. Along with Cypher’s lack of fear comes lack of emotion. He treats his son like a fellow soldier as opposed to a son, something that clearly affects Kitai, and something that will also need to be resolved before the journey is over. I don’t think Whitta and Night nailed either of these, but they did a pretty decent job with them.

In my opinion, the script has two major problems and a few minor ones. The opening was confusing. I didn’t understand why they were transporting this monster or where they were going exactly (I just kinda guessed). Part of that confusion stemmed from a choppy flash-forward flash-back opening that made following the story more difficult than it needed to be. You can’t have confusing openings because openings are what set up everything that comes after them. If there are confused questions there, those questions will linger in the back of the audience’s mind for the rest of the film.

I also thought it was strange that Cypher kept saying “Everything on Earth has evolved to kill humans” when the only thing that was truly dangerous was the thing that they brought there. But neither of those were script killers. The major issues boiled down to flashbacks and too simple of a story. It’s why I remind you guys whenever possible not to mess with flashbacks. They’re so hard to get right and even when they’re used correctly, the chances of them hurting your script are far greater than them helping it. Here we get endless repetitive flashback scenes where we see Kitai, as a young kid, watching his sister being mauled by the creature. I understood its intent (it established Kitai’s flaw – his fear – it built more of a rift between him and his father, who’s resentful that Kitai didn’t do more to stop the creature, and it made his final battle with the creature more personal), but it took a story that couldn’t afford to slow down and stopped it cold every ten minutes.

The reason the story couldn’t afford to slow down was because the story itself was too simple. It wasn’t complex enough with enough threads going on to earn the right to slow down.  I liked the goal, the urgency, and the stakes, but GSU or no GSU, the story has to keep you guessing or else you get bored. And we were way ahead of the story here the entire time. There were no surprises, no twists, and I think that’s ultimately (story-wise) what critics and audiences are responding so negatively to: there just wasn’t enough happening in After Earth.

When you combine that with Smith anointing his son an action hero and us not feeling like he’s earned it, you get Smith’s poorest reception ever. Personally, I don’t think this movie is nearly as bad as people are saying it is. I think a couple of script mistakes and one casting choice hurt it. But it’s certainly better than some of the other, more heralded, summer movies I saw this year.

Script Review

[ ] what the hell did I just read?
[ ] wasn’t for me
[x] worth the read
[ ] impressive
[ ] genius

Movie Review

[ ] what the hell did I just watch?
[x] wasn’t for me
[ ] worth the price of admission
[ ] impressive
[ ] genius

What I learned: Flashbacks are tough. There are certain things they can add – like giving us key backstory on a character, but what you lose through using them is often more than what you gain. The biggest downside to their use is that they slow your story to a crawl. The reason this is an issue is that the vast majority of scripts out there move too slow. To STOP the story so you can GO BACKWARDS is basically like saying to your audience, “You can go to sleep now.” I’m not saying you should never use flashbacks. What I’m saying is that because they usually do more bad than good, you should seriously weigh your options before including them and make sure you believe that there’s no other way to tell your story.

  • Vanadu

    If anyone has a script for After Earth please send to vanadushay@yahoo.com

  • grendl

    How retarded.

    Not your assessment but the foundational basis for the film.

    Fear is not a flaw. Fear is an instinct which is innate, and its allowed us to get through the evolutionary sieve for thousands of years.

    Its how someone handles fear where the flaws come in. It’s the reaction to that fear, not its presence. You can’t choose not to fear when someone sticks a gun to your head, or you get that phone call in the middle of the night about a loved one who didn’t come home from a party.

    It is the smart soldier who keeps fear close to the vest, who uses it to survive. It is the idiot or sociopath who has no fear, like a dog running out into traffic. Nelson Mandela said “courage is not the absence of fear but the overcoming of it.”

    But this film says “fear is a choice”. No, it’s not. And no it’s not.

    How you react is the choice, And how characters react badly, following the inciting incident
    leads to the first plot point, the moment when they’re forced to at least begin the long road to facing their fear in a proactive manner.

    “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself” FDR famously said. “Fear is the mind killer” some Star Trek character said. That doesn’t mean fear will not be a factor in anyones life. Because we can’t empathize with fearless characters. People who aren’t afraid to die, or aren’t afraid that their loved ones will die are not empathetic. Yes, Superman might seem fearless, but when he gets that call that Lois Lane is being held by Lex Luthor in some secret lair, of course he’s going to feel afraid FOR HER.

    Superman isn’t stupid. There are evil doers in his universe, and death does exist. And since he isn’t omnipresent and ostensibly cares for this woman who unlike him is vulnerable, he feels fear for her safety. Otherwise why do we care?

    And this Cypher Rage shows fear, in the form of anger and coldness to his son. That’s a manifestation of his fear for him, fear that he won’t be a man. He’s not fearless. The Ursa should have sensed that about him.

    The flaw is not the innate instinct, its the behavior that comes as direct result of that instinct. The instinct to flee, to seek safe harbors and allies, to hide, these are the crimes of the narrative cosmos. Panic is a crime. Losing ones head. Not the instinct itself.

    There was a poster for “Arlington Road” when it first came out that said ” Your paranoia is real”. Think about how stupid a sentence that is. It just means your paranoia exists, it doesn’t mean its justified. Just like “Fear is a choice”.

    So is continuing education, Hollywood idiots. Look into it at a learning annex near you.

    • successor

      “Fear is the mind killer” is actually a line from Frank Herbert’s novel _Dune_ not Star Trek.

    • Andrew Mullen

      Once you realize that the guiding principle of Scientology is that fear is the mindkiller and that Will Smith got a Story by credit, it makes a bit more sense.

      Makes it worse, but at least now it makes sense.

      • grendl

        Well he made this movie and put his son in it.

        That was fearless. And ultimately stupid.

        Arrogance comes from fearlessness. Unfettered self entitlement, even a sense of divine right. And that can cost you.

        Fear keeps smart people in check.

      • carsonreeves1

        Wait, is Smith officially a scientologist? I remember awhile back he was talking with Cruise and people were assuming he converted Smith. But is that official? I see Smith being smarter than falling for that religion.

        • Andrew Mullen

          I am not making any allegations to the legality of my statements nor any inferences which anyone might draw from said statements. Wink wink.

          Not official. He just paid to open a school which has a curriculum entirely based on their teachings.

        • blue439

          He’s made many contributions to Scientology. He and his wife both are, just not officially like Tom Cruise, which is smart.

    • Citizen M

      Fear is an instinct, yes, but only certain fears. For instance, fear of loud noises. Even a baby will flinch at loud noises. But other fears are learned, not instinctive. For instance, fear of spiders. A baby will think a spider is a plaything until it bites him or his mother screams. Adults with arachnophobia can unlearn their fear with therapy. Presumably it is this type of learned fear that Cypher Raige wants his son to unlearn.

  • Tailmonsterfriend

    Ah, flashbacks… here’s what’s got me worried. I’m writing a script that relies heavily on flashbacks, but they’re flashbacks with a twist: instead of just jumping back in time, the characters in the script use some scifi mind-probing tech to “dive” into people’s brains and rewrite their memories. Kind of like Total Recall, except shit isn’t just burned into the brain but carefully custom modeled by hand (wouldn’t want the recipient of a memory graft knowing that their head was messed with, now would you?).

    So they ARE flashbacks, but they’re actually part of the present story. It’s good to have these reminders that even professional screenwriters struggle with this device, and that I need to be extra, super careful to make things as plain as possible and not confuse readers.

    • romer6

      I don´t think flashbacks will hurt your story, since it is a narrative device in itself. It is an organic part of the script. Can we say that those dream sequences in Inception were flashbacks? Or the memories from Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind? I don´t think so. Therefore, I think you´re safe. And, please, send it to AF when it´s ready. I love this kind of stories. :)

  • carsonreeves1

    You need to read a thousand amateur scripts utilizing flashbacks to know why I make this statement. I see flashbacks badly used over and over again. Like I said, there are instances where they work, but those instances tend to come from seasoned pros who understand when and how to use them.

    I’m forgetting exactly how Batman Begins was structured, but weren’t the majority of the flashbacks weaved into the opening act as part of a consistent structure? That’s an example of a flashback approach that tends to work, as opposed to standalone flashbacks, which can kill the momentum of a story, especially if they’re exposition-centered or telling us stuff we pretty much already know.

    • Panos Tsapanidis

      I liked Tarantino’s flashbacks in Kill Bill. Going back to Pai Mei’s training to show us how The Bride will get out of the situation she was in at that moment in the movie.

    • romer6

      I hate flashbacks, really do. It is one of the cliches I hate the most in movies. It seems to me like a terribly lazy device. Let me make myself clear, I am not vouching for a linear story, you can play with the narrative as much as you like, but to use a flashback in order to add depth to characters is like saying: I am not good enough to add backstory through the character´s actions alone. I am not against time jumps, like the one at the beginning of X-Men (and again in X-Men: First Class), when we see Erik Lehnsherr displaying his abilities for the first time in face of his parents demise in the hands of the Nazis. That is powerful storytelling, making us relate to the character´s motivation even if he is one of the most dangerous villains around. But imagine if at the middle of the movie Magneto starts telling his minions of the horrors he saw during the war and we get a giant flashback? That would be absolutely hideous, would cut the pace of the story and would be terribly cheesy if you ask me. Of course, there are exceptions as with any rule. I liked the one in Casablanca, the ones in Sunset Boulevard, those in Rebecca, Kill Bill and many other movies (as I think now, mostly classic movies) but it should be used wisely in favor of the story and not as a narrative crutch.

    • Alan Burnett

      “You need to read a thousand amateur scripts utilizing flashbacks to know why I make this statement.”

      Look, I get that the majority of the flashback sequences you read are shit … but that’s because the majority of scripts are shit, too. A flashback is like ANY OTHER CHOICE a screenwriter makes: it needs to be motivated. And I’m guessing that the majority of poor flashback scenes you read just aren’t motivated enough by the structure. They are just … there and could be placed anywhere else in the material. It’s just a device like any other choice: a device doesn’t want to be badly used, it just is sometimes by people that don’t know what they are doing. I think flashbacks should be a rare tool because most stories don’t demand that choice, but I also don’t like the idea that you are warning people not to use it just because lesser writers used it badly.

  • ripleyy

    Flashbacks are simply like rewinding a movie you’re engrossed in to watch the last ten minutes of the scene you just watched – thus it moves slower, and it gets repetitive. The story sounds very intriguing and I’ll probably watch it but I do think the whole Smith thing is overplayed.

    Personally, I, too, can see why Will (or, as I like to call them, Widen Jamith) would want to work with his son (it’s exciting) but it just doesn’t work with this story and that’s what I’m saying – any other story? Like a Drama? Perfect. The thing is, the pair CAN work, but it’s the type of story – or genre – that defines it so in the end, I’m not saying “no” to them working together, they just need to find the story that will work together.

    Other than that, I can see why people will comment on it – it’s weird as hell and it just doesn’t gel well.

  • https://twitter.com/deanmaxbrooks deanb

    Honestly, I’ve been sitting back in awe at the vehemence directed toward this film by the critical community. It’s not a great film, sure, but this is beyond ‘Twilight’-level excoriation. This is ugly and personal. Rotten Tomatoes CURRENTLY has several racially expletive-laden threads running on its ‘After Earth’ page. News and gossip sites like Huffpo have been propagating the theory that ‘AE’ is not only Will Smith’s vanity project for his son but some kind of “ode to Scientology.”

    Did the media and critical community get this up in arms when Sofia Coppola acted in Godfather III, or when she directed Virgin Suicides? Did Jamie Lee Curtis have to face a firing squad after she landed the lead role in ‘Halloween,’ given that her mother is Janet Leigh? What about David Cronenberg’s son, who just released his first film ‘Antiviral’? Scroll through IMDB; you’ll find that many actors/directors/producers/etc. have benefited from having parents in Hollywood. Nepotism is a function in almost any industry. Americans understand that. So, what’s going on here? Is there a racial component to this hornet’s nest of activity?

    It’s almost as though, for whatever reason, people have found some kind of cathartic release in attacking Smith and his son.

    • Andrew Mullen

      Find me a thread on Rotten Tomatoes WITHOUT a racially charged expletive laden thread. That’s a joke…but only just.

      And did the community get this up in arms when Sofia Coppla acted in Godfather III? Is that a serious question? I’m not trying to be patronizing or insulting. I’m serious. Because that was possibly the most singled out performance in the history of film. And they did nothing BUT comment on the nepotism.

    • Ken

      Francis Ford Coppola got really slagged off for using his daughter in Godfather III!

    • filmklassik

      “Is there a racial component to this hornet’s nest of activity?”

      Absolutely — and a big one at that. In fact, I would compare the treatment that Smith has been getting to all the race-based criticism and obstructionism that Obama has been experiencing since he first came to power in 2008.

      After all, in over 220 years of history, no U.S. President has had to suffer the slings and arrows that Obama has had to endure in five. None.

      Not Lincoln. Not McKinley. Not Kennedy. Not Reagan. Not Clinton. No one.

      Oh wait a minute….

      Strike that. Lincoln, McKinley and Kennedy were all assassinated, weren’t they? And someone TRIED to assassinate Ronald Reagan. And Bill Clinton was impeached. (First time that happened to a Chief Executive since the 19th Century).

      But getting back to the movies for a second…

      Just like Will Smith, John Travolta was raked over the coals for giving the world L. Ron Hubbard’s BATTLEFIELD EARTH, which begs the question of whether it might not be Scientology the critics have a problem with, and not skin tone.

      After all, Smith & Smith both got exceptional reviews from U.S critics for PURSUIT OF HAPPYNESS, right? — so it’s tough to imagine these same critics turning overnight into a pack of Archie Bunkers.

      But for some people, when the talons come out for a respected person of color, there has to be — on a certain level — an undercurrent of racism involved.

    • Montana Gillis

      Just because Smith made a stinker (in more than just my opinion) doesn’t mean the whole world has taken a racist bent. I’m trying to think of any A list actor that hasn’t starred in a terrible film…. still thinking…. nothing yet…

    • Alan Burnett

      Here’s the thing most people are ignoring: THIS FILM WOULDN’T HAVE EXISTED WITHOUT JADEN SMITH. People can bitch all they like, but it isn’t as if Smith bought the rights to ‘Ender’s Game’ or something and cast his son in the lead after doing auditions. He conceived the project with the idea of developing it as a vehicle for his son. Is this really a crime?

    • blue439

      It’s the Scientology connection. Just read the NY Times review. But what’s worse, Battlefield Earth or After Earth?

  • carsonreeves1

    He just needs to give more time to his current scripts like he did that first one. Every one of his movies since feels like 5-6 drafts away from reaching their potential.

    • Andrew Mullen

      Did you ever see that really weird Sci-Fi Channel “documentary” he had done as stealth advertising for The Village where he tried to posit that he’s some kind of mystic storytelling guru who can talk to ghosts?

    • Poe_Serling

      I see where M. Night is the executive producer on a new TV show over on Fox.

      Wayward Pines…

      “Secret Service agent Ethan Burke arrives in the bucolic town of Wayward Pines, ID, on a mission to find two missing federal agents. But instead of answers, Ethan’s investigation only turns up more questions. What’s wrong with Wayward Pines? Each step closer to the truth takes Ethan further from the life he knew, from the husband and father he was, until he must face the terrifying reality that he may never get out of Wayward Pines alive.”

      The show stars Matt Dillon and Melissa Leo.

      From the promo blurb from above the show sounds a bit like Twins Peaks meets the X-Files.

      • Gregory Mandarano

        Thats so twin peaks! Awesome!

      • WALKandTALK

        I just finished reading that book… I really enjoyed it. It kept me turning the pages… If someone is looking for a fun read, I would highly recommend it. Especially after a string of disappointing books.

        • Poe_Serling

          Hey WALKandTALK-

          I might just have to check out the book before the show hits the air… thanks for the recommendation.

          Speaking of books, just ordered my copy of Stephen King’s Joyland, which I’ve heard only great things about it.

          • WALKandTALK

            Thank-you for the Stephen King recommendation. I didn’t realise he had a new book out.

            I am embarrassed to say I couldn’t get through 11/22/63. I love time travel. And I really liked how in the book you couldn’t go back to any moment in time. Instead you could only go back to one specific point in time. So his protagonist had to live years in the past just to reach that one moment.

            But the book lost me… I will definitely give Joyland a try.

  • jaehkim

    speaking of goals, how do you keep a movie unpredictable after a major goal is stated way in the beginning? would it have been ok to change the goal mid point? or reveal a second goal after achieving the initial goal?

    • UrbaneGhoul

      I guess one solution is smaller obstacles and goals that succeed in meeting the major goal. I believe Star Wars is the most used example of that.

    • blue439

      Setbacks. Reversals. Movies don’t have to be unpredictable. They do have to be interesting. Look at 127 Hours. You couldn’t have a simpler life and death situation. It’s how people deal with the situation and overcome obstacles to achieve the goal that makes it interesting.

  • Avishai

    Okay, I haven’t seen this, so I can’t comment on this particular film. (I don’t plan on seeing it in theaters, though.)

    But I do have to disagree with one statement you make, Carson: I highly disagree that MNS is a good director.

    I’ve only seen four of his movies- The Sixth Sense, Signs, The Happening, The Last Airbender.

    Sixth Sense was good all around. Signs was starting to slip.

    The latter two, though, had problems beyond just the script. Yes, the scripts were execrable. But still… the direction was shoddy. Just take a look at The Happening. Hilarious over-acting from some. Awkward framing. Sterile atmosphere. Seemingly non-existant blocking. Every actor spoke like a robot (and no, not just because it was bad dialogue. The actors clearly didn’t know what emotion they were supposed to go for, and MNS was no help.) It was a dumb script, but in better hands, it could have been a dumb but fun (or at least disturbing) movie.

    The Last Airbender… sheesh. Throw a big budget at the guy, and he still manages to under-direct his actors (everyone is sullen and dry. Even the actors known to be good.) The action scenes were boring and muddled. The pacing per scene was horribly slow. Et Cetera.

    Shyamalan’s biggest issue is that he mistakes grave solemnity and seriousness for profundity. He thinks brooding equals good story telling. Instead, it sucks the life and joy out of the proceedings. It’s bad enough to make a dumb film (or five.) It’s another to make them absolutely tedious.

    Now, about Jaden. While he might come across as a spoiled kid who doesn’t deserve his roles, I’m going to give him the benefit of the doubt. Let him be an action star under a better director and then let’s see how he does.

    • blue439

      Nobody’s going to give Jaden a lead action part except his dad, let’s be clear.

      • Avishai

        Maybe. I really can’t say. But if his dad gets him a role in a production with a decent director, maybe Jaden will be able to do some good.

  • MayfieldLake

    This is why I no longer write scripts existing in some alternate universe. They’re too hard for my simple mind. I lack the mind blowing creativity and work-ethic necessary to actually pull it off.

    • Jonathan Soens

      Not to knock what anybody does, but the “After Earth” variety of an alternate universe actually is probably one of the easier ones to pull off. Because they just imagine Earth as being barren and un-populated, and they turn their characters loose in that story. I mean, it’s just a souped-up version of a jungle tale (book-ended by shots of space ships, I’m imagining).

      It’s much harder, I think, to invent a densely-populated futuristic universe. It reminds me of something I heard someone say on a podcast that discusses bad movies: “Everyone wants to be ‘Blade Runner.’ Nobody is.”

      • MayfieldLake

        Great point!

        I don’t actually enjoy watching Blade Runner, but I can definitely appreciate it for that reason, and for its great thematic work.

  • bluedenham

    I wonder if taking all the flashbacks and making them into a prologue up front would have solved the issue?

  • Kay Bryen

    Yet again I strongly disagree with Rotten Tomatoes. I found this film to be quite watchable; far from the train wreck it’s now universally considered to be. This happens a lot to me, e.g. with the brutally panned ‘The Call'; a film I enjoyed (even though I wanted to tune out when I saw the WWE logo at the beginning). Meanwhile many films that RT gives 90+ scores I find torturous. Which is scary because it means I’m way out of tune with the tastes of the people I’m writing for.

    But then again, you often find the audience score on RT being the polar opposite of the critics’ score; and we all know critics don’t buy movie tickets, so there’s that.

    • filmklassik

      Agreed. I had a much better time watching the 12% RT-rated AFTER EARTH than I did the all-over-the-place hot mess that was IRON MAN 3 (with its 75-80% rating on RT).

      Is AFTER EARTH a great or even particularly good movie? Maybe not. But you’re right, it is certainly watchable and never boring, and how many movies can you say THAT about?

  • Midnight Luck

    Now You See Me

    As much as everyone on this site seems to love movies about Magic, Illusion, and that sort of thing, I am a bit surprised Carson didn’t see / review that today. Seems like it would have been a good Review choice. Especially since it beat out this movie.

    After Earth seems like an odd / poor choice for a review, but maybe there was some learning to be had from it. For me the Story, Trailer, Actors, and Director all bored me senseless.

    Personally not going to see it because of: 1) Will Smith, 2) Jayden, 3) Story, 4) M. Night

    • rl1800

      Carson did review the Now You See Me script three years ago. http://scriptshadow.blogspot.com/2010/09/now-you-see-me.html

      • wlubake

        Man, that was three years ago…nice reminder that I need to do more writing if I’ve been around here for 3 years (at least).

      • Midnight Luck

        I figured he probably did at some point since he is a Magic and Illusionist script fan. Which is why I thought he would have Reviewed the movie on Monday, not After Earth. Since it also beat AE at the BO.

        Just seemed like a Ripe time to Review.

        Thanks for the heads up though.

  • FD

    All of Hollywood comes from about 5 families: Sheen, Douglas, Cage, Jolie… the list goes on. I don’t think that’s the problem. I think Will Smith rocks, but his son wrinkling his forehead and being super-mega cool just rubs me up the wrong way. No one likes an overconfident kid. Harry Potter, Kevin alone… they are child stars, but they were likeable cuddly children, not kids who appeared to be so full of themselves that you need a bucket.

  • Panos Tsapanidis

    I’m still wondering HOW do they find the scripts? I don’t mind paying for access to one of those forums/websites. Just tell me the right one, people!

    • Brian Lastname

      The Tracking-Board is what I use. Depending on your financial resources it could be considered a little pricy, but for me it’s a must have. Money very well spent.

      • Panos Tsapanidis

        Mystery solved! Thanks Brian.

  • Citizen M

    Apparently there’s another writer for the movie, originally titled “One Thousand A. E.”

    One Thousand A.E. is actually based on an original screenplay by Gary Whitta (The Book of Eli) that was subsequently reworked by Shyamalan. Now, Stephen Gaghan (Traffic) has been recruited to polish off and refine the script even more.

    Gaghan doesn’t get an IMDb credit. Don’t know why.

  • Citizen M

    “After After Earth”

    Hollywood execs throw Will, Jaden, and M Night into a pit of fierce creatures armed only with something from their movies
    – Will. A giant mechanical spider
    – Jaden. Karate moves
    – M. Night. The ability to see dead people.

  • JW

    Yo C, a great article idea would be why we always see the things “script consultants” say NOT to do with scripts ending up in Hollywood fare. Maybe because it’s Sci-Fi you were looking for something more complex, but I can tell you right now, that most studios looking at scripts are NOT, in any way shape or form, saying, “your script needs more complexity.” If anything, it’s the opposite. Dumb it down as much as possible.

  • GeneralChaos

    His personal liking of Will Smith has nothing to do with your perception of him at the box office.

  • blue439

    Flashbacks are momentum killers. If you remember, the flashbacks in BB were in the first half of the movie, when the main story hadn’t really gotten going. Imagine if the flashbacks were also in the second half of the movie. They would have totally killed the momentum of the story.

    • Alan Burnett

      Nolan does include flashbacks into the later parts of the story. They are insert shots.

  • blue439

    That’s good. And that the son can learn that fear is actually a useful (and necessary) emotion. But that goes against Scientology so that would never happen, at least with the Smiths involved.

  • JakeMLB

    Great suggestion. Too bad it came after the film (and yet another reason the professional community shouldn’t dispel pre-production script reviews/analysis).

  • FD

    Oh not everything he has done has been amazing, but we all make mistakes. I think he can act, I like his wife, his approach to things; they seem to be a nice family. He should just not forget, when priming his son, that no one likes a smart-ass kid. He himself started off as something of a clown in Fresh Prince, and he was way older than Jaden. Let the kid play a role that makes him likeable, and don’t dress him like a damn blingbling rapper on the red carpet.

  • Eman

    I was concerned about the film when I saw the run time. 95 minutes for something so high concept. Same way I feel about the Purge with is 80 minutes! Does anyone know how many pages the screenplay was for After Earth???

  • srdiction

    Oblivion, even if you’ve seen Moon, is more compeling than After Earth.

  • Nino Panganiban Advincula

    We use FEAR to make wise decisions in such simple situations like crossing streets. If we don’t fear then we wont look at our left or right, chances are, we get hit by a car. So if we choose not to fear then we choose to be mentally retarded. Humans use fear to decide whether to avoid or face DANGER categorically. Animals do likewise. The point of choosing not to fear are plots of many old school animes and fantasy movies…

  • carsonreeves1

    out of curiosity, how old are you, ryan?

  • suminator

    Just saw the film, and I’d like to get the script if someone could send it my way to suminator at gmail dot com.
    I must say that I have M Night forever in my heart for his first two films and I have also big love for Lady in the Water which everybody hates…

    What really bothers me in this film is the start of it with the flasbacks which could have been avoided with a different approach to exposition on the earth past and Ursas. Also, I have to blame the production design/concept art for this film which devoided me from beliavebility from the first second my eyes saw the interiors/exteriors. Or it is MNight to blame for his choices on designs. If my eyes cannoct connect to visual side/aspect of the film, then no story can make up to that.

    First Alien was a jackpot in that department ’cause everything seemed organic and in line with the scruffy characters on Nostromo. You have to think about how to build the world you are about to make into a film, so in that sense After Earth is a dissapointment in the same way Oblivion was overdesigned (aside the weak plot) I can name one more film with troubled design in Aeon Flux…

    Another issue is when we got a promise in trailer that everything on earth evolved to ve able to kill humans, and then in film we get bunch monkeys who do nothing to candy our eyes or to build a suspense, then we get a hilarious leech, an eagle, tigers, and the only interesting creature is Ursa. So I was expecting more creative and more menacing environment/creatures…

  • zarah joy

    THE FEAR OF FEAR IS GREATER THAN FEAR ITSELF. Explanation: when ur thinking that u might fear something when in reality, u haven’t face the problem yet. u are just assuming that it might scare u