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Visuals are commendable as a post-apocalyptic sci-fi thriller yet even Will Smith’s convincing portrayal in After Earth cannot save the general dryness of a cliché-filled drama set in a futuristic world.
Inhabitants of a once people-friendly Earth have evolved to kill humans as they hunt them down through their ability to literally sense fear. Sailing through the ebb and flow of a father-son relationship, Cypher (Will Smith) navigates his son Kitai Raige (Jaden Smith) through an illusive forest with a silence brimming of menace. A frustrated cadet whose only aim is to be promoted as ranger, Kitai is eager to prove himself to the prime commander – his father. The fact that predators cannot sense Cypher’s fear only adds tension to his relationship with his son as Kitai feels the pressure to be fearless like his father.
As Kitai faces each predator, he is re-acquainted with a fear more potent than terror of the wilderness. Will Smith cast a spell once again because it’s difficult to see a sunny goody two shoes actor play an estranged father. However, the robotic personality in this film showed Smith’s versatility and grace.
One of the rare highlights comes in a central theme explored throughout the film. It questions the conventional notion of fear and unravels its true nature as a conscious choice taken every second of the day much like picking an apple from an orange; fear is an illusion we succumb to if we let it.
Director M. Night Shyamalan seemed to have taken no risks – for the film has a predictable plot and forgettable music mashed up with a script that is melodramatic at best and tawdry at worst. Visually sumptuous on occasion and a dash of humour here and there keeps the viewer awake. But just barely.