If you’re as old as I am, you probably remember the first time you saw Star Wars in the theater and how unbelievably cool the special effects were. If you’re younger, you’re probably tougher to impress, but you may have had a similar experience with Avatar. Watching After Earthwas not like that. Rather, it was a bit like seeing Star Wars again in the cold light of the new millennium and realizing that spaceship looked a lot like the $7.99 plastic model you built with your dad in the late 70s.
Weak effects and heavily-borrowed creatures and concepts didn’t have to be fatal, though. At its core, the film was about the relationship between a father and son and the growth they both experienced during a shared crisis. At least, I think that’s what it was supposed to be about. In reality it was, in the words of my teenage daughter, “A character driven movie without character development.”
I think that possibly, while Jaden’s character was learning to conquer his fear, his father was experiencing a fear for his son that he’d been immune to on his own behalf. I think. If that’s what they were going for, it’s a nice idea. But I didn’t really get that from the interactions of the characters or any nuances in their expressions or actions—I just figure that something more significant had to be going on and that’s my best guess.
There was an interesting nod to the notion of the earth fighting back when the elder Smith warned his son that “everything on this planet has evolved to kill humans,” but it was merely a passing reference and then we moved quickly back to focusing on the pained expressions on both Smiths’ faces.
The film was filled with what I assume were meant to be tense moments that just didn’t come off because it was impossible to develop any attachment to the characters. When the younger Smith is lying in the grass as the temperature swiftly falls and his father struggles to wake him from his remote spot within the wreckage of the plane…I just didn’t care whether or not he awoke.
From my perspective, the most sympathetic character with the best arc was a large birdlike creature who might have been a leftover hippogriff from Harry Potter. In approximately five minutes of screen time, we learned more about her than we ever did either of the lead characters, and her death was the only event in the movie that tugged at my heartstrings a bit.
All in all, I wouldn’t say the movie was terrible; I just didn’t care. I didn’t care whether or not the two main characters lived or died, I didn’t care how their relationship resolved or didn’t, and the touching conclusion didn’t actually touch me. Most movies offer something that makes me glad I saw them (or at least neutral on the couple of hours I invested), but I can’t honestly say this one did. Were it not that I wanted to be able to assessthis film alongside The Asylum’s knock-off version, AE: Apocalypse Earth, I would consider the entire trip wasted time.