The Velvet Café

A room for thoughts about movies

My failed attempt to say something nice about After Earth

with 31 comments


You seem to like every movie you watch! You always have something nice to say. I wish I was more like you!”

My Swedish fellow blogger Markus looked at me expectantly as we took our seats in the theatre and I tried to give him an optimistic smile in return. I had my reputation to think of: the cheerful movie fan, who loved every movie she came across for some reason.

To tell the truth I was less than confident in the case of After Earth. The word that had reached me were far from promising. Would I be able to spot the gold that had escaped everyone else, something that made me forgive the shortcomings and enjoy the ride? I had the feeling it might get trickier than usual.

Like a computer game
It turned out that my instincts and the rumours were right. When the party of movie bloggers and podcasters moved on to our monthly pub meeting, chatting about what we just had seen, I struggled to come up with something to say. But how could I possibly praise such a boring experience?

It had been like watching someone else playing an utterly uncomplicated computer game. The character gets a quest where he has to move from point A to point B, needs to face a few perils on the way on the level of “kill ten rats”. On the way he builds up on strength and if he completes it (which he inevitably will), he’ll gain reputation with his father. But as opposed to when you see someone playing a game in real life, you don’t hear the cursing, sweating or banter with other players over vent or Skype. All you see is this character trotting along in the jungle at a future version of Earth and you can’t wait for him to get done with his thing so you both can go home.

During the screening I had kept looking for an XP bar to tell me how long we’d had to wait before this was over. The blogger sitting to my left was smiling and shaking his head in disbelief. It was not a smile of appreciation, I could tell. The blogger sitting to my right fell asleep and I struggled hard not to follow her example. I’m not sure I succeeded.

Bringing up faults of this movie was easy. The awkwardness that was Jaden Smith, clearly unsuitable to carry this movie on his shoulders. (I can’t help thinking it would have been better with a different actor, someone who could do what Jennifer Lawrence did for Hunger Games or Saoirse Ronan for Hanna.) The lack of science fiction elements considering it takes place a thousand years forward in time, where galactic wars are fought and mankind is in peril. The scene is set for grandness and all we get is a walk in the jungle. Not to mention how cheap it looks. A volcano in the background that appears to be painted, looking no more real than the landscapes in the original Star Trek series from the 60s. You expect a bit more from a film with this size of a budget.

But now we were focusing on the positives and I wrestled with the task until I finally came up with something to mention: the flare. At one point in the movie there’s a light sequence in the sky (I don’t want to be more precise than that, not to go into spoiler territory in the unlikely event that someone wants to see this) and that was pretty. I’ve always loved fireworks.

And that was all I could come up with, unless you count a little baby bird that I found pretty cute. I guess you could also say that it was a reminder about what’s on the other side of the rating scale. I don’t want to waste time and money, so I tend to pick movies that I think I’m going to like, and I’m usually right. Watching a truly bad movie once in a while helps me appreciate the god ones so much more.

The thing is that I don’t enjoy writing negative posts about movies, particularly not if it’s a movie that already has been heavily criticized like this one. It feels like piling up on the schoolyard on someone who is already lying, beaten to the ground. What’s the point?

The falling star
If it wasn’t for the fact that we had an agreement among the bloggers to publish our posts about this movie at the same time, I might have dropped writing about it at all.

Watching the falling star of M. Night Shyamalan fills me with sadness rather than an urge to punch him in his face. I loved The Sixth Sense and Unbreakable and I liked The Village and I don’t think he’s a one trick twist pony. Was he someone who peaked too early in career? Or will he get back on track in the future? I hope he will. I really do.

No, Markus, I don’t always have something nice to say about a movie. But I never stop looking for it, never stop hoping.

After Earth (M. Night Shyamalan, US 2013) My rating: 1,5/5


 Here’s what my fellow bloggers in the network Filmspanarna thought about it (in Swedish):

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Written by Jessica

June 12, 2013 at 8:00 am

31 Responses

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  1. […] The Velvet Cafe: 1.5/5 […]

  2. Great review, love that you mentioned the video game angle. It really does feel that way, only the entire fun of playing a video game is being able to control the characters and that’s not even present here. Even though it’s sad it was broken at all, I’m glad to see this is the one that broke your positive streak, lol


    June 12, 2013 at 8:45 am

    • Well, it’s not the first movie I write down. I didn’t have a lot of patience for Rock of Ages. But it’s rare that I get this harsh. Thank you for the appreciation. I’ve heard a lot of other mentioning the game simularities. It’s really hard not to notice.


      June 12, 2013 at 11:12 pm

  3. Great post. I actually thought this would be Shyamalan’s “comeback” of sorts. I don’t think he’ll be able to bounce back, though. I doubt he has it in him anymore. I love The Village, so it pains me a little.


    June 12, 2013 at 8:55 am

    • Thank you! Yeah, I think it’s painful too. I like the guy. I follow him on Twitter and I feel terrible writing like this about his movie. But I need to be honest. Actually I blame it on Will Smith. I get the impression he’s had a lot of influence on this movie. For one thing he wrote the original story.


      June 12, 2013 at 11:13 pm

      • Yeah. He’s to blame as well. And he should also stop “pimping out” his son. It’s awful. I know that he wants to help him and he should do that, but he’s forcing Jaden on us in a terrible way.


        June 13, 2013 at 12:25 am

  4. Against my better judgement, I’m actually off to see this tomorrow. I’m hoping that because my expectations are pretty much none existent I might get something out of it. Sounds unlikely though 🙂 Nice review Jessica!

    • Thanks Terry! I hope your experience will be better than mine, thouh tbh it would surprise me a lot.


      June 12, 2013 at 11:14 pm

  5. Personally I too hope we will soon see the good old shyamalan back in style, and making good movies too. However, it seems that his ego is in the day.
    Thought this was an interesting look at his career


    June 12, 2013 at 10:43 am

    • Yeah, let’s hope that. He should have made so much money by now that he should be able to do something more artistically fulfilling while maybe not quite as succesful commercialy. Maybe he’s hit the bottom now and will start going up, up, up from there. Thanks for the link. A very good overview indeed!


      June 12, 2013 at 11:16 pm

  6. That was a very interesting image.

    In all seriousness, I wonder how long it will be until someone does something like that – have a film of a computer game, with the audio being some of the sounds of the game, the other being what is going on in voicecomms.

    Not that I could see it working commercially, but it as a more art-film think it might work very well, if one could get agreement of an MMO company (though that might be difficult, since an art-film probably wouldn’t fit with their goals).


    June 12, 2013 at 11:31 am

    • It looks weird with that thinking position, doesn’t it? He takes it quite a few times throughout the movie and it feels very much out of place. Re: watching games with communications going on, it can be entertaining. I watched a few videos with Ensidia back in the days and found it pretty entertaining.


      June 12, 2013 at 11:18 pm

  7. Nice angel, Jessica. You write about a much larger issue that this film. It’s the topic we have debated many times now it feels like. To criticize a movie or not.

    Does “I love movies” mean to like all movies, or does it mean interested in all movies, even the bad ones?Where does loving to analyze, evaluate and expecting them to be as good as they possibly can, come into the equation?

    Why beat a movie if it is already lying on the ground? Maybe no need. But, if it is lying, in the meaning it is not “true”, if it’s a sham, taking our money and returning nothing, then go ahead and start throwing punches I say!

    About lying, I always try to be sincere about my feelings for a movie in my reviews, and that includes the negatives. And I expect the fellow bloggers I follow to be too. And I love to debate. I want people to tell me “I hear what you are saying, but you are completely wrong!”; and I want to say it back.

    About your actual review. You give very good points why the movie fails. I love your analogy to the video game. Both regarding the story and the value to the viewers. This is a very weak film. My strong recommendation is to NOT see it.


    June 12, 2013 at 12:48 pm

    • Ooops, however nice angels are, I meant “Nice angle”!


      June 12, 2013 at 12:49 pm

    • I agree on the need to be honest. If you’re not honest in your writing, what’s the point? But I have to admit that I’m biased when I pick the movies I’m going to watch and write about. Since this isn’t a job, but a hobby, I do’t feel any obligation whatsoever to “cover everything”. I don’t even have access to press screenings. I pay for all my tickets, and I don’t want to waste my money on movies I think I won’t like. So that’s why you see so few negative reviews on my blog. I’m just to cheap to wach bad movies. But on the rare occasions that I do, I’m honest about it.


      June 12, 2013 at 11:39 pm

  8. Well written, Jessica. It was a terrible movie experience. I have nothing more to add 🙂


    June 12, 2013 at 12:55 pm

    • I bet not! You’ve certainly covered it all in your excellent ten-point-review!


      June 12, 2013 at 11:18 pm

  9. Something nice to say…hmmm. Well, that smoke in the picture looks pretty fantastic. That’s all I got!

    No seriously, I went to the theater hoping to do a double feature. I watched Now You See Me and my second film was to be After Earth but I just couldn’t do it. I ended up preferring to just go home instead of sitting through it. Something put me off from the start. You absolutely confirmed that for me.


    June 12, 2013 at 1:01 pm

    • I don’t ever walk out of movies I watch in a theatre, but I can’t blame anyone for doing it in the case of this movie. Believ me, you didn’t miss anything!


      June 12, 2013 at 11:29 pm

  10. Huh, who would have thought the day would come when I have something positive to say? As I already said on the spot, I actually loved the organic design of the spaceship. The score wasn’t half bad either. But apart from that, oy vey…


    June 12, 2013 at 3:45 pm

    • I thought the spaceship was okish, though the corridor where he had his seat made me think of an attracion in an amusement park.


      June 12, 2013 at 11:31 pm

      • You are absolutely correct, there was something of the spinning doughnut in there 😉


        June 13, 2013 at 6:17 am

  11. I might have been the only one in our group that didn’t mind the volcano. I thought it looked decent. Also, I enjoyed the design of the space ship and the city at their home planet. Also,… no that’s about it. 😉


    June 12, 2013 at 10:09 pm

    • It looked decent at times, but there was one shot where it looked… frozen. Like a picture in the background. So cheap! But it’s hard to come up with anything to disagree about in the case of this film. Our verdict was unanimous this time.


      June 12, 2013 at 11:35 pm

  12. Oh Jessica, what a fabulous review this is. Such a perfect summation of the relationship I think so many of us have with modern day Hollywood. We WANT these movies to be good – we really, really do – and we want them to transcend and then all we get are utterly uncomplicated computer games and that leaves us sad.

    But we never stop hoping and so……we fork over our money and go to the next one.


    June 13, 2013 at 6:00 am

    • Why, thank you Nick! And yep, that’s how I feel too. I usually avoid this type of movies, but if I see them, I try to like them. And if I don’t, well, I shrug it away quickly and then I’m back at it again. And again. No wonder I’ve got the highest class of loyal customer card at my local theatre! We keep those places in business.


      June 13, 2013 at 7:36 am

  13. How disappointing. Is a trailer and got my hopes up. Glad so many reviews have saved me the bother.

    I didn’t even know this was M. Night Shyamalan’s work. The Sixth Sense was great, and I LOVED Unbreakable (seriously, one of my favorite movies ever), but it’s just been sad seeing his decline into mediocrity.

    • Also: Your MMORPG roots are showing. 😉

      • I know! I love those movies too, but honestly, this movie has no resemblance whatsoever. The story is by Will Smith, as I get it. I think he’s had more than one thing to say about this movie. That’s my interpretation.

        I loved getting the opportunity to show my MMORPG roots! 🙂


        June 18, 2013 at 1:01 am

  14. You had me laughing at the title to your article. Poor M. Night Shyamalan!! LOL

    Mark Hobin

    July 13, 2013 at 2:48 pm

    • I know. 😦 I really wish it was different. I keep telling myself that he’s not to blame. There are a lot of people inolved in making a movie after all, it’s not all in the director’s hands.


      July 15, 2013 at 12:04 am

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