The Velvet Café

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My failed attempt to say something nice about After Earth

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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