After Earth M. Night Shyamalan

After Earth M. Night Shyamalan
2
Oh how the rich and famous can be an indulgent, delusional breed. When someone needs a life lesson or a coming-of-age ritual in a regular family, it can take many forms, dependant upon religion, economic status or cultural tradition: a bar mitzvah, camping trip, vision quest, getting a summer job or any number of activities or duties that serve as teachable signifiers of maturation. Well, things work a little differently in the Smith family; they make a big budget vanity project together.

After Earth is a trial of manhood for Jaden Smith, as devised by his father, with the aid of fellow misguided egomaniac M. Night Shyamalan. With the laughable performances of the Fresh Prince of Bel Air and his repugnant spawn, and a plot that reads like it was written by someone that learned about storytelling entirely by playing videogames, the contributions of a director who has gone from visionary to box office poison in the eyes of the movie-going public are the most stimulating (read: least atrocious) aspects of this wrong-footed farce.

Crammed full of clumsy exposition to convey a cluster-fuck of ideas competing for cool points, the film follows a forced father and son bonding mission gone awry. After establishing that Prime Commander Cypher (Big Smith) is the biggest badass in the history of mankind, because he has no fear, and that his son is afraid of living in his shadow (see any parallels there?), Shyamalan thrusts the duo into a situation that requires Cypher to rely on Kitai (Little Smith) for their survival. As convoluted as the backstory is, the narrative is as simple as they come: get from point A to point B in X amount of time while navigating antagonists that serve as eye candy and cheap metaphors.

Likely out of reticence to sink more cash into such a bomb, the DVD is light on special features. What there are though is telling. "A Father's Legacy" is the centrepiece of this shrine to ego. This glorified "Making Of" goes through the motions of stating the obvious ad nauseam about the plot before touching upon physical training and then settling on the swollen pride and gross competitiveness between father and son. A no-holds-barred look at this power dynamic would make for fascinating viewing, but there's no chance of thoughtful probing on this disc.

Instead, we get "1000 Years in 300 Seconds," which is a random montage of behind-the-scenes clips, "The Nature of the Future," which fits new age flamenco lounge music that sounds like it was borrowed from a softcore porno over sultry nature footage and, finally, "XPrize Challenge," a prodigiously cheesy piece of interactive promotional marketing short-sightedly intended to help "save the planet."

If anyone involved were really interested in preserving the biosphere, they wouldn't have made something so obviously headed for a life as landfill fodder. (Sony)