Father and son Smith play father and son Raige in M. Night Shyamalan’s sci-fi tale of survival on an abandoned and hostile future Earth. Smith movies are generally pretty good, and M. Night has, in the distant past, made good movies too. Is this a match made in the stars? (Spoilers: Not really)
There is a glimpse of promise in this movie
The Shyamalan effect
The script is terrible
Kitai Raige – Jaden Smith
Cypher Raige – Will Smith
In the distant future, the Earth is abandoned and overrun by evolved and vicious wildlife. General Raige (Smith) and his son Kitai (other Smith) crash land on this unfamiliar Earth. Kitai must then overcome his fears and cross the hostile terrain, alone, to set off a rescue beacon, while his mortally injured father talks him through it. Sounds like it could be a bit of fun. It’s not.
There’s a lot going wrong in this movie. The script, particularly the dialogue, is really bad. The performances are very wooden, and stilted. And the direction is slow, uninspired, and generally pretty terrible. In short, this is a new M. Night Shyamalan movie, and a particularly bad one at that. It is possible that the original idea, by Big Smith himself, was good, but it has been well and truly Shyamalaned since then.
THE SHYAMALAN EFFECT
This movie opens loud, and fast, which it is quite jarring, and annoying. A sign of things to come. What follows is a quick, and nicely edited, history of what happened to Earth, fear smelling aliens, and “ghosting”. This is probably the highlight of the movie, but it is quickly ruined by Little Smith’s voice-over, which has an accent that is so incredibly forced, and annoying, that it is immediately off-putting. This is not a good start to a movie.
The script is terrible, filled with lots of daft sci-fi techno babble, and lame Big Will motivational speeches. There is minimal dialogue, and what there is is crap. Will’s First Ghosting speech is ridiculous, if for no other reason than his delivery. Say four or five words, pause, a few more words, and another pause, repeat til he starts going on about fear..again. There are endless speeches on the nature of fear, it just hammers home the daft message that fear is a choice. Then there are also moments of such astounding stupidity, for instance: there are two moments with an angry bird, and after it made it’s last appearance, I over heard an audience member loudly proclaim “That is *expletive deleted* stupid”, which it was. As is a lot of the movie.
WILL AND JADEN STIFF
The performances in M.Night movies are always quite subdued, and stiff, but it goes too far here. There are really only two performances in the movie, and they’re both kinda bad. I generally like Smith Sr, he is charming, watchable, and engaging, but can also bring surprising depth when it’s called for. None of these qualities are present in his performance here. He spends most of this movie red eyed, sweating, and tripping balls. And not in a fun way. For him, or for us. This isn’t fun Fresh Jiggy “A-Ha” Big Will. It’s not even quietly moving Will. It’s Will Stiff. It’s the worst he’s been in anything I’ve seen in years.
Then there’s Smith Jr, who is the center of the movie. He has, up until now anyway, proven to be quite good. He was surprising in The Pursuit of Happyness, and effectively annoying in The Day the Earth Stood Still. But puberty doesn’t seem to have been kind to his talent, as he is not very good at all here. This becomes clear early on, as he can’t seem to be able to do the ridiculous accent and act at the same time. This is problematic, as he gets the vast majority of the screen time. A problem for both Smiths is that their characters try not to feel or convey fear, the result of which is that the performances just come across as unsympathetic, and lacking any emotion. The father-son combination are also lacking in any chemistry, even if they don’t share much actual screen time.
Then we come to the man himself. I actually like M.Night, or should I say liked, from The Sixth Sense up to, and including, The Village. He makes slow, meticulous movies that draw you in. Not this time though. Right from the very beginning this movie is not very engaging. There are moments that are almost cool, almost good, like the monkey chase, the needle bit, and the big jump, but they all fall short. The climax lacks emotional punch, and the physical punches are edited badly. Plus, it’s not particularly fun, or funny. There’s simply no joy here, it’s all very po-faced and serious, which simply doesn’t work when there’s so much bad and dumb happening. It doesn’t even look particularly good either. There may be one or two nice shots, but the special effects really aren’t that special, for instance the landscapes are ruined by shoddy green screen work.
BOTTOM LINE: A CLASSIC BAD MOVIE FOR THE AGES
So…At times it looks okay, and very occasionally you can catch the slightest glimpse of promise in the story, but it’s drowned out by terrible writing, and ham-fisted direction, bad acting, grating music, and a whole big bunch of not good. This is, flat out, not a good movie. It is, in fact, so bad that it simply stays bad! And while this movie marks a career low for everyone involved, which is saying something for Shyamalan, it will likely live on in Bad Movie Nights!