It is the far future and the denizens of Planet Earth have left their homeworld many years ago when it became uninhabitable thanks to their pollution and wars, striking out for the stars and a new world to live on. Unfortunately, although they found a place they were terrorised by a breed of aliens who wanted to get rid of them, and to do so they sent an army of genetically engineered creatures which operated by smelling fear on the humans since they were blind otherwise. This meant the former Earth folks had to learn to do without their fear, and they aspired to a higher form of being where this new level of thinking would save their lives...
If that doesn't sound stupid enough, check out the rest of After Earth, actually a survival yarn with knobs on from the mind of Will Smith, and purportedly his Scientology connections, which should have set alarm bells ringing for anyone who had the misfortune to suffer through Battlefield Earth. The whole science fictional self-actualisation theme that the cult was based around was adapted into Smith's story as the evolution to a higher plane of existence by purging the mind and body of its issues (or residual space alien effects, if you like) with deadening effects, crafting what could have been a ripsnorting, fast-paced adventure and imbuing it with a heavy boredom.
Whatever possessed Smith to think that playing down his natural charisma, and whatever you think of his acting there was no question the man had star quality to spare, was baffling as the improbably-named Cypher Raige, his father character, was one of those who had banished his fear and apparently pretty much every emotion bar a slight temper, leaving the actor with little to do but sit and look blank, speaking a near-monotone with weird accent: it would be bizarre if it wasn't so dull to watch. You know who else had no fear? A whole flock of dodos. But the main problem was his insistence on casting his own son Jaden Smith as Cypher's son Kitai, fair enough he wanted his boy to have plenty of opportunities to be all he could be from a young age, but perhaps being an actor wasn't the wisest career path when he displayed few talents for it.
Although it takes some ability to leave every line reading so flat when Kitai was supposed to be the emotional one, even when he was shouting. What happens to this pair is that they are on a mission with a bunch of other military men when their spacecraft hits an asteroid belt and suffers damage, so of course, in spite of it being light years away now, they jump through hyperspace and end up at Earth, no matter how illogical that may be, but then logic was not this movie's strongest suit. The blame for that was laid at the feet of the director, M. Night Shyamalan, a man who after his first flush of success had become the whipping boy for all bad movie aficionados, but you couldn't in all conscience say he hadn't done the best he could with the material he was given, a rare script he had not had the concept for himself.
The craft crashlands in a wilderness which has rid itself of the pollution but in doing so had advanced evolution quite alarmingly over a period of a mere thousand years. Basically, Kitai has to make his way through the hostile landscape avoiding the local wildlife which are all savage, unless you're a big buzzard which learns the benefits of kindness, to the other half of the split in two spaceship where he can set off the beacon which will call the rescue party. To do this he goes in fits and starts, continually immobilised and recovering, which in its repetitive quality doesn't make for exciting viewing, particularly when you feel no investment in watching Jaden versus the expensive CGI. There may have been a half-decent thrill ride in here, but pretensions dragged everything down to feeling you were getting some airy-fairy confidence-building course in the form of a movie, and when the results were less than cheering (you too can be a dead loss like Will Smith!) you sat back and marked off the parts which didn't add up, simply there in service of its woolly message. Music by James Newton Howard.
Indian-born, American-raised writer and director, whose forte is taking cliched fantasy stories and reinventing them with low-key treatment, usually with a child at the heart of them. After gentle comedy Wide Awake, he hit the big time with supernatural drama The Sixth Sense. Superhero tale Unbreakable was also successful, as was the religious alien invasion parable Signs. Shyamalan's mystery drama The Village was seen as ploughing the same furrow for too long by some, and his fantasies Lady in the Water, The Happening, The Last Airbender and After Earth (which he didn't conceive the plot for) were met with near-universal derision. On a lower budget, he made The Visit, which was cautiously received as a partial return to form, and Split, which was his biggest hit in some time, along with its sequel Glass, a thoughtful if eccentric take on superheroes. He also co-wrote Stuart Little.