by Abena Agyeman-Fisher
This past weekend was a huge movie weekend, with “Now You See Me,” “Fast and Furious 6,” and “After Earth,” vying to become blockbuster king. On Monday, the numbers rolled in, and critics of “After Earth” seemingly rejoiced at Will Smith and son Jaden‘s “dismal showing” at the box office. “After Earth” came in third, garnering only $27 million, compared with “Fast and Furious 6′s first place landing and $34.54 million profit. But whether you are a professional critic or pedestrian movie-goer alike, was “After Earth’s s0-called weak showing a result of poor acting and plot as some profess, or does Hollywood and some Americans have a problem with a star such as Will having the audacity to think that more than one Black actor can live in the limelight at his or her own choosing?
By Sunday, several high-profile critics panned “After Earth”:
Slate: “Even with his charismatic dad in his earpiece calling the shots, Jaden can’t turn himself into a movie star by sheer force of Will.
Chicago Sun Times: “As for the plot, I guess recycling remains in vogue centuries from now.”
NY Daily News: “Summer 2013 has its first bomb, and sadly, it’s landed right on Will Smith.”
The Village Voice: “I fear Jaden might face online wrath for his performance here, especially thanks to the numb-tongued Kiwi accent he’s forced to adopt. He’s not bad, especially, but he is a kid asked to do the extraordinary: compel us as he pretends to do ridiculous bullsh–. As Will Smith coldly instructs him tofeel, to root in this moment now, to master his own creation, I felt the purest horror I ever have at a Shyamalan film: What if this is what Jaden Smith’s life is actually like?”
But the funny thing is, in the New Jersey theater, where I viewed the movie with a nearly packed house, viewers actually clapped at the end of the movie, suggesting that the film had met their expectations if not exceeded them.
For those of you who haven’t seen the movie yet, “After Earth” is a movie that, with a post-human-Earth backdrop, explores “Kitai’s (Jaden) journey in attempting to connect with his father, “Cypher” (Will), while essentially coming in to his own.
The film showcases the realistic struggles between many sons and their fathers who often look to validate themselves by making Dad proud. Meanwhile, “Kitai” has to navigate through several obstacles — doubly mental and physical — to survive.
In other words, “After Earth,” even with its supersized and post-apocalyptic environment, proves to be a microcosm of life, with sheer faith, will, and strength getting the protagonist through.
“After Earth” is a positive and inspirational tale of a young teen coming in to his own as a member of his family and society.
It also should be noted that Kitai was able to overcome his struggles, emotions, and insecurities without lewd cursing, unnecessary violence, and explicit sex scenes.