The Stanly News and Press (Albemarle, NC)

Opinion & Letters to the Editor

July 11, 2013

After Earth: Does It Deserve a Wider Audience After All?

Thursday, July 11, 2013 — Since its release there has been a lot of buzz about the small box office gross for “After Earth.” (At the time I finished this review, the film had grossed $56 million in 20 days. “Iron Man 3” made that much in one day.) It seems the film has not made money as quickly as most of Will Smith’s films have. Allow me to offer a clarification. This is not a Will Smith movie. He is a supporting character in a film centered on the protagonist played by Will’s son, Jaden Smith.

While there is much shock around a Smith film that is not rolling in the dollars, no one seems to be writing about the fact that the director, M. Night Shyamalan has had bigger successes as well. Several of his films have been quite lucrative: “The Sixth Sense” ($293 million), “Signs” ($227 million) and “The Village” ($114 million). Shyamalan has not been as successful lately as he used to be; his adaptation of “The Last Airbender” cost more than it made. But if you are going to blame Smith for the box office struggles of “After Earth,” I think Shyamalan should be included in the discussion. He has, not so long ago, made movies that filled theaters.

With all that said, I regret that “After Earth” has not found a larger audience. It is a solid film. The story is not epic, but focuses on one family, particularly a son and father, but the mother and sister have significant roles as well in the plot. Ultimately it is a small simple story, told well.

It is not as strong a sci-fi film as the new “Star Trek,” but it is vastly superior to the very similar “Oblivion” from earlier this year. Both “Oblivion” and “After Earth” tell of our planet in the distant future. “Oblivion” seemed to be rehashed elements from other films; “After Earth” successfully tells a new story.   

Here are some of the strengths of “After Earth.” Visually, the film is almost always amazing. Stunning creatures abound, settings are exquisite, and the crash scene reminds viewers that anything visual is possible these days.

There are some strong moments in the screenplay, and it even boasts the best two lines of closing dialogue I have heard this year. The flashbacks in the film work well to give the story more resonance and character development. Twists and surprises do not seem forced but natural for the development of the story. And the ending satisfied. (Unlike“Oblivion” that left me with a feeling of disappointment and dissatisfaction.)

One other strength is the chemistry between father and son Smiths. The early scenes they have together seem very natural and true.

The one thing that was missing for me was a surprise ending. Director Shyamalan used to play that card a lot. His more recent films have not had the twists of his earlier works (“Sixth Sense,” “Unbreakable,” “Signs” and “The Village)” but I still hoped this one might. I had even speculated to a friend on what the twist might be. But alas, there is no climatic surprise, just a satisfying ending that I endorse.  

After seeing this film with my young son, I listened to him retell the story of the film to someone else. He told it with great enthusiasm and detail. Then he praised the film and highly recommended it. Perhaps taking after his father, he is becoming quite the critic. “After Earth” is not one of the best films of this year so far, but as my son Henry said, “It is so good that you should see it.”

Roger Thomas reviews films for The Stanly News & Press and

Text Only
Opinion & Letters to the Editor
  • Doug Creamer Friends and contentment

    Last week I made my annual trip up the mountain to Sparta. My friends have a secluded home near a babbling brook. Their home and property are a haven for peace. It’s a two-plus hour ride to their home that doesn’t feel that long because I look so forward to my time with this great couple. When I arrive, the conversation seems to pick up right where we left it the last time we saw each other.

    July 29, 2014 1 Photo

  • Thanks for the honest deed

    I would like to thank the person that found my wallet in the parking lot of Harris Teeter on July 23 and turned it in to the Albemarle Police.

    July 29, 2014

  • cleaning supplies Don't judge mothers with messy homes

    I was building shelves in my garage when a neighbor girl, one of my 4-year-old daughter's friends, approached me and said, "I just saw in your house. It's pretty dirty. Norah's mommy needs to clean more."

    July 28, 2014 1 Photo

  • We need your help

    Hurray for the Albemarle City Council. Council plans to battle N.C. Department of Transportation’s ranking of all 13 projects in Stanly County to the bottom of their priority list. Council is setting up petitions in various city buildings for citizens to sign.

    July 28, 2014

  • Council asks veterans to seek office

    The terms of office for the leaders of the Stanly County Veterans Council ended June 30. A call is being sent to veterans council members requesting candidates for the four elective offices of the council. A meeting has been set for 6:30 p.m. Aug. 12 at the DAV building. All council members are urged to attend.

    July 28, 2014

  • Mike Walden The gains and gaps in our economy

    Twice a year, I pull out my cloudy crystal ball and attempt to make some predictions about the direction and pace of the North Carolina economy. I just finished my latest effort and, as usual, the results are a combination of pluses and minuses.

    July 28, 2014 1 Photo

  • Jason O. Boyd Yellow journalism takes on new form, people are dumber for it

    Time to get on the soapbox for a few minutes.
    Let me clear my throat. Eh ... hem!
    People are dumb.

    July 28, 2014 1 Photo

  • Brent Laurenz Special election adds to the mix

    RALEIGH – A busy slate of judicial elections this November got even busier recently when Judge John Martin of the N.C. Court of Appeals announced his retirement.
    A special statewide election to fill Martin’s seat will be added to the general election ballot, joining the four N.C. Supreme Court seats and three N.C. Court of Appeals races already slated for this fall.

    July 25, 2014 1 Photo

  • Patrick Gannon Fake news or sign of some more trouble?

    RALEIGH – Of the three situations I can recall where agencies receiving large sums of taxpayer dollars wouldn’t divulge employees’ salaries, two of them ended badly. The third – involving a group of charter schools in Southeastern North Carolina – is playing out right now.

    July 25, 2014 1 Photo

  • Almost half of America's obese youth don't know they're obese

    WASHINGTON - The good news is that after decades of furious growth, obesity rates finally seem to be leveling off in the U.S.. The bad news is that America's youth still appear to be dangerously unaware of the problem.

    July 23, 2014

House Ads
Seasonal Content