What’s the must-have gift for Hollywood’s rich kids this year? A pony? A Ferrari? How about the lead role in a major summer blockbuster conceived, produced by and starring your megastar dad? ‘After Earth’ sees Will Smith as the improbably named Cypher Raige, noble warrior of a future race who struggles to connect to his hero-worshipping son, Kitai, played with quiet assurance by Smith’s son Jaden. When the pair crash on post-human earth, it’s up to Raige Jr to retrieve the homing beacon and save both their lives.
To be fair, this father-son project isn’t as bad as it might have been: Jaden is a charismatic lead, and there’s some nice visual design. But the recruitment of increasingly questionable director M Night Shyamalan (‘The Sixth Sense’, ‘The Happening’, ‘The Last Airbender’) was a misstep – the action is sluggish, while the theoretically justifiable decision to give every performer a bland, Boston-ish non- accent gets weird, fast.
Most disappointing is the film’s lack of ambition, as what could have been a sparky mainstream space opera becomes just another tedious jungle chase movie.