M. Night Shyamalan has lost his mojo. Will Smith wants to use his Hollywoodian powers to give his son Jaden a full-blown career. This movie has Scientology overtones.
Seriously, it’s amazing how nobody can judge a film for what it is anymore. Thinking for yourself is a novelty. I’m talking respectable critics blinded by hate. Hate that is propelled by one of the three reasons mentioned above. Yes, bullshit is one of them.
After Earth is an original sci-fi film which is low on deriving from other movies and high on telling a simple story. There are some special moments here. Some don’t work but most do. Especially an ending which is uniquely touching. The idea of a son’s hero-villain dichotomy for his father is achieved, yet given a new conclusion at the end. Masculinity, not Scientology is the point.
I was an 11-year-old pre-teen when I saw The Sixth Sense (1999). It still remains one of my favorite movies ever. I happened to catch Unbreakable (2000), the first day it released. I remember the amazing theater-going experience that was Signs (2002). After hearing about how it's reminiscent of The Birds (1963), I was introduced to the works of Alfred Hitchcock who quickly became my favorite filmmaker. Shyamalan was touted as the next Hitchcock. The next Spielberg (who happens to be my second favorite filmmaker). He did cameos in his own movies. He played the audience like a piano, just like Mr. Hitchcock did. He mostly made films about childhood and faith, just like Spielberg did. Why would I not love this guy?
Then came Phase 2 of his career. He made The Village (2004) which divided popular opinion. I still stand by the notion that it is every bit as good as the three films mentioned above. If not better. I have reason to believe that this film and Lady in the Water (2006) are bona fide minor masterpieces. Solid works of an auteur.
The Happening (2008) is another unique film. In fact, if I have to convince you of one film out of his entire oeuvre that isn’t bad in any way, it would be this film. It is a difficult film to make. So difficult that it needs true believers to love it. I believe, you cannot be a true Shyamalan fan if you don’t like this movie.
Then came the first film of his that I disliked – The Last Airbender (2010). I could see why his films were being panned left, right and center. This is when I could actually relate to the disappointment. Being a fan of the animated TV show I was dejected to find a complete lack of emotional connect. The humor had been sucked out and discarded completely. The actors wore the serious face all the time. I could see why someone who was supposed to be the greatest filmmaker of my generation was just not that filmmaker anymore. You know the kind of respect and goodwill Christopher Nolan has established now? That belonged to M. Night Shyamalan back in the day.
All of this came about because of one thing and one thing only: the human ego. Shyamalan had become so egoistic that you can see his self-worship in Lady in the Water. You can see his disdain for his critics. I could only see this man with utmost compassion. When I love a filmmaker, there is no way I would turn my back on him. Especially when he is weak. I know that one day he would return to form. This return would not just mean pleasing me, but pleasing the general movie-going audience. This will happen if he makes a small film (with big ideas), especially with less seriousness and a bit more humor.
After Earth is end of Phase 2. This is the end of the downward spiral. The start of his career going uphill again. I’m certain that his next film or the film after that will hit the universal sweet spot. I don’t want to talk about After Earth much. You have already decided this would be a bad film without watching it. Let’s watch this film with an open mind and we could have a terrific discussion.
All I wish to say for now is that, this is a good movie. It’s not great but it is simple and successful.view less