Names hold power. The single utterance of one's appellation can bring about a connotative thesis for all who are listening. The mention of Gandhi would immediately spark thoughts of peace and kindness whereas the whisper of Charles Manson might incite horror and repulsion. The same can be said for M. Night Shyamalan. In the days long past, his name once signified quality filmmaking. Now, when that dreaded "Shyamalan" adorns the silver screen, the immediate response is laughter. His name is a joke condemned to the furthest reaches of failure. What was once a moniker of awe and power has been labeled a death-blow for any film. . . And sadly, After Earth does nothing to revive his sullied reputation. When it comes down to it, there's a reason the studio feared placing M. Night's name on any advertisements. . . Actually, there are several. . .
5. Earth Does What?
One of the key characters of After Earth is... Well, the Earth itself. It's a shifting landscape of natural power, unforgiving weather conditions and a host of creatures prowling for prey. Understandably, M. Night wanted the threat of such an environmental antagonist to parallel the impending danger of the monstrous Ursa. However, the fallen director fails to give such a subject one key thing: rules. During After Earth's squandered run-time of two hours, the Earth plagues our hero with all manner of logic-defying characteristics. First and foremost, this "new" Earth freezes over every night. Not just some nights--every night. So, how on Earth (see what I did there?) do any of the animals survive here? I gather that there are specific "hot-spots" within the vast reaches of the schizophrenic landscapes, but that doesn't explain how it's at all possible for any of the woodland critters to have survived each night--let alone 1000 years. Furthering the fact nothing could live under such abrasive conditions is a scene which depicts a giant bird giving into the icy sting of death after it aids lil' Kitai Raige in the frozen forest. Why was it that the cold finally beat it now? Because it learned to love a boy and had completed its quest of emotional discovery? I don't know and neither did the writers. While the element of a nightly winter is one thing, another problem lies within the choice of animals that adorn the terrain. Hyenas, baboons, bison, tiger-like creatures, venomous slugs, giant-birds. . . There's simply no consistency here. What happened that allowed numerous different species from varying ecosystems to live together? And on that note, how did they all even wind up in the same place considering that, y'know, most of these furry critters are separated by oceans and other continents. Beyond all of that, if Earth was rendered unlivable due to pollution, why was it so lush, beautiful and teeming with life? The short answer to all of these plights is that of convenience. Without having to justify such questionable attributes, M. Night was just able to pile on scene-to-scene conflict without hesitation. Redwood forests that freeze every night? Why not. Massive cliffs, rolling southern hills, jungles and a ashen realm of volcanoes all side-by-side? Do it! After Earth crucifies itself early on by not giving such a realm rules as to what it is and isn't allowed to do. Without boundaries, M. Night crafted a shameless "kitchen sink" experience that only sought to benefit his convenience of storytelling without actually having to properly structure a narrative regarding what actually happened to Earth in those thousand years.