Don't blame little Jaden Smith. It really isn't his fault. It's easy to giddily accept this lamb of slaughter and and rip it apart. Especially when it's a rich lamb born to a superstar father who has effortlessly placed him in a career path many never achieve, despite their hard work or talent.
All petty jealousy aside, children of nepotism are nothing new and often we come to embrace them graciously (e.g. Michael Douglas, Josh Brolin, Angelina Jolie). It's the way they're introduced that decides whether it's nobility taking their rightful place in royalty or sandpaper being crammed down our throats.
Will Smith seems to have taken a "that's my boy and you'll love him no matter what" approach to bringing his son into the acting profession. Not that it couldn't work. It could even be endearing, but sometimes a quiet, humble intro can be more effective than one done with explosions and special effects.
In a bit of heavy, front-loaded exposition we learn that 3000 years from now mankind has, you guessed it, abused and polluted mother earth to a point where it is uninhabitable for humans. We now survive on a planet called Nova Prime, where we speak in a dialect that's a cross between Southern hospitality and Jamaican. Will Smith is Cypher. Wait, don't roll those eyes yet! He's a special caliber of space ranger called a "ghost." They're named so due to their lack of fear when battling a vicious alien species that can only respond to a human's anxiety. In case you can't understand Jaden Smith's unintelligible narration this is all shown to you through an overblown opening sequence, including Cypher calmly walking in slow mo slicing an alien's throat while others around him panic. You can almost see this as Will saying to young Ja, "Yeah, boy, this might be your story, but I'm still the star."
Cypher returns home and finds his son Kitai (Jaden) longing for his father's approval and love. He takes him on a mission to earth, hoping for a bonding session along the way. They hit an asteroid field causing them to crash land on Earth, killing everyone except the father and son duo. Their only hope of rescue is a far off beacon separated by acres of dangerous forests. Made immobile by a broken leg, Cypher slaps a wrist communicator on Kitai and lets him know it's time to man up. Or, metaphorically, it's Papa Smith telling Jaden it's time to earn his keep. At this point junior Smith must carry the rest of the film burdened by a simplistic obstacle-course plot. He gets attacked by baboons, a bug, a bird, and some mutated mountain lions, which all lead to a final boss battle with one of the big bad aliens daddy used to fight.
Again, it's not Jaden's fault. He's off acting against nonexistent animals while Pop sits back and takes over the role of basically an emotionless, I-could-give-a-s**t narrator. Smith has made a big deal about acting with his son. That's fine - if you ACT WITH YOUR SON. Editing in scenes where you talk to him through a wrist phone doesn't count.
It's frustrating. Especially considering that the idea to make this a big budget sic-fi epic was all Will Smith's. Smith Senior has fallen into the trap most actors and directors succumb to when their whole careers have been built on blockbusters, and this is the inability to scale back. This is a father and son coming of age story. This could have been a modest tale set against a camping trip gone wrong. Too modest? Okay, maybe a jungle or the Outback. Point is, the tenderness of seeing a stern father opening up to his rebellious child is lost against the egotistical need to throw spaceships and monsters our way.
Not to say this isn't admirable in other ways. It's shallow, but some of the action scenes are fun for kids who can handle the intensity. The art direction, on the other hand, is beautiful, the technology taking on a more organic look, appearing almost alien itself.
M. Night Shyamalan comes out the best here, if only for sneaking out the room while most of the criticism is hurled towards Will and Jaden. As usual, most people laughed at the promotions as they tried to guess what twist would await them at the final conclusion of the movie. Many sighed with relief after discovering his duties were only left to directing, even if at times it played to his trademark quiet drama, bordering on tedium. A nice lemon twist wouldn't be so bad now, huh?
As for Will Smith, if a blockbuster is what you're seeking for your son, then skip the pretense. Slap a black suit on him, some shades, and let him play your cute sidekick. See you two in MIB 4.
Review courtesy of our friends at Spill.com. Listen to the full audio review here!
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When you are a powerful enough celebrity, you can will into being pretty much any movie you want, and then star in it. That's what Will Smith is doing with The Legend of Cain, a movie written by Caleeb Pinkett (his brother-in-law), Dan Knauf (Carnivale), and Andrea Berloff, which he plans to produce (with his wife) and star in. Smith will play the titular Cain in "an epic re-telling of the Biblical sibling tale, this time with" - wait for it - "a vampiric twist."
Sigh. Somehow I thought Will Smith was above things like this, but I suppose everyone has to pay the bills somehow.
Overbrook Entertainment, James Lassiter and Ken Stovitz are set to assist Smith with producing the movie, though no director or studio is yet attached to the project.
The biblical 'Cain' is, of course, Able's brother, one of the two sons of Adam and Eve. As told in the story of Genesis, Cain grows jealous of Able's relationship with God and kills him in cold blood. So... was Cain a vampire? Is that what's going on here? I normally trust Will Smith's judgment, but this just doesn't sound like a winner to me. As always, stay tuned.
I long ago gave up hand-wringing about Hollywood’s preoccupation with remakes. Still the trailers for Harald Zwart’s remake of The Karate Kid the 1984 underdog classic that introduced such priceless phrases as “Wax on wax off” and “Sweep the leg!” into the pop-culture lexicon set me ill at ease. To me the film seemed little more than a high-profile vanity project for child star Jaden Smith son of Will Smith and Jada Pinkett who for all we know gave him the movie as a Christmas gift a $40 million stocking-stuffer. Pillage my childhood memories if you must Hollywood but damnit at least show a little respect for the source material.
Much has changed in the update: Daniel Larusso is now Dre Parker; California’s San Fernando Valley is now Beijing China; Mr. Miyagi is now Mr. Han; and karate is now kung fu. Most of the story beats and thematic elements however are essentially the same. After his single mother (Taraji P. Henson) gets a job transfer 12-year-old Dre (Smith) is forced to move from his native Detroit to the unfamiliar climes of Beijing where he’s besieged by a local group of pubescent fascists after being caught innocently flirting with a pretty schoolmate.
Dre’s tormentors all of whom practice a peculiarly sadistic version of kung fu taught at the neighborhood martial arts academy adhere vigorously to the “No weakness no pain no mercy” credo of their autocratic master. As such they’re not about to let their puny prey off with just one humiliating beatdown. During a subsequent ass-whooping Mr. Han (Jackie Chan) the eccentric maintenance man from Dre’s apartment building comes to the rescue fending off the ruthless urchins with some pretty fancy fighting moves of his own. After some cajoling Mr. Han reluctantly agrees to teach the child kung fu and several life lessons and inspirational montages later a resurgent Dre finally faces up to his adversaries at a climactic kung fu tournament.
The case for nepotism in this new Karate Kid is not without merit. Though allegedly 11 years old Smith doesn’t look a day over 10 and appears jarringly undersized for a 12-year-old. Seeing the baby-faced lad (he definitely takes after his mom in the looks department) get repeatedly brutalized by adolescent thugs twice his size gets uncomfortable as do later scenes of him training shirtless his torso the size of Chan’s forearm.
But it’s a minor quibble. In truth Smith surpasses his predecessor Macchio in both acting ability and martial arts proficiency. Whereas Daniel-San’s fighting scenes in the original Karate Kid require a suspension of disbelief that diminishes his eventual triumph at the All-Valley Karate Championships (Even as a kid I always suspected that the Cobra Kai kids were either sandbagging it or their sensai was the worst in-game coach since Jim Tressel) Smith’s moves are both more authentic and more athletic. Moreover he has the good sense not to collapse hysterically into a wailing heap at the slightest touch from an opponent as Macchio so famously did.
The Karate Kid is every bit an unabashed crowd-pleaser -- which isn’t necessarily such a bad thing in a summer movie season that has thus far given audiences precious little to cheer for. At two-and-a-half hours it takes far too long to get going and would have benefited from a more assured hand behind the camera. Zwart’s overemphasis on the bullying and fish-out-of-water elements becomes redundant and the dialogue and culture-clash jokes border on embarrassing at times. But the meat of the story the bond that forms between an unlikely kung fu teacher and his equally unlikely student is undeniably affecting.
Who knew that Will Smith could deliver the year’s most unexpected and profoundly moving love story? He plays Ben a man with a deep dark secret that leads him help seven complete strangers each with their own particular set of circumstances. Constructed like a jigsaw puzzle we slowly get clues to the traumatic events that cause Ben to contact these people and change their lives in ways they never could have anticipated. What he doesn’t expect is to fall in love with one of them -- Emily Posa (Rosario Dawson) a cardiac patient whose heart may be weak but is clearly strong enough to make a difference in the way Ben looks at things. It’s this relationship that becomes the center of Grant Nieporte’s compelling screenplay but as it continues it’s obvious there is more to what Ben is doing a mystery not revealed until the final moments and one you will not easily forget. Will Smith is at his best. He may be the world’s No. 1 movie star at the moment but he’s continually proving himself to be a brilliant actor as well. Reteaming with director Gabriele Muccino who led him to a Best Actor Oscar nomination in The Pursuit of Happyness Smith once again finds his dramatic mojo in the role of a man whose life has been shattered by something so profoundly affecting that he reaches out to strangers in an effort to redeem himself. You will be hard-pressed to find the loveable Will Smith persona anywhere within this character. Dawson also has a career best as the spunky and courageous Emily a role that could have been sloppily sentimentalized and maudlin. She’s a revelation delivering a flawless and luminous performance. And best among the various recipients of Ben’s kindness is Woody Harrelson as a blind man he encounters. Also quite good is Barry Pepper as Ben’s childhood friend who is the only other person “in” on Ben’s master plan helping him to achieve his goal. He rips your heart out when he gets the call from Ben who says “It’s time.” Gabriele Muccino puts it all out there. He is an unapologetically emotional director and some will probably find fault with his style but as the Italian filmmaker proved in Pursuit of Happyness he knows exactly what he’s doing and where he’s taking the story. He’s most successful here in building suspense and an air of mystery around Smith’s character and then bringing it all home in a whopper of a final act. Clearly story acting and gut-level feeling are the three things that drive Muccino and his distinctive stamp and European approach is evident throughout. Most of all he has given Smith and Dawson a real showcase finding the meat of a story that’s one from the heart and good for the soul.