Running Time: 100 mins.
Premise: When a routine space mission goes awry, father and son (Will and Jaden Smith) crash land on Earth, which is no longer inhabited by humans. With dad injured, the son, Kitai, must face his fears and travel across hostile terrain in order to send out a rescue signal.
Behind-the-Scenes: Will Smith came up with the story and personally asked M. Night Shyamalan to direct. The marketing materials have been noticeably lacking any mention of M. Night’s involvement. Probably a smart move after Lady in the Water, The Happening, and The Last Airbender.
The Good: M. Night redeems himself somewhat here – it’s a good-looking, competently made film that is miles better than the last 3 movies mentioned above. But that’s not saying much. At 100 minutes, it’s relatively brisk and there are a handful of excitingly staged scenes. Kitai’s outfit is kind of cool in concept – it changes colors to adapt to the environment or to alert Kitai to danger. Younger kids (aged 8-12) will enjoy this adventure more than others.
The Bad: The story is simplistic to the point of stupidity. Will Smith, normally so charismatic, is completely restrained (literally – he’s stuck in a chair the whole movie) and delivers an uninteresting, one-note performance. Jaden is no better. He gets the lion’s share of action scenes here, but he clearly lacks the star wattage his dad has. The CGI animals look like CGI, rendering any sense of realism or danger somewhat laughable. Too serious for its own good – could have used a few moments of levity. The father-son dynamic is trite and overplayed – you’ve seen it done before (and done better).
Should You See It?: No. It’s not good, but nowhere near as bad as it’s abysmal 12% rottentomatoes score might suggest. Critics really love to take M. Night and Big Willy Style down a peg or two.
Rating: **1/2 out of 5 stars.
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