Now, watch this…
Did you see it? Or rather, not see it?
Both movies have the same director, but a very very different marketing strategy.
Clearly Hollywood is no longer banking on the box office magic of one twist-master himself, M. Night Shyamalan. In fact, we aren’t even getting his name at all in the trailers for After Earth, not even near the title. You have to look at the small print to see it.
After starting with a huge bang with The Sixth Sense in 1999, which grossed $293 million in theaters, his career has taken a slow, but progressive downward turn. His second most successful film was Signs earning $227 million, but that was back in 2002. His most recent film, The Last Airbender was considered both a critical and financial flop earning $131 million domestically but with a production cost of $150 million and a whopping 6% on Rotten Tomatoes. Seriously. Read some of the reviews for this film when you need a laugh. They are spectacular.
So I guess it’s really not much of a twist (see? see what I did there?) that Sony wants to bank on the likability of its stars, the father/son duo of Will and Jaden Smith, rather than the now tainted reputation of its director. The Happening, with its 17% on Rotten Tomatoes, became such a punchline, I’m surprised he was allowed to direct anything at all after that. Will Smith is still an amiable enough fellow who has the goodwill of moviegoers behind him that this could open well. And I suppose people liked his son as the new Karate Kid, so he is inoffensive as well.
Once I learned that M. Night is the director, I started rewatching the trailers for After Earth, trying to figure out exactly what the twist will be. We already know in the trailer that the planet is Earth, it’s doubtful they’re all really dead, and the trees and all the animals are the ones trying kill humans. Just what could it be…?
Of course it’s quite possible that this is just a straight up sci-fi/action film, with Shyamalan’s usual directorial flourishes. Perhaps I just too jaded by his existing oeuvre to not be cynical and hesitant about anything else he has come up with — and yes, he is a co-writer of the screenplay.
That all being said, I am still interested in seeing it, more for the effects than for what seems to be stilted acting and a flimsy plot. And I’ll just be second-guessing every moment, waiting for that inevitable plot twist that will most likely be groaner.
Perhaps Robot Chicken summed it up best: