One wishes Will Smith’s plan to make a movie with his 14 year old son Jaden had received a heap of disapproval before this dull but expensive sci-fi epic got the green light. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a big Will Smith fan, right from Independence Day. A glint of humor might have made it more bearable but Smith called in none other than M Night Shyamalan, director of the appalling ‘The Last Air bender’ to shoot his screenplay.
Here we are, a thousand years from now, after humanity as we know it has been forced to abandon the Earth to its toxic air and roaming beasties. We have all gone to Nova Prime, where Smith Sr is the General, teaching his son to be a United Ranger. The two don’t get on very well but when their spacecraft crashes and Dad is incapacitated with two broken legs, it is up to the boy to brave the elements and everything else that’s trying to eat him to find the magic thingie that will save them both. Dad relays constant instructions as the boy clambers around avoiding the beasties and orders him home when the going gets really tough. “This mission has reached abort criteria,” he says. But the boy’s a man now and won’t give up.
One cannot truly say that Jaden is likely to become a star of his father’s magnitude but he does his best to suggest a proud lad bullied into adulthood by a stern parent. As for Will, he accomplishes what he has to pained by his crushed legs, of course.
The problem is that the film is chockfull of clichés and stymied by production design and CG effects that look as if the worst of the Star Wars series was being devoutly copied.
There are some nice approximation of a wasted yet still spectacular world but it doesn’t look as if Shyamalan, who at least made one good film in ‘’The Sixth Sence before relapsing into what seems terminal eccentricity, didn’t have the heart to face Smith with some hard choices.
There are several inexplicable references to Moby Dick and quasiphilosophical musing such as ‘Danger is very real but fear is a choice.” But the whole point of the film, if there is one, seems stymied by a plotline and screenplay that made one American citric write, in the middle of his review: “Stop it. Now!”
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