A ridiculous story matched by ridiculous acting. Planned as a trilogy that will now most certainly not be happening, this film never really gets past the main problem of knowing that Will Smith has cast his real life fourteen year old son to play the son of his central character onscreen and, although I do feel a degree of pity for Jaden Smith’s situation here, his son’s acting ability simply isn’t where it needs to be for a huge blockbuster like this. This issue is compounded by Will Smith himself actually having come up with the story (though not the screenplay), and it’s hopelessly contrived to allow the character his son plays to conquer his fears and in effect become a man. His heart was likely in the right place, and it has the feel of Mr Smith senior trying to pass the acting gauntlet onto Mr Smith junior, but it absolutely needed a better script.
Set in the future after we’ve destroyed our planet by abusing its resources, although this is actually nonsense as the two central characters end up on a crash landed ship (wherein the entirety of the ship’s crew have conveniently otherwise perished) that warps back to Earth (this is not a spoiler by the way), and it is displayed as abundantly full of vegetation and megafauna. There’s a volcano, if that is supposed to denote global warming, but we do actually have volcanoes at the moment Mr Smith (admittedly, it is set one thousand years after we left for pastures new, but hardly enough time for every species on Earth to more than double in size, especially in their supposedly resources limited environment).
Anyway, Will’s legs are also conveniently broken, or as his character puts it ‘Both my legs are broken. One of them really badly.’, hmm yes, which thus forces his young mini me to go on a trip through the perilous forest to find the tail of the crashed vessel with the emergency distress beacon. And therein an enormous problem with the story rears its ugly head – since there are only two of them it is abundantly obvious that young Mr Smith is in fact not going to be annihilated by the several things that he encounters which will, of course, try to annihilate him. Though he does pretty much ask for it by smacking a baboon in the face with a rock for no apparent reason. Fortunately, he is so super fit, despite Earth’s gravity being stronger than on his home planet, he is able to outrun an entire pack of angry baboons in their native forest. Did. Not. See. That. Coming. Sarcasm.
O there’s an alien bad guy that may or may not have survived the crash too, see the above line, all that being said, some of the visuals and cinematography are quite good. Indeed, the production design on the spaceship is interesting, with an aesthetic that appears to be a hybrid of an old sailing ship and a beehive/organic structure on the interior, and a more Star Trek esque hull on the outside. With the start of the final credits and the revelation that the director is M. Night Shyamalan (his name was removed from trailers after they performed badly) there was a moment of, ‘O, of course, it all makes sense now’, as there was one part when our young hero looked as if he were going to try to outrun the weather as well as the baboons, and one couldn’t help but think of Shyamalan’s ‘The Happening’ (08) when Mark Wahlberg and co did actually try to outrun the wind and the airborne evil that came with it, and here we find similar veins of trashy nonsense throughout the story. There are a lot of good films out at the moment, don’t waste your time and money on this.