Signs of Life

Before I rewrite this ENTIRE post again from scratch, let me just CURSE the freaking blogger app that doesn't have an autosave feature and randomly decides to delete some of my very time consuming hard work :( I had almost written this After Earth review to its completion saying exactly everything I wanted to touch on while it was still fresh in my mind only to find this morning there was no draft of that name. Almost like I had imagined it. Sigh. Here we go again. If only I lived in the time of After Earth with their technology this probably wouldn't have happened!!! No good technology. What can I say? I'm bitter. Oh well..time for take 2.

Once upon a time there was a director named M. Night Shyamalan who came out of nowhere (other than a couple of obscure films he made before that,) to bring us the smash hit The Sixth Sense. The film was a pop cultural phenomenon and was almost all anyone could talk about in late summer of '99. The fantastic performances, the undeniable suspense and THAT ending. It was a dream of a debut and rightly so because the film still holds up today (maybe not as a pure horror film, but luckily there was always more to the film than that.) The next summer followed and Unbreakable was released. It had more of a modest public reception, but in time people realized its quality and a cult following began. After that came Signs and The Village which I both enjoyed (Signs I loved,) and generally a lot of people did too. But the cracks started to show with The Village as the reviews became a little less favorable and the opinions more varied. I personally think it's a good film, but I can see how it might not be everyone's cup of tea. And then the real ugliness began with Lady in the Water and the two films that succeeded it. In 2010 came The Last Airbender, and almost seemingly with it the last breath of this once great director's career. Oh, how the mighty had fallen.

When the advertising campaign kicked in for his latest film After Earth, his name was nowhere to be seen. Heck, how many of you even knew After Earth WAS a Shyamalan film? Ten years ago his name would have been the first thing you'd have seen on a trailer...but now? Not so. I'd had pretty high expectations of his last few films only to be massively disappointed, so I kept my expectations low with only the faintest hope that somehow this film could be good so that I could see that he wasn't completely dead to me. After attending a screening of After Earth, I can finally breathe a sigh of relief that a glimmer of that talented man is still in there somewhere!

So is Shyamalan back?? Well not entirely. This isn't a perfect film by any means, nor is it on the same level as some of his early work...but it is undoubtedly the best thing he's been involved with in almost a decade, and for me that alone is cause for a little bit of celebration. Don't get me wrong, there's a lot of really silly dialogue... but some that also I really liked, such as the full fear speech we saw briefly in the trailer as well as a few other moments. Both the elder and younger Smith put on a bizarre accent that goes in and out that I definitely could have done without; both of their performances are fine enough though not really groundbreaking. And Jaden definitely takes awhile for him to hit his stride; sometimes it's rough having such a young protagonist with the film on his shoulders (the film probably wouldn't work without Will's presence.) All that said though, I really enjoyed it! And surprise, a lot of that had to do with the director's touch.

What After Earth really has going for it is the fact that Shyamalan rediscovers here how to keep the audience in suspense, something he used to be quite proficient at. Once the plot really gets going, there's a definite sense of tension that doesn't let up until the end...and a few sequences, in particular, are very well done. I know there were several moments when I was happily on the edge of my seat! By summer's end, I'm sure it won't be one of the most memorable of all of the blockbusters to debut, but it's a fun film and definitely worth a watch. If nothing else, its a nice way to spend a summers day. EMILY RATING: 7/10


Sarah said...

Thanks for the review. I always liked M. Night Shyamalan. I hope he finds his way back, because I think he still has some good things to offer.

Johanna said...

I heard that it's too much of a movie for young Jayden to carry on his own. But Will Smith needs a comeback as much as M. Night. Hancock, for example?

Emily said...

I think you should see it. There's some nice religious symbolism I think you'd enjoy.