Why After Earth Bombed: Six Theories

Why was the Will Smith sci-fi flick a failure?

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Columbia Pictures

As Richard Corliss recounts in this weekend’s box-office report, it has not been a great couple of days for the Smith family. Although Will Smith has a long history of bringing audiences to the theaters, his future-dystopic After Earth—in which he co-stars with his son Jaden—made a mere $27 million in its first weekend in theaters, landing it in third place, behind Fast & Furious 6 (now in its second week atop the rankings) and surprise contender Now You See Me.

(MORE: Richard Corliss’s review of After Earth)

So what went wrong? Here are six theories from a variety of Monday-morning pundits:

Blame director M. Night Shyamalan  (Richard Corliss at TIME)  Long past coasting on the success of Sixth Sense (way back in 1999), movies like Lady in the Water and The Happening were critical and commercial misfires. But if Shyamalan is at fault, there maybe hope for the movie: his The Last Airbender – perceived as a flop —actually did reasonably well, thanks to strong showings in foreign markets.

Blame Will Smith (Adam B. Vary at BuzzFeed) Smith’s decision to follow 2008’s Seven Pounds with a prolonged absence from movie-making — returning to movies with last summer’s Men in Black 3 – may hurt his brand. Which translated into extra hurt for After Earth, a movie for which he served as both star and idea-generator. (Smith came up with the concept and brought it to Shyamalan.)

Blame it on a less-than-successful collaboration (Nikki Finke at Deadline) Smith and Shyamalan just weren’t a good match, an insider tells Deadline.

Blame it on critics and audiences  (Rotten Tomatoes) The movie’s just no good, according to the review-aggregation site: with more than 100 reviews counted, it has a ghastly 12% positive rating. Moviegoers mostly agreed, giving Earth a dismal ‘B’ CinemaScore evaluation.

Blame it on nepotism (Brooks Barnes at the New York Times) There’s a wide perception that the father-and-son project turned the movie, in which the Times also sees shades of Scientology, into something of a “vanity project.” With the Smiths père et fils giving joint interviews—like this insightfully bizarre cover story from New York magazine—it wouldn’t have been hard for the movie to gain a negative association with family weirdness and privilege rather than family-movie fun.

Blame Bieber (Gary Susman at Moviefone) Blame Bieber. Well, not really blame blame, but Susman cites the Bieb’s inability to turn out viewers with a tweet as proof of the pop-star’s waning influence.

(MORE: Twitter Fights, Reckless Driving, and 9 More Best Moments of “Bad” Justin Bieber)

90 comments
luvsumtg
luvsumtg

How is this a hostile planet for humans when you have oxygen all around which contains plants, water,... look like clean water and trees which produces oxygen in order for every living things to breathe? This was one stupid movie somebody forget their science and biology books, smh

It is impossible for vegetation to survive freezing temperatures and be lush the next day. Algae starts the process of photosynthesis, and it was plain to see that was all around!

Planet earth would have to be like what Venus has become.... If you got to do this type of movie then at least have real facts!

2rel2btr
2rel2btr

People often dislike movies where Earth is abandoned due to our own destruction, i.e. Wally.  Also, SciFi movies like these rarely have black actors surviving to the end and in this movie the only survivors are black.  Not that I am saying that's a main reason why, but I'm sure that influenced more people's perception than they themselves even realize.  I enjoyed the movie, I thought the tension was great, the suspension was awesome. I was rooting for the Kitai.  I like that the film took into consideration that years from now, though people may still speak English we probably won't sound the same.  Especially since supposedly everyone in the world is now grouped together on one small planet.

Resettisreplicas
Resettisreplicas

What I learned from After Earth:  Close only count is horseshoes, hand grenades, and saving eagle chicks.

blitzbien
blitzbien

To be honest, I enjoyed the film. It was far from perfect, but I got the message and I found it enjoyable. It might come across as robotic, bland and frustrating but that's also one of the key points of  the movie. The story is about pain, anxiety and most of all: Frustration. The death of the girl( Which no critic ever explored any further) caused irreparable damage to Cypher and Kitai: That's why Cypher became more cold and distant than he already was, and Kitai just rolled up into a giant ball of regret. Cypher never brought out his disappointments with Kitai out in the open, and because of that: None of them could move on and heal.   I really don't understand the issues about nepotism and all those c*%p about Shyamalan, these people owe us nothing; they have the means so they did a vanity project: BIG DEAL. Just enjoy it, the material is in there. Will Smith might be too proud of his children; Jayden might be a bad actor, and Shyamalan; Don't even get me stated about him: But who cares? Just take the movie as it is. STOP SOUR-GRAPING.

CerebralSmartie
CerebralSmartie

After Earth was a good movie. The concept of fear and danger was explored. Surviving hardship was key. The theme of protecting Planet Earth was excellent. Those who bash the movie should be questioned.

BRMoments
BRMoments

All in all, this sucked. I’m sorry, I am a Will Smith cheerleader with the best of them but he just had no business in this movie. He is far to good of an actor to be placed in a role where the character is just bland and militaristic and robotic. Will needs to play characters that actually HAVE character. And Jaden, oh Jaden. If you haven’t already seen or heard, but Jaden Smith pretty much always looks exactly the same in nearly every photo he is captured in. He has this perma-look of being really confused, or perhaps concerned, or perhaps lost and isn’t sure where he is. - See more at: http://brmoments.com/2013/10/after-earth-review/

pcsimonson1651
pcsimonson1651

Just watched the movie, and it was mildly entertaining at best.

One part that really didn't work was that whole thing about the place freezing up at night. How do you explain the planet going into deep freeze every night, and anything surviving through it? Most plant life would be destroyed, not the lush growth seen everywhere!

And yep, the acting was poor poor poor.

ahandout
ahandout

'Cause Will Smith sucks and he has his son in the same movie.  OFN

WilfTarquin
WilfTarquin

A movie can't just be bad any more?

Well, it could have been even worse. It might have had Tom Cruise in the lead.

rburns1683
rburns1683

I don't like movies where children are a key part of the story.    For example I stopped watching anything with Dakota Fanning in it.   I cringe with it.   There are just very few great child actors.   Freddie Highmore is one but he is understated in his roles.    Perhaps it is the British style because of course the Harry Potter ensemble were perfect.  

80smademe
80smademe

I just don't understand how this movie bombed...  It was beautiful and such a wonderful coming of age film.  It dealt with two major issues - anxiety and not being able to forgive yourself.  For some of the comments that were made here (and on other sites), it is obvious that many missed the message, and did not pay attention in the beginning.  The mother says early in the movie that Jaden's character is a "feeling boy," so that explains why he acted as he did.  He acted like a scared, super sensitive, anxious, young man - that was the character.

I think the movie was just way too deep for most to understand.  I took my 13 year old daughter to see it, and she caught things that I didn't!  She totally understood the purpose of the eagle, and that portion of the movie brought tears to my eyes.

I do understand that this movie may have lacked the action that most would come to expect from a futuristic film, and I think that the trailers may have lead folks to believe that it would be action packed and filled with alien hunting/killing.  I didn't want to see the movie because I'm not a fan of alien hunting flicks, but I took my daughter because sh really wanted to see it.  I'm so happy she pushed me to take her, because I was pleasantly surprised, yet disappointed that so many of have trashed this movie.

I think this is a film that all kids should see.

notLostInSpace
notLostInSpace

I don't need 6 reasons.  Just 2:  Will and his son.  I understand Will wrote it also (?....not gonna bother to look it up, but last I saw Will was not in the same league as say, Isaac Asimov).   I see a lot of people are blaming, or at least co-blaming M. Night Shyamalan.  Directors who only direct, but have no role in the effects, script, the editing, the casting, etc. should not get too much blame.  Story is everything.  He's had a pretty good set of movies that he did, I still respect him for that, but he apparently has run out of Twilight Zone ideas.  I'm not sure I have seen Will in anything I thought was good.  I Robot maybe.  Trying to figure out why he is famous in the first place?

john_rambo
john_rambo

I refuse to see any film with Mr. Smith's progeny.

kintoy
kintoy

Jaden is a bad actor. and so is his dad.

abraham.pak
abraham.pak

I put the blame on M. Night Shyamalan.  I'm generally willing to watch ANY Will Smith movies, but when I heard Shyamalan's name being mentioned, I turned it down without a second though.  After giving his movies many, MANY chances, the movie Avatar was the straw that broke the camel's back and I swore that I would never watch a single movie that he took part in ever again.

binky.katz
binky.katz

 @ToniJohnson  - Sorry Toni, I have not seen one person or reviewer mention color in their negative reviews. I think you may be projecting here.  

I enjoy Will Smith, but  I saw the movie with my GF last week and it just sucked. The plot left wayyyyy too many unanswered questions. It had more holes than a pound of Swiss cheese;  why was earth abandoned, why couldn't it be resettled, what was the creature that killed the daughter, why was the ship transporting that creature, why was Jaden battling creatures with a spear in this high-tech world, where were the phasers, stun guns? Way too many questions and no answers. 

 On top of that, it was incredibly predictable. Let's hope Jaden Smith goes to college and gets a good education, because I don't think he'll make it as an actor. He got the role simply because he's Will Smith's son.

Save your $10 and go rent Les Miz, Life of Pi, Zero Black 30, or one of last year's Academy Award nominees you haven't seen.


JenniferKimball
JenniferKimball

This is a horribly boring movie. Shamylan is a boring director. And Will Smith is playing the worst role ever written for him...stiff and boring as hell...none of his talent shines. And Jaden Smith just sucks as actor...

JoyJohnson
JoyJohnson

I'm going to see it this weekend. I don't rely on other people's opinions. I still can't believe how many people paid for Dark Knight (any of them). I think people were afraid to be lynched if they didn't say it was good because Heath Ledger died. Don't start me on Hangover, was I watching the same movie as everyone else? Avatar while visually appealing was cliche and predictable, Skyfall, just okay, but all four movies made billions. I have to agree with some comments that I think many people want to join the it was awful bandwagon. Maybe it is bad, I guess I will find out myself but that will be my own determination not anyone else 


IpyanaWasret
IpyanaWasret

Go see it!  I liked the movie. It had plenty of suspense, action and emotion as well.  At the beginning of the flick it took a minute to figure out the language and cadence of Will Smith's character. But soon you understood who he was, and his role portrayal was convincing enough. My only problem with the flick is that it ended rather abruptly, I wanted / needed another 15 to 20 minutes.  I will see it again, and when it comes on TV, it will be one of those movies you just have to watch whenever you pass by the title. As far as Sciencetology, you must be a complete embicile to try and read that into this flick.  That's just some dumb foolish ish.  hahaha!  Go See it!!

atlantadad
atlantadad

Just saw After earth and was pleasantly surprised. A little miffed at the reviews I read as it seems they are piling on just to be a part of the gang. The critiques I read - "Not enough action " , there is action and it takes place at appropriate times and the movie is paced well so that you are tense through much of it. "Jaden Smith is horrible" . He is obviously not a polished actor or a even good actor but in this movie it kind of helps make his character more believable because he is thrust into a situtation that is desperate and acts like I would imagine a 14 or 15 year old would. "The accents are disconcerting" , maybe at first  but I can't tell if it bothered me because it should have or because I was told by reviewers that it bothered them. It is a non-issue as the movie progresses. (btw I did hate Kevin Costner's inconsistent and strange accent in Waterworld) "Scientology connection" , not a scientologist (I am Baptist) but the philosophy of Will Smith's character sounds like military readiness/preparation training or something Obi wan might say to Luke. It was appropriate and fit the story. "SFX are no good" I love sci-fi and didn't see much of anything that looked unprofessional or second rate. One minor mis-step is in a scene just before Jaden fly's off a cliff---some of the surrounding water fall features looked a little squirrely and fake. 

Overall I thought the cinemetography was excellent, the directing was very good as you can tell it is a Shymalan film with some of the subtle fear points and heart tugging. The production design or feel of the movie was interesting. The technology of the future is very organic - almost like a distant cousin of Aliens or Prometheus. However, I did wonder why there were no guns of any type. It would seem for self preservation reasons even a .22 caliber psitol would have come in more handy than a sword. I can see the reason why the director might not have utilized this as it could have hindered the story or risked turning it into a mindless shoot'em up. Still some sort of limited ammo survival gun would have made the story a little more plausible.

The best thing about the movie is that I plan on taking my 8 and 10 year olds to see it as it has good lessons for them. There is no profanity, sex or gratuitous violence. There is a little gore and there are quite a few scary moments. As I am trying to teach my kids to be calm and not panic in life  I think this movie is an excellent teaching tool and I think they will love it. The critcs are wrong about this movie, believe me. I give it a solid 7.5 out of 10.

sigrafix
sigrafix

I knew this movie was going to suck as soon as I saw the trailer.. it just looks so cheesy with all that bad CGI and stupid father/son plot.. I had no idea it was directed by shamalyananadingdong.. I guess they tried to hide that fact given his previous track record, they just plaster "WILL SMITH, JADEN SMITH" all over the adverts..

DakBroadbent
DakBroadbent

M. Night Shyamalan hasn't had a hit in at least a decade, Jaden Smith is bad actor, and one of the writers of screenplay wrote the stories for several badly panned video games.  Not to mention the fact that the story was pretty dull and the action looked like a bunch of generic CGI.   I knew this movie was going to tank the first time I saw the trailer.  Six Sense is Shyamalan's only hit.  Shyamalan is a bad director.  His record speaks for itself. 



ToniJohnson
ToniJohnson

So much hate. Everyone has the right to like or dislike according to their own taste. Those who keep using color and derogatory comments against this man and his child are just SAD! There are many movies I decided not to watch but color had nothing to do with it. Again, it's sad that one has to try and belittle another in order to make themselves feel better. Not only is it sad but it speaks to one's mental condition. I enjoyed the movie and would watch it again. I was expecting more, however, I did enjoy seeing the growth of Jayden and seeing them work together was really sweet.

CamiloSanchez46
CamiloSanchez46

This is Will Smith's Cutthroat Island. I am sure him acting with his son would never be a reason for a movie to be bad. The movie is simply bad. Also, this is definitely the nail on the coffin for M.Night Shyamalan

Whisperman
Whisperman

"Maybe" should be may be. "Maybe" means probably or possibly.  "There 'possibly' hope" doesn't make sense. "There may be hope" makes sense.


Biosuit
Biosuit

How is 27 million a bomb...screw the media, always trying to twist things to their purpose. And for the article, I don't see what the problem is...they seem fine; Will mentioned patterns a bit much but every famous person has to cope in some way with their celebrity.  Some people can't even cope with being average. 

mhaven
mhaven

@blitzbien  

There was a scene where Kitai - I think, just before he sky jumps - has an outburst where he yells at Cypher that he wasn't responsible for his sister's death.  Apparently, the father blamed the son.  That could be the cause of the stiffness and tension we sense in the family dynamics.  This is a traumatized family.


As for the c*%p....time entertainment says that the director and smith were just not a good match...  What the hell is that supposed to mean?  Is that some vague mysterious thing like .....chemistry?


If you're going to give reasons a movie failed, then the reasons need to be concrete and substantive; not, vague, mysterious nonsense like "...weren't a good match.".

mhaven
mhaven

@pcsimonson1651  

I wondered about that too.  I think the plants evolved to survive the cold.

The part that didn't make sense to me was the choice of weapon for a technologically advanced human race...basically a machete.  Why would they go into hand to hand combat with ursas when they could fire projectiles, or phasers, or something at them?


Other than that, it was a nice little story.

notLostInSpace
notLostInSpace

@abraham.pak   Maybe you have launched a joke I have missed, but dude, Avatar was made by someone else.  Although it was probably as bad as this movie is, except I can't compare, I refuse to pay for a Will Smith movie.

mhaven
mhaven

@binky.katz @ToniJohnson 

Earth abandoned by alien invasion.  Ursa, the creature, was being transported for ranger training.

Like you, I don't understand the choice of weapon in a tech-advanced world.  Jaden's still young, and he'll improve.  Today's top actors had horrible movies in their past.

ajc103
ajc103

@binky.katz @ToniJohnson Nearly all of the "unanswered questioned" you listed were answered in the beginning of the movie. You should learn to pay attention. I mean the only explanation that you listed as  "unanswered" that really wasn't given was why the earth couldn't be resettled, but even with that the audience is expected to understand that they were not technologically able to make the earth habitable.  There was something that bothered me though. A bird gave its life for the hero , yet no answer was given as to why. Don't get me wrong, I  am not the greatest fan of the film(mainly because of poor acting Jaden) but the premise is interesting and I feel that your comment is not a good representation of the movie. Don't knock he movie just because you were incapable of understanding the beginning.

cjh2nd
cjh2nd

@IpyanaWasret

you probably also thought transformers 3 was high cinema didn't you?

IpyanaWasret
IpyanaWasret

@atlantadad  SPOT ON!  I think we saw the same movie! LOL  And I'm taking my 14 year old daughter to see it for the same reasons as you.  #BostonDad

Trisha
Trisha

@sigrafix The trailer was amazing I don't know what you are talking about

Trisha
Trisha

@DakBroadbent I don't believe the reviews on this film. the critics knew that this film was set to be one of summers blockbusters and they didn't want to see that happen so they deliberately gave it bad reviews as to make sure the audience wouldn't want to or would not go to see it. Do to not wanting to waste money on a stinker. I saw the trailer and it looked amazing. I want to see it and i'm not gonna let any jealous critic or prudish critic stop me

Trisha
Trisha

@ToniJohnson read my comment above, Jaden won a 2006 MTV movie award for The Pursuit of Happyness that's the real reason people want to work with him not all this bitter jealous comment about nepotism

steelgoat67
steelgoat67

@ToniJohnson I'm baffled why anyone would think race is an issue with this film failing critically and commercially. I certainly wonder why Jaden and Will's team-up could be seen as negative; I think it's kind of cute in a way, and it isn't like nepotism is rife throughout the film industry. I just think it's high-time Jaden is seen to be pursuing film roles on his own -- he's got the acting chops for it, and I reckon he will go far (if he doesn't mess himself up like so many up-and-comers tend to do).

In your defence, I doubt there is anyone on the planet who only loves films that are commercially and critically successful -- I myself love a vast array of films that have failed either on one of those accounts or both, and I shouldn't be made to feel guilty about any of them.

StephenGrange
StephenGrange

@Biosuit The box office results are a known science...If they say it "bombed"..99% of the time it bombed. Don't like those facts? Must suck to be you....

steelgoat67
steelgoat67

@Biosuit When a film costs $100 million plus, getting a return of only $27 million on the opening weekend (when film attendance is nominally the highest), it is a commercial bomb. That's aside from any critical reception it might receive, and there are examples of films doing well commercially and being considered awful, and films being well-received by audiences and not making a return on their investment. After Earth, it seems, has done neither terribly well.

DickieVee
DickieVee

@OmaarAziz The Lone Ranger was terrible and it did suck far worse. But I think one thing people are missing about After Earth is that the Sci-fi audience is mostly male. Therefore it is a good idea to have a hot female somewhere on the screen (ex. Megan Fox in Transformers).  If this was about a son and daughter- the male audience may have been able to stand it for two hours. But not that many dudes give a hoot about watching Will or Jaden for two hours- and that's a good thing. Young chicks probably watched this movie but didn't understand the plot. Karate Kid was a chick-flick.

stevenmhuyck
stevenmhuyck

@Trisha @sigrafix My wife and I saw the trailer a week ago and laughed through the whole thing. Sigrafix's adjective "cheesy" is too kind. It appeared that Will Smith had quit acting for a while for the right reason: he'd forgotten even the basics. The trailer's clips of Smith delivering his lines suddenly made John Wayne's acting appear positively on par with Sir Lawrence Olivier's by comparison. I don't know what trailer you saw, but it couldn't have been the same one we did.

Biosuit
Biosuit

Obviously it bombed knucklehead, no one is saying it didn't -read the comments before you reply to them.

DonLass
DonLass

@StephenGrange @Biosuit $27 mil dollars is still $27 million dollars. and thats not counting sales in europe. when its all said and done this film will make a lot of money not lose money.

Trisha
Trisha

@StephenGrange @Biosuit gotta believe jealous critics lies? it must suck to be you and is this what all the anger is over? Beyonce still being married to Jay z so now you losers want to ruin every black mans careers? You did quote from her song "the best I never had" sure do got Beyonce on the brain

Trisha
Trisha

@steelgoat67 @Biosuit stop trying to sound intelligent and civilized "That aside from any critical reception" you put a apostrophe s on that, it shouldn't go there. movies can start off low then grow. The movie i saw was supposed to open on the 7th of June, so why did it open earlier but they keep saying June 7th? cause I believe it is a test run. so the real day maybe this friday

Biosuit
Biosuit

27 million in the first weekend, it will be out for a while yet and that's exactly what I'm talking about...everyone wants immediate results.  As for critically -some people seem to really like it, others don't, so I guess the jury isn't in yet.

steelgoat67
steelgoat67

I said "that's", not "that", being a contraction of "that is". But I won't nit-pick your punctuation errors, of which there are many.

Biosuit
Biosuit

Thats the box office tally; read the article dude.

CamiloSanchez46
CamiloSanchez46

@Biosuit The media didn't come up with those calculations overnight. Are you trying to pull a Karl Rove move?