I'm not trying to be a hero! I'M FIGHTING THE DRAGON!!

After Earth

tn_afterearthor JUST THE TWO OF US: THE MOVIE

When I kept seeing the trailer last summer, AFTER EARTH didn’t look so hot to me. It’s hard to have hopes for an M. Night Shyamalan joint these days, and also it got absolutely terrible reviews. I mean, it has an 11% from critics on Rotten Tomatoes – that’s lower than ALEX CROSS, R.I.P.D., THE SMURFS 2 or the joyfully pre-hated Paul Schrader/Lindsay Lohan collaboration THE CANYONS. But you know me, I watched it anyway and I’m not unhappy to tell you that it’s not bad.

Jaden “KARATE” KID Smith stars as Kitai, a talented young cadet in some futuristic military outfit, trying to make ranger, but he fails because he’s Too Reckless In the Field. There’s alot of pressure on him because his dad (played by real life dad Will Smith) is the Big Willy of the future, the warrior who saved the human race from giant alien bugs called ursas. This happened after humans polluted earth so bad they had to colonize a place called Nova Prime, then some other aliens invaded using the ursas as attack dogs. Ursas are blind but they can smell pheremones, and dad can chop them up completely unsmelled because he has no fear. This technique, Kitai explains in narration, is called “ghosting.” The only thing we have to not ghost is not ghosting itself.

So his dad is awesome, but I’m not gonna say what his name is because then you’ll never believe me that this is a decent movie. Okay, his name is Cypher Raige. But seriously guys.

mp_afterearthCypher Raige’s old lady convinces him that he’s a deadbeat and he needs to spend at least some time with his son instead of always being off somewhere being not afraid of bugs. I think she means to take some time off, but instead his solution is to assign Kitai to a mission on his ship with him.

One problem: the ship gets hit by asteroids (a total ripoff of the video game Asteroids) and crash lands on Earth, which was abandoned so long ago that it has been completely reclaimed by nature. The whole crew dies in the crash except dad, whose legs are busted, and Kitai, who’s gonna have to man up if they’re gonna get off this rock. According to dad, every species here has evolved to kill humans. That’s probly just some bullshit a dad named Cypher Raige would say to impress his son, but it is definitely true that there are lots of crazy animals here that attack the kid as soon as they see him.

The nice thing about the story is the simple straightforwardness. The tail separated from the ship, he has to get to it ’cause there’s a beacon in it. He can communicate with dad back on the ship, which is both helpful and a burden. He has to escape monkey attacks, travel with a limited number of inhalers that help him survive, and eventually face the fear-smelling ursa that escaped the ship. But how is he not gonna be scared of a monster when he’s scared to even tell his dad he broke a couple of the inhalers? As sure as Sean Boswell had to learn how to drift, Kitai Raige must learn how to ghost. He’s almost ready except he’s tormented by childhood memories of something that happened to his sister right in from of him, and he maybe blames himself, maybe thinks his pops blames him, maybe to a certain extent blames his pops for not being there. So he has some issues to come to terms with.

It’s also kinda nice that this is a teen genre movie minus the soap opera stuff. There’s no girl to try to impress here.

The technology on their ship and equipment is unique, kinda insect-based, machinery inspired by bee hives. But of course most of the movie takes place in nature. He travels through jungles, climbs mountains, glides off of cliffs. He faces various crazy evolved animals, all CG of course, pretty well done for the most part. I really like the relationship he develops with a giant condor/turkey type of bird. He tries to protect its nest from a pack of ligers (or tyenas?) but he fails, and you don’t know if Mama Bird’s gonna consider that a plus or a minus.

It turns out to be a more effective father-son retreat than the one they had planned. It’s kinda like a Survival Quest. The Spacerate Kid’s experiences in nature help him come to terms with his past, overcome fear, prove his abilities to his father and himself, and of course bond with his estranged father. It could not have worked out better for them, other than if all those people didn’t die, the ship didn’t get destroyed, dad didn’t break both his legs, they didn’t lose the ursa and if they had accomplished whatever their original mission was.

The story is credited to Will Smith. Pretty smart – a movie where his son gets to be an action star and he gets to sit down the whole time. If he didn’t film his whole part inside that giant trailer of his it’s a missed opportunity, ’cause he definitely has room in there.

Some would probly say this is a family vanity project, but the only problem with that would be if the family members weren’t up to their assigned tasks, and that is not the case. The Smiths (I’m talking about the stars of this movie here, not the mopey band all the women I know like) both do good work in this. They do a weird but subtle enough future accent. Weirdly enough I think it’s helpful because they’re forced to enunciate. Will loses his crutch of talking more “street” when he’s trying to be funny, plus he’s playing kind of a dick anyway, a cold, strict military guy who knows how to be commanding officer but not dad. And Jaden, who I thought was really charismatic in THE KARATE KID, gives an entirely different performance here, a sad kid trying to assert his manhood. They’re both very serious, and the occasional laughs come naturally out of the situations and not from mugging. (Example: Kitai’s wetsuit like armor starts to change color, for reasons unknown to him. In a panic he says, “My suit’s turned black. I like it, but I think it’s something bad!”)

It seems like alot of people have turned against Will Smith. He was the first Grammy winning rapper and then the sitcom star and then became a huge movie star and wasn’t he considered the #1 box office draw for a while? And maybe he got a little too full of himself when he declared the 4th of July “Big Willy Weekend,” both because our country’s independence is more important than most of his movie releases, and because one of those movies was WILD WILD WEST.

But he was still making big movies and seemed to be generally well-liked. Even I stuck by him despite hating some of his biggest hits like INDEPENDENCE DAY and the BAD BOYS pictures and not thinking MEN IN BLACK was all that great either. I AM LEGEND made money but nobody seems to like it as much as me, SEVEN POUNDS is weird and brilliant but nobody’s seen it, then he took some time off and then all he did was MEN IN BACK III before this one came out and tanked.

I’m sure he’ll come back box office wise, but his previous status of near universal likability seems to be gone. In my experience when his name is brought up these days you seem to get that same derisive scoffing as when you bring up Tom Cruise. This might not be a coincidence. I hear people make jokes about Smith being a Scientologist. Apparently the idea is based on

1. being friends with Tom Cruise (not sure why this doesn’t apply to all the other celebrities who are friends with Tom Cruise)
2. Saying in an interview one time that he liked studying different religions and Scientology had some good ideas in it
3. Giving some money to some Scientology-related groups, although he gave almost four times as much to Christian groups and also gave to Muslim and Jewish groups.

I will never get behind this weirdly accepted bashing of somebody for being in a religion (or in this case, for being associated with a religion). I don’t take the free stress test from the Scientologists or the pamphlets from the Jehovah’s Witnesses. I sometimes take the comic books about going to hell, but only because I like the pictures. I don’t understand most religions but I don’t presume to judge them just as I wouldn’t want them to judge my own beliefs in finding philosophy in kung fu movies and that the ghost of Michael Jackson sometimes speaks to me through the medium of shuffling on my iPod. I don’t know about your country, but mine was supposed to be founded on the idea of religious freedom. And even if it wasn’t it would be a manner of etiquette.

If Will Smith used religious beliefs to persecute people or something then you could criticize him based on that. But he hasn’t done that (he’s come out in favor of marriage equality, for example). I see no evidence that he’s used any religion to be an asshole to anybody, which means that if you’re bringing up religion to attack him then you’re definitely the asshole in this one.

The bigotry is made even more insidious because the guy even says he’s not a Scientologist. I ask people why they care if Tom Cruise prays to space aliens or whatever, they say that Scientology takes advantage of regular people and uses the high profile celebrities to gain credibility. So they’re mad at Cruise for being a Scientology poster boy, but then they’re also mad at Smith for being an alleged secret Scientologist. I wonder if they’re gonna start asking for his birth certificate next.

This has become relevant because AFTER EARTH was widely accused of being Scientologist propaganda. Here’s an article from the Hollywood Reporter gathering some of these claims. Apparently there have been exhaustive studies of the movie’s similarities to Hubbard’s writings. At least from the summary in this article the reasons are asinine: it has an abandoned earth, they talk about fear being bad, there is a volcano in the background of one shot, the spaceship has a rudder (!!!), there are guys who wear white uniforms. If this is true we’re gonna have to rethink a whole lot of sci-fi movies. Not to mention VOLCANO with Tommy Lee Jones.

Jesus, are you fellas gonna sweep up Yoda in the Scientologist witch hunt? He had that line about fear leads to anger. And this “The Force” business does seem suspicious. What about Mr. Miyagi?

Daniel Larusso: I’m afraid! Let’s just get out of here! I just wanna go home!
Mr. Miyagi: No, get up! Get up! Must not! It’s OK to lose to opponent. Must not lose to fear!
Daniel Larusso: Yeah, well, I’m afraid! I’m afraid of him, all right? What do you want me to do?
Mr. Miyagi: HAI! You stay focused. Daniel-san, you best karate still inside you. Now time let out!

Other possible suspects:

Michael Jordan: “I know fear is an obstacle for some people, but it is an illusion to me . . . Failure always made me try harder next time.”

Bruce Lee: “Fear comes from uncertainty; we can eliminate the fear within us when we know ourselves better.

If Scientology really is about suppressing your fear to fight giant bugs then yes, that is in here. But who gives a shit? If it had characters following Buddhist philosophy or even the samurai code it would just be interesting, nobody would be offended, and rightly so. Movies are one modern way to share different perspectives and ideas, and maybe you motherfuckers need to ghost your fears about being exposed to different perspectives and ideas about giant bugs. I doubt this generic “get over your fears” business has jack shit to do with Scientology, but if it did why would that be so harmful? If their ideas are such bullshit why do you care if they show up in a spaceman movie?

I mean, they must be at least *kinda* cool if they'd pose for this photo
I mean, they must be at least *kinda* cool if they’d pose for this photo

My buddy Matt Lynch was the only person I heard say AFTER EARTH wasn’t bad, so I asked him if he thought it was just this religious-persecution-by-association business that made people want to overthrow the Fresh Prince. He thought maybe it was more to do with a sense of nepotism, this celebrity couple now having two kids that they have seemingly sort of manufactured into a movie star and a pop star.

Okay, that’s more fair, it is a little much to take. Sly Stallone didn’t give Sage the starring role in DAYLIGHT. But on the other hand as soon as Jaden showed up in movies the public could’ve GODFATHER IIId his ass, said mean things and forced him to come back years later as a brilliant and respected director of small indie films. That didn’t happen because the kid is kinda good onscreen. Also he knows Jackie Chan.

Oh well. I don’t think AFTER EARTH is a great movie, I wouldn’t go to war for it like maybe I would for that other hated movie of the summer, THE LONE RANGER. But I guess I just got a thing for fairness. I’m not gonna say you’re “bullying” an overdog like Will Smith, but it’s worth calling bullshit. I believe the harshness of those reviews is 100% based on external factors and not the actual movie. If you disagree then by all means go enjoy SMURFS 2 more than this again, pal. I won’t stop you.

I guess it’s fitting that I gotta compare this to a Tom Cruise movie. I think it’s pretty much on the level of OBLIVION. On the one hand, I think the subtext of OBLIVION, its commentary on the American Dream, is more interesting than AFTER EARTH’s overcoming-your-fear boilerplate. On the other hand I think AFTER EARTH has a more satisfying last chunk and doesn’t stretch its credibility with any plot twists, so in that sense it feels more solid. Anyway, neither is great but both are worth a watch and not worth the hate.

11%? I’m surprised at you people. I expect better. Be nice.


VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.
This entry was posted on Friday, October 18th, 2013 at 12:45 am and is filed under Reviews, Science Fiction and Space Shit. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

88 Responses to “After Earth”

  1. What do you mean “you people”?

  2. How was M. Night’s filmatism?

  3. That last picture looks weird. Before reading the caption I was assuming those were wax scupltures in front of the poster.

  4. I still have the Blu-ray unwrapped. If I read this will it spoil me? Also I am drunk.

  5. Kitai sounds like something a Japanese school girl would shout angrily when she learns you snapped a picture of her panties with your cellphone, like “Kitai! Kitai!”

    anyway I never understood the conspiracy theory that Will Smith is a Scientologist either, somehow I don’t think Scientologists are the type of people who would be “in the closet” about it

  6. This isn’t about religious freedom, Vern. I doubt you will find many people advocating that Tom Cruise or Will Smith shouldn’t be allowed to BE Scientologists, or that Scientology shouldn’t be allowed to exist as a law-abiding organization. That would be a true statement against freedom of religion. Rather, this issue seems to be about the freedom to criticize, to protest and to boycott people or organizations that you morally disagree with — a freedom just as important as the freedom of worship in my opinion. It puzzles me how many people fail to make a distinction between these two concepts.

    We atheists are already discouraged from criticizing religious lunacy because it might offend “genuine believers”. If you’re saying that we shouldn’t criticize the religious convictions of Tom Cruise and Will Smith, and treat all of their artistic statements at face value, then it is equivalent of saying that we shouldn’t let the reactionary, anti-semitic fanaticism of Mel Gibson influence our opinion on THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST (not that I didn’t love the shit out of APOCALYPTO). Criticism, protest and boycott are absolutely essential to public discourse and should, if anything, be encouraged. That’s all I’m saying.

    Now, I agree with you that the alleged connections between Scientology and AFTER EARTH or WILL SMITH are probably bullshit, but it did seem to me that most critics have dismissed the movie simply for being boring, formulaic and nepotistic. On the other hand, I can’t really fault people for trying to boycott Scientology any time they can. Vern, I invite you to skim through the following article and still maintain your position that Scientology is harmless and irrelevant:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Hole_%28Scientology%29

    In my opinion, even if every few months, a perfectly bland production like AFTER EARTH get falsely associated with Scientology and thus suffers at the box office, the larger cause is still just.

  7. That “review” was written by an ex-scientologist with no history in film criticism, and THR failed to mention said authors clear conflict of interest with the religion. It was a total smear piece and a very big lapse in basic journalistic integrity.

    Anything you dislike about Scientology is equally present in every other major religion and present in a far more odius way. You just don’t see it because the older faiths have such massive control so as to seem invisible.

    Example: the Russian Orthodox Church is in bed with the Russian government. As a result, the Russian government kowtows to the faith in all aspects of its’ official policy on opiates. As a result, though there are over 2.5 million opiate addicts in Russia, there is not ONE dollar spent on rehabilitation by the government. Also, there are no needle exchanges and purposefully inadequate systems of support for those infected with HIV/aids. Because of the lack of help, religious cults have sprung up to fill the rehab need. And they’re scary as fuck. Even worse; krokodil.

    And while you might think that this is a result of something specifically Russian, it isn’t. Ronald Reagan and Jerry Falwell did literally the same thing at the outset of HIV/aids in the early 1980s. Official policy was to not spend one dime on awareness campaigns or preventative education. 90,000 people were dead before Reagan even said the word AIDS in 1986. And even then, he was calling for us to NOT teach about it in schools.

    So…why is the movie star religion With the stress tests the scary one again?

  8. It may be true that the review is a thinly veiled smear piece, but surely, you must recognize that “other cults engage in shady conspiracies too, so leave Scientology alone” is a bad argument. It seems obvious that semi-openly evil cults/religions of this sort must be opposed in equal measure. But since we’re talking about AFTER EARTH, it may be slightly pointless to bring up the Russian Orthodox Church, of all things, to defend Scientology. I’m sure there will be people proclaiming their disgust with Russian Orthodoxy whenever Vern bothers to review RUSSIAN ARK, and I will happily join that crowd.

    And, by the way, virtually every major religion is built upon practices that an objective observer would deem to be immoral, if not downright criminal. One of the larger points of secular humanism is to make people aware of this, and to make them reject a faith-based mentality. However, Scientology seems to be rather unique in the way that it leverages its enormous financial resources, and probably some of the world’s best lawyers, to intimidate, silence and (in some cases) downright ruin the personal lives of its critics. Say what you want about the Catholic Church, but not even Bill Donohue would engage in that kind of mafia shit. You might argue that Muslims would do it too (if they had any good lawyers), but what exactly is your point? I’m just arguing that it would be objectively better if more people knew about this, and if it takes an AFTER EARTH smear campaign to make that happen, then I’m all for it.

  9. The Original... Paul

    October 18th, 2013 at 6:21 am

    Wait… there are people who don’t like Will Smith? I didn’t think that was biologically possible. I thought that if there was an overdose of negativity with regard to this movie, it would’ve come from the M Night connection, not the W Smith one.

    How the heck did this thing get onto the subject of religion, which was a pretty minor point in Vern’s review anyway? Does anybody have anything to say about the damn movie? I avoided it because everybody, and I mean everybody, said it was terrible.

  10. As a Republican Cloth Coat, I heartily endorse this review’s message of religious tolerance.

  11. Amazing Larry, what do YOU mean you people?

    I think the 11% is because most critics didn’t give it a positive review. It’s not like 11% means the average movie reviewer gave the film an 11% out of 100. Just means that most gave it a thumbs down. I know a lot of films that I kinda like enough but I’d still give a thumbs down or, perhaps, a ** 1/2 review or something. **1/2 star review shouldn’t really be considered a positive rating, just a so-so rating.

  12. The Original... Paul

    October 18th, 2013 at 6:50 am

    I’ve always thought of the “thumbs up / thumbs down” system from “Rotten Tomatoes” as an indicator of how many critics would say “If you’re into the same kind of movies as I am, see this shit.”

    For example, I would give “Prisoners” a cautious recommendation even though it has some major, major flaws. A lot of other critics who’ve reviewed it have said much the same as I have. But very few of them have given it a thumbs down. So the movie gets what appears to be a glowing recommendation on the site, even though a lot of people aren’t hugely enthused about it. (This is why scoring systems never work, by the way. It’s an arbitrary figure given by a person whose opinion you may or may not agree with.)

  13. Scientology as an organization is objectively awful. Is it worse than the major religions? Of course not. That doesn’t make it less objectively awful. A hornet is not as dangerous as a great white shark, but fuck a hornet in my opinion.

    None of that has anything to do with AFTER EARTH, which I thought looked alright but not “spend actual money to see it” alright. My only beef with Will Smith is when he Big Willyizes movies that don’t need it, like turning a series of ethical quandaries concerning artificial intelligence into a movie where Will Smith gets to crack jokes and get in car chases, or turning a book where the entire point of the title is that the hero becomes the monster at the end into yet another chance for Will Smith to save the world. He has a habit of polluting projects with his need for massive four-quandrant appeal. Obviously, there are exceptions, but most of the time, Will Smith should be in Will Smith movies and leave non-Will Smith movies to actors, not brands.

    HE’S THE DJ, I’M THE RAPPER is still the joint, though.

  14. Right on, Vern. I’m always glad to read a review like this, that not just stands up for a movie that was universally hated for whatever reason, but also goes the extra mile and talks about happenings that take place outside of the movie screen.

    That’s all. Since this is turning into a religious debate, I will stay out of this. (Although I know that it will be more civilized and tasteful than it owuld be in 99,5% of the internet.)

  15. Fred— I hope you didn’t throw away the receipt. After Earth is worth a single look (I watched it on Blu-Ray), but it’s not a keeper. I recommend you rent a Blu-Ray copy, watch it (preferably sober), and then read Vern’s review.

    Sternshein— HUH?!

    I wouldn’t attribute this movie’s tepid reception (in the U.S.; it did somewhat better in foreign markets) to any negative associations with Scientology. It’s just not particularly engrossing. However, it did make two things very apparent:

    1.) Neither Will Smith nor M. Night are finished careerwise, but as respective box office draws?….. ohhhhh yeah.
    2.) Jaden Smith is NOT going to have a movie acting tenure that extends into adulthood. He lacks his father’s charisma, and his thespian abilities are pitifully inadequate.

  16. Even as an atheist who’s well aware of all the terrible things committed in the name of God, Jesus, Muhammad and what have you, I have to ask to all the people claiming that the major religions are just as bad as Scientology: is there a scientologist equivalent to the Red Cross/Red Crescent? A scientologist Salvation Army or any kind of scientologist charity? Is the original message of Scientology about helping and loving others and trying to be a decent person?

  17. I think you’re off base on this one. I don’t think the general public really cared whether there were Scientology ideas in After Earth or not. That’s something that critics would try to point out in order to prove their point that the movie is bad and you shouldn’t see it. Even if the general public thinks Will Smith is a Scientologist, they still went to see MIB3 and that movie was a success making something like 600 million worldwide. I really think this is a case where the general public saw the very boring previews and decided to skip it. I myself saw those previews and there was nothing in them that would have made me go pay to see it. Is there a little backlash for Will Smith pushing his kids on the public? Of course there is. Why wouldn’t there be a backlash at some point? The people who watch mediocre Will smith films( and across the board he has been mainly mediocre) want to see Will Smith do what Will Smith normally does. They have no interest in seeing Will Smith and his son unless Will Smith is the star of the show, which he clearly wasn’t in the previews. The public was fine with Jaden Smith in a movie like Karate Kid because it looked like a movie for kids. After Earth looked more serious and the same crowd that saw the Karate Kid is not going to be interested in a Sci Fi movie like After Earth.

    I’ve seen After Earth and I think your comparison with Oblivion is right on point because they are both very mediocre Sci-Fi movies. After is not “bad” movie but it’s thoroughly mediocre in every way. Everything you think will happen does, and there are absolutely no surprises of any kind. After Earth didn’t deserve to be a big success(and neither did MIB3 but it had an established brand). It didn’t deserve to be called the worst movie of the year, or whatever tag the “critics” chose to give it either. Elysium has a fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes, and I’m telling you right now that I don’t think it any better then either After Earth or Oblivion. It’s also thoroughly mediocre in every way. It’s obvious that After Earth had the double whammy of being a movie by the now hated M Night Shyamalan starring Jaden Smith, while Elysium starred the widely liked Matt Damon and got better reviews because there was no baggage attached to it. I really don’t think this is as much about Will Smith hatred as it is about the public wanting to see him do what they are familiar with.

  18. Haven’t seen the movie so I can’t speak to its merits, but for me the catalyzing stay-away factor is MNS, and the Smiths are just guilty-by-association. Unfair maybe, but that’s my gut reaction.

    I think one can make a strong case for Scientology being a particularly cultish, thuggish, and cynically-motivated group. Is their overall influence worse than, say, the Catholic church? Hell no — the whole preventing-birth control-in-Africa thing alone dwarfs anything they’ve done. But that’s more a matter of scale than vileness.

  19. I liked it. I have weekly movie nights with fellow sci-fi/action friends, and they both liked it too. I wouldn’t say any of us *really* liked it, but it was solid, and kept us enjoyably enough entertained for its run time. I liked the isolated feel of it. And the idea of ghosting. I like Will and Jaden. I’ve got nothing in particular against Scientology, as weird as I think it is. I read L. Ron Hubbard books growing up before I’d even heard of Scientology. I thought they were ok when I was a kid, without realizing all the baggage. In that way, I think Chitown makes a lot of good points about the backlash. I wasn’t driven to see it in the theaters. Movies are expensive. I’m happy to wait for things like this on DVD (though I did see Oblivion in the theaters). I’m a sucker for family drama, though, so the layers in this movie about kids coming of age and overcoming past traumas, and also parent-child bonding, while perhaps the parent experiences emotional growth through both imagined loss and also the inability to be the “doer” in this instance…those themes were enough to carry the movie for me. And I agree that Jaden has a different charisma than Will, but I’ve still enjoyed his performances in whatever I’ve seen him in.

    Also I don’t hate M. Night, though the casting for Avatar was rather racially tone deaf. In that way he’s managed to piss off fans all over the spectrum: some want to be wowed every time like they were in the “I see dead people” movie. Their expectations are so high, that they can only criticize. But others have other expectations, only to get all het up about destroying their perception of a beloved franchise in which all the protagonists were white and the bad guy was of color…despite the source material being pretty much all non-caucasian. I don’t know how much of that is M. Night and how much of that is studio interference, however.

    Anyway, in conclusion: good, inoffensive movie.

  20. I have to agree with this review, I thought it was actually pretty good. In fact, I bet if I had seen this when I was between 10 and 12 years old I probably would have loved it.

    My only issue is the whole “everything freezes at night” thing didn’t make any sense. How is the entire place a lush forest/jungle but it goes to well below sub-zero temperatures every night? Maybe the plants evolved into cold resistant super plants, that may or may not want to kill humans?

    I have to admit though, I find it a bit hard to stomach that the movie was solely made because Will Smith has a lot of money and his son is gonna be a star, it might’ve been a bit more sincere if people actually had to audition for the lead parts.

  21. If you actually opposed religious groups on a principaled level, you would never, ever get far enough down the list to pay Scientology any mind. It is focused on in such a disproportionate way that it is bigotry, plain and simple. When people rally around hating scientologists, it functions to reinforce the “validity” of “real” religions. So, not only are atheists/nontheists/anti-theists being bigots with most of their Scientology bashing, they’re also propping up the actual “enemy” of their alledged cause.

    Really, I think it’s this: you cant talk about Jews, women, blacks, Latinos, Hispanics, ect. (Maybe Asians and gypsies) like you can about scientologists. So, all the hate you might see focused on other groups in the past is now funneled towards casual, comfortable Scientology bashing. And it’s gross. Period.

  22. Re: Paul C.

    “mentality. However, Scientology seems to be rather unique in the way that it leverages its enormous financial resources, and probably some of the world’s best lawyers, to intimidate, silence and (in some cases) downright ruin the personal lives of its critics”

    I just briefly outlined how evangelical Christianity in America and Russian orthodoxy in Russia used undue influence of their respective governments to CAUSE THE AIDS CRISIS for reasons that are tantamount to genocide… And you’re saying that Scientology being touchy about the incredible torrents of unearned hate it recieves is cause for concern.

    Christianity in America doesn’t seem so “overt” because the heads of churches ARE WRITING the laws! You are completely unelectable if you don’t ascribe to a series of Jewish folk tales from 4000 years ago!

    Again, if you’re concerned about the potential evils of religion in any logical or principaled manner, you don’t have time to treat Scientology as anything more than a footnote.

  23. This just looked incredibly boring to me. Personally, I am in the anti-Smith camp these days. Nepotism is a big part of it. It’s odd. Obviously nepotism is a big part of show biz. Look up just about any actor you like on imdb or Wikipedia, etc and you’ll find that about 1/2 of them have familial ties to the industry, even if you didn’t realize it at first. Overall, I’ve come to accept the Hollywood nepotism (in fact, I even applauded it in my Curse of Chucky comment). But with the Smiths, it’s just so obvious and blatant that it feels as if they are rubbing it in your face. There’s a sense of entitlement to that whole family which feels unearned.

    Scientology. Ah. Where to begin? I could literally go on for hours about it but I will keep it short and sweet. I’m someone who believes that religion is a very personal thing and that people should have religious freedom and that all religions have their merits and their shortcomings. I’ve also had an above average amount of exposure to Scientology. First of all, it’s not a religion. It’s a business. Before it even existed, pedophile/bad scifi writer Hubbard outlined how one could create a fake religion and profit. Years later, he proved it with Scientology. Scientology is objectively bad. It isn’t about enriching people’s lives or making the world a better place or anything altruistic. It’s about making more money for the people at the top of a pyramid scheme by taking advantage of the desperate and naive people at the bottom. There is a ton of reliable information available about the objectively immoral things Scientology has done, sometimes to its own members.

    Anyway, I’m not going to go off on a major rant here. I just don’t think you can compare Scientology to real religions. A more apt comparison would be to say it’s like if we boycotted Tom Cruise’s movies because he believes in tarot cards… And has a personal tarot card reader who has a reputation for doing things like kidnapping her own clients or leaving rattlesnakes in the mailboxes of writers who say tarot cards are hocus pocus bullshit.

  24. Tawdry, your argument still boils down to “Other religions have done more bad stuff, so leave Scientology alone.” This is akin to saying “He raped way more babies than I did so I’m basically a good guy.” All religions suck. One sucking more does not make the other not suck. The difference between Scientology and the others, though, is that those religions are deeply embedded into our culture through thousands of years of tradition. Most people don’t really have a choice about it. Scientology, however, was made up about 50 years ago by a drunk who didn’t want to pay his taxes, and most of the people in it elected to sign up of their own free will. It’s not a cultural birthright like Christianity or Islam, it’s an individual choice. Making fun of Judaism makes you an anti-Semite. Making fun of Scientology makes you a guy who mocks people for making stupid fucking decisions.

    Not that I do this. Like any other religion, I think the clergy are scumbags but I have no overarching opinion on the congregation. I take them each as they come.

    I also think it takes so much heat not just because it’s awful (which it is) but because a lot of people feel that the last thing the world needs is another bullshit scam of a religion making shit even worse. The others we’re stuck with. This one just seems egregious.

  25. Mr maj.

    It’s more like this, “the Catholic Church has spent 1000 years involved in an international child tape conspiracy, unduly effects our laws, ethics and education system and causes immeasurable human suffer as part of their so-called humanitarian efforts, and you’re worried about the scifi nerds who send out nasty cease and desist letters.”

    And furthermore, when you bash Scientology (“it’s not a real religion” is afeature of every discussion I’ve ever heard on Scientology) you not only engage in casual and open bigotry, you also grant implicit legitimacy to other organizations that are identical to Scientology in every way and also have more power.

    It’s Foucault, man. You’re unconsciously framing the debate so as to give one side privileged positioning.

    ALL religions are businesses (and governments…which makes them fascists by definition).

    The Catholic Church has like 500x the money of Scientology.

    Christians, Muslims and Jews all also engage in kidnapping, brainwashing, torture ect.

    And when anonymous goes out in masks to harass scientologists…well, it looks a bit like a klan meeting, don’t it? In fact, it’s structurally identical to a klan meeting, right down to the “spooky” costumes designed to frighten the “enemy.”

  26. Tawdry, Scientology’s crimes are well-documented and extend far beyond sending out spurious cease-and-desist letters. You do your argument no favors by ignoring that.

  27. I like Scientology because it throws into sharp relief the abject absurdity and crass exploitation of all religions. I think people hate it for that exact reason. It’s an excellent Rorschach test.

    I’m perhaps overly sensitive on issues of bigotry and racism, but when I hear the tenor of discussion on Scientology, it sure sounds like what I hear people say about the protocols of the elders of Zion. That narrative is very popular and shows up again and again. And once that story is applied and becomes popular within a cultural zeitgeist, it becomes very easy to wield it as a tool for social destruction against that group and/or other fringe identities. Sometimes against Jews, sometimes against gays, sometimes against scientologists, sometimes against alleged communists. And so on.

    We’ve tried this rhetoric approach enough times, guys. Spoiler alert: it doesn’t end well.

  28. Cypher Raige?! BWAHAHAHAHAHA!

  29. Hey Vern, you wouldn’t happen to have the contact information for all these women who like The Smiths handy, would you?

  30. I find it weird that this movie got blasted too, and I think it’s because Smith’s refusal to distance himself from Scientology, which is kind of a dubious religion, really, more of a cult. Regardless, I gave it a lukewarm-negative review, and found that it just didn’t really work, though I agree with most of Vern’s observations. But I liked it a lot better than maybe half of the summer’s biggest blockbusters, and being average isn’t so bad.

    A lot of the other criticisms of Smith, though, come from what he’s done with being the biggest movie star in the world. Did he use his clout to get interesting movies made? Did he try to affect the industry in a positive way? Or did he continue to play nearly flawless men or savior/messiah figures in a series of forgettable blockbusters?

    Biggest star in the world, and he can work with any director. This is who he’s worked with since BAD BOYS 2, my arbitrary post-Ali cutoff mark:
    Alex Proyas (alright, but terrible movie)
    Rob Letterman, Vicky Jenson, Bibo Bergeron (Shark’s Tale, animated, so whatever)
    Andy Tennant (Hitch – what?)
    Gabriele Muccino (Who?)
    Francis Lawrence (snore)
    Peter Berg (Hancock, hacked to shit in editing)
    Muccino again
    Barry Sonnenfeld (MiB III, though his career was ice cold at this point)
    Shyamalan (ditto)

    And after that, he’s popping up in Akiva Goldsman’s (yuck) directorial debut, followed by a collaboration with Edward Zwick (eh?) and Glenn Ficarra and John Requa (who made good movies, but are real small time).

    If you had your choice of ANY collaborator in Hollywood, why THESE guys? And why turn down DJANGO UNCHAINED for ANY of this?

  31. Smith turned down DJANGO UNCHAINED because he didn’t consider Django the star of the film. “Django wasn’t the lead, so it was like, I need to be the lead,” he said in an ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY interview. It fits his MO: The movie must serve him, not the other way around.

  32. “And when anonymous goes out in masks to harass scientologists…well, it looks a bit like a klan meeting, don’t it? In fact, it’s structurally identical to a klan meeting, right down to the “spooky” costumes designed to frighten the “enemy.””

    ok Tawd, this is where I draw the line, do you seriously think the Anonymous protests is anything like KKK rallies? the KKK is all about racially motivated violence and hate, the Anonymous protests were all about simply getting the truth out about a corrupt (you heard me) organization

  33. and standing up for Scientology is like standing up for a douche-bag Frat dude named “Chad” from an 80’s comedy, he may not be history’s greatest monster, but he’s still an asshole that deserves no sympathy

  34. Griff, I understand where Tawdry is coming from. He’s arguing for the principle of religious tolerance, which means you can’t pick and choose which belief system gets a free pass for shitting on, even when the religion is basically a front for a pyramid scheme/closeted homosexual celebrity blackmailing ring.

    And he’s right. Scientology hasn’t caused any AIDS epidemics (yet) so there’s still way less red on its ledger than most other religions, yet people shit on it way more than the Vatican, which is so much more evil than any of the douchebags at SeaOrg could even imagine.

    I must reiterate that it still doesn’t make Scientology okay.

  35. To clarify, I’m not complaining about AFTER EARTH being a flop. I didn’t go see it either, and I think the current state of Shyamalan is a good enough reason for people not to go. I was lamenting what I think were unfairly harsh reviews, and as a separate point just musing about my feeling that the public has turned against Smith, and my curiosity about why that might be.

    Gabe – good points. Personally I would rank him a little higher in that department than you though. The biggest point for him on that score is SEVEN POUNDS, a crazy and ballsy movie where his character seems mean and unlikable until you find out what he’s up to late in the movie. I also think that Lawrence and especially Proyas were interesting directors to work with, though Smith might be responsible for bringing Proyas down a notch since most of the problems with I, ROBOT have to do with making it a Will Smith vehicle.

    That’s where Goldsman comes in – Smith loves him because he’s the guy who rewrites movies for Big Willyfication. Unfortunately he had him write the Shrek speech in I AM LEGEND, for example.

    Turning down DJANGO when he said it was one of the best scripts he ever read is obviously crazy. But I think it worked out for the best. I wouldn’t have guessed it at the time but I don’t think anybody could’ve done better than Jamie Foxx.

  36. When you list a bunch of bad things and ad homenum attacks as reasons why Scientology isn’t a “real” religion, the direct implication is that the “real” religions don’t do these things. But the fact is that ALL religions do these things and all the “real” religions do it on a bigger scale and make your life far worse than Scientology ever could. Furthermore, attaching yourself to this line of rhetoric reinforces the power structure that the outsized criticisms of Scientology claim to abhor. So, not only are you acting as a bigot when you slur Scientology in these ways, you’re also helping out the real enemy and whitewashing history.

  37. I still say Scientology just isn’t worth defending, so it gets treated a little unfairly? who gives a shit? there’s much better things worth defending than a cult founded by a hack sci fi writer to make money

  38. Yeah exactly, since when Scientology is the cute underdog we should root for?

  39. Griff:

    Look at the posts in this topic. Look at the demeanor of comments on Scientology. Is there *any* other religious group this side of the Taliban to which you would accept this type of casual derision? When an evangelical says, “Christians are perfected Jews” there is an uproar because its userstood that this person (Ann coulter, iirc) is saying that Judaism isn’t a “real” religion. When people talk about a “Jewish producer” doesn’t it make you feel a bit uneasy? Ah, Jews own hollywood! …scientologists own hollywood… How are these sentiments different?

    If you wouldn’t be totally cool with talking this way about Muslims or Mormons or Mennonites or any other religion without an M at the beginning, why is this version okay?

    Plus, the entire structure of the argument functions to excuse every horrible deed Judaism, Christianity, Islam, ect. Has ever committed and instead projects this guilt onto a small minority group.

    How can I defend Scientology? How can you not be disgusted!

  40. but people shit on Christianity every chance they get on the internet too and I’m not bothered by that either

    I admit that I don’t fully understand what you’re trying to imply, that just because I don’t have a problem with people bad mouthing Scientology means that I’m instantly defensive when people badmouth other Religions? I’m not

    and I would wager a guess that most people that bad mouth Scientology have no problem with people bad mouthing other Religions either

  41. Tawdry, nobody here has said anything negative about Scientologists, as in the people who believe in Scientology. They can believe whatever the hell they want. Our problem is with the scumbags who run the organization they belong to. And there’s nothing wrong with that. Contrary to recent rulings, corporations are not people. It might not be acceptable to hate all Christians, but it’s perfectly okay to take serious issue with the decisions of the Vatican. To take it further, you can’t say “All Americans are warmongering idiots” or “All Russians are homophobic monsters,” but you can say “The American government is run by warmongering idiots” and “The Russian government is a monstrously homophobic.” Being upset at the shitty way an organization—be it a religion or a country—is run is not the same thing as starting a holy war against its members. It’s called “having an opinion,” and we shouldn’t stop just because some organizations make claim to knowing the mind of God.

  42. I don’t see how you can say “Scientology is a cult” shouldn’t be taken as a personal insult to scientologists.

  43. The difference between a cult and a religion is in how it treats its members. So it’s still a criticism of the organization, not the congregation.

  44. Tawdry, I hope I don’t sound glib, because this is clearly a topic that means a lot to you. Me, personally, I think pretending that the stories you make up are works of real history is a sign of insanity, and the sooner mankind kicks it theology habit, the sooner we can start moving forward as a species. Which is why I find the advent of a whole new form of religion in the latter half of the 20th century, right when you’d think secular humanism would be taking off in a big way, to be kind of a kick in the balls. But it doesn’t mean all that much to me one way or the other, so I hope I didn’t offend you. Or any Scientologists who might be lurking on here. (Seriously, has anyone ever even met one in the wild? I’m starting to think they’re an urban myth.)

  45. Amazing Larry,

    RE: What do YOU mean you people?

    I just used a joke from Tropic Thunder.

  46. Sternshein— No worries, hoss… I *got* it the first time. In Tropic Thunder, when Alpha Chino echoes Kirk Lazarus’s question, Lazarus kinda grunts “HUH?!” as a response, like he’d just been caught off guard.

    That said, you muh-muh-muh make me happy :>)

    Since the pro-/anti-Scientology jihad seems to have petered out, allow me to stray off-topic to say that the new Carrie remake (I saw it last night) probably isn’t worth the time of most of you all (unless, like me, you just HAD to see it). Kimberly Peirce’s version isn’t handled anywhere near as deftly as DePalma’s, and there’s no trace of the levity that jazzed up the original.

    Finally we get an age-appropriate actress playing Carrie White (although Chloe Moretz seems just a wee bit too young), but she’s surrounded by fellow high schoolers who all look 20-22 years old… which is jarring. The actress playing Chris Hargensen comes across as more whiny bitch than cold, vindictive bitch… so the whole revenge subplot doesn’t have much heft. Julianne Moore can’t hold a birthday candle to Piper Laurie’s magnificently borderline OTT performance from the original (I knew she was wrong for this role when casting was first announced). The only actor here who really fits the profile is Judy Greer as the gym teacher Miss Desjardin. The pig blood denouement at prom night in this version isn’t nearly the minor tour de force that DePalma’s was, but it’s still pretty gnarly.

    All told, quite a disappointment. Between this and Stop-Loss, I’m beginning to think Kimberly Peirce is a one-trick pony, or close to becoming one. Bummer.

  47. I’m not in general against remakes, but I don’t understand a director who tries to do a remake of a De Palma movie. He has such a unique vision that it’s hard to follow up with something equally strong and distinct. So if they claim the right to play in the league of the masters and fail to reach that level of artistry they look like a loudmouthed hacks. Therefore I don’t have any pity for someone who tries to remake Carrie, Suspiria or a Hitchcock movie.

  48. I don’t think you can be bigoted towards beliefs. If you choose to believe something silly, you open yourself up to ridicule. Get over it.

  49. Maybe I’m in a minority but I like the off-topic debates here in the comments, the political as well as the religious. You get a better understanding of the people and their way of thinking, their personal and cultural background. That makes the discussions about movies even more interesting.

    I personally respect the right to believe anything you want. But I don’t have a problem to insult a Scientology member by discussing Scientology. The open discussion about the strengths and faults of a religion, of politics and ethics is important for an enlightened society. If you’re insulted by a discussion about your religion then there’s something wrong with you, not the society. That doesn’t mean that anyone has the right to judge or attack someone because of his beliefs. That is equally stupid.

    It’s easier to ridicule Scientology because it hasn’t the benefit of being created in a time when people weren’t educated and hadn’t much knowledge about our world. Therefore it’s almost a miracle to start something like this in the last century and bring people to accept it as religion.

    Not that’s it’s that much harder to analyze the faults of other religions:
    http://youtu.be/IZeWPScnolo

  50. “The open discussion about the strengths and faults of a religion, of politics and ethics is important for an enlightened society. If you’re insulted by a discussion about your religion then there’s something wrong with you, not the society. That doesn’t mean that anyone has the right to judge or attack someone because of his beliefs. That is equally stupid.”

    Nonsense. You wouldn’t think it stupid to judge or attack someone based on their political beliefs, why should their religious beliefs be held to higher standard, especially when they’re based on less evidence and often overlap anyway?

    Look, it is my belief that George A. Romero’s DAWN OF THE DEAD is the best film ever made. I open myself up for judgment and ridicule based on that belief, but I truly hold it dear and will defend it as best I can. It may seem a trite example, but DAWN OF THE DEAD changed my life in how I view film and art and has consistently given me great joy. It’s akin to a religious experience for me, and yet I won’t call someone a bigot for making fun of it or thinking I’m not smart because I hold it in such high regard.

    Basically, a belief is just an opinion. Stop getting sand in your vagina just because someone makes fun of you for it.

  51. Chopper Sullivan – I believe that Brian De Palma’s FEMME FATALE is the best film ever made while Joseph Kahn’s DETENTION and Gore Verbinski’s THE LONE RANGER are the best of this decade. But why should I attack, judge or ridicule you because you think different? That’s a form of discussion for fundamentalists and nerds.

    My point was that we should discuss the strengths and faults of DAWN OF THE DEAD without attacking you, without hatred, emotional outbreaks and personal name-calling and that it’s relevant and great to discuss DAWN OF THE DEAD for our enlightenment. And maybe, if we can do this with DAWN OF THE DEAD, we can also do this with other things like religion or politics.

    So, back to work. I have to get a lot of sand in my vagina.

  52. But one person’s honest opinion may end up offending someone. I think all religions are stupid and silly and are more harmful than productive. How can I possibly express that opinion without ruffling someone’s feathers? And how can a Christian who seriously believes in Hell not tell me I’m going there for my beliefs (or lack there of?) There are things called tact and decency, but when dealing with serious subjects like God or DAWN OF THE DEAD, it may be difficult to be open and honest without stepping on some toes. So let it be. Let’s be adults and accept a little toe stompage.

  53. Just watched this last night. It is very enjoyable. Not GREAT, but very enjoyable. I got a little choked up at the selflessness of the turkey vulture, honestly.

    And Scientology is awesome, I fully respect it.

  54. Tawdry, honestly, I’m reluctant to pile up on you (since other folks have already posted similar opinions as mine), but since you addressed me personally I might as well repeat that I strongly dislike all religions. I’ve only singled out Scientology here because it’s the topic of discussion. By no means do I believe that Scientology’s amoral record is anywhere close to that of the Catholic Church. But, to be fair, the Catholics have had a 2000 year head start, and if you had followed the scandals that surrounded Scientology, I’m assuming you would also come to the conclusion that these individuals, if given the chance, would gladly burn heretics at the stake and incite violence against groups they disagree with. Hell, they’re barely a couple of decades old and they’ve already built torture prisons — in a western, secular country, mind you. How they can get away with this is beyond me. Actually, it isn’t beyond me: They just had to pay lawyers/bribe officials long enough so that legal loopholes were established by which it somehow became legal. Imagine what they would do if they had a 2000 years to work with, and if they could exercise absolute power over a whole continent for centuries. Based on their recent record, do you think it they would behave like the Quakers? I mean, who are you kidding?

    I’m more than familiar with the “modern” crimes of the Catholic Church, and I would be the first to point out that their recent policies concerning contraception led to the suffering and death of millions of Africans. In fact, I have done so on many occasions in private. You don’t know me, so you have no idea how much I’m on your page. But don’t pretend like you don’t know why “anonymous” protested against Scientology in masks. I know, it sort of became their symbol, but you must have heard that Scientology has this “fair game” policy where they use their enormous wealth and connections to ruin the lives of people who speak out against them. So what do you think they should have done? Shown their faces and held up signs with their social security numbers? To compare it to a Klan rally is so ridiculous that I’m at a loss of words. So perhaps it’s best to stop.

    (My name is Peter though, not Paul. That’s another guy. Thanks)

  55. I’ve not turned against Will Smith. I just can’t remember the last movie of his I really felt an urge to see, as the more interesting ones that got mooted for him(Django Unchained, The Oldboy Remake) came to nothing. Jaden seems a likable enough kid from interviews with his dad, but I don’t want to particularly see him in anything. AFTER EARTH just looked really boring, and came out a few months after OBLIVION did and was being promoted in trailers at the same time if I recall, and the Tom Cruise effort just seemed far more engaging.

    Heh…Cypher Raige.

    “My suit’s turned black. I like it, but I think it’s something bad!”
    Without context, that honestly sounds like a really stupid line, because if this kid is a military cadet and going for an elite position, shouldn’t he know what the suit does?

  56. I’m sorry but is it October? Why am I reading this when I obviously came to the sight to argue about Carrie 2013?

    Movie’s got problems but one of them is NOT the casting of Julianne Moore. There are few roles and performs as suited to one another as Moore and Margaret White. Insert some smart ass internet-esque remark about Amazing Larry’s continued lack of ability to have valid opinions.

  57. renfield— Opinions are, by their very nature, subjective… and hence cannot be properly regarded as either valid or invalid. Facts, on the other hand…

    [duh]

  58. My opinion is that not all opinions are valid

  59. renfield— Duly noted & well played, sir. I wasn’t knocking Julianne Moore’s abilities as an actress (plenty of solid performances from her over the past 20 years), but rather the way she played the character. Even if you’d never read the book, it was (IMO) very apparent that Piper Laurie’s version of Margaret White was a woman who was very odd on a surface level, deeply disturbed beneath that, and imminently dangerous. It made perfect sense that Sissy Spacek’s Carrie was so afraid of her.

    From my perspective, Moore’s version of the character was more that of a woman who had been beaten down by life; she seemed defeated and a little pathetic. But Chloe Moretz’s Carrie put across the same level of fear about her mother, which to me seemed a little off-kilter.

    So, what else did you like about the movie? NOW I’m curious to hear a differing opinion.

  60. Vern, you are correct to defend Smith, he’s not a Scientologist, and linking him to Scientology is baseless and unfair.

    But if you accept that Scientology was formative in the movie’s philosophy, you are not correct to defend that.

    Scientology can not be defended or reviled on the simple basis that it is a religion, nor on the simple basis of its philosophy.

    Scientology is a criminal organization that makes slaves of people and commits grave crimes against society.

    Scientology needs to be banned. It is no mere religion. How it operates is the problem.

  61. OK, all you guys really hate religion. But all these arguments seem to be conflating two different things that are practically opposite:

    A) the power of religious authorities to persecute
    B) the rights of individuals to practice whatever religion they want without being persecuted

    Clearly you’re all mad at A) and rightly so, but Vern was talking about B).

    He wasn’t saying “Scientologists have never done anything wrong”.

    He was saying “why do you care what individuals believe in, if they keep it to themselves and don’t harm anyone?”

    Yes, Scientologists have willfully blurred the two by insisting that any criticism of their actions is criticism of their religion. And their efforts to silence dissent have been much commented upon.

    But if someone keeps their beliefs private, and DOESN’T inflict it on other people, then what is your complaint exactly?

    We shouldn’t tolerate intolerant actions. But aren’t we supposed to tolerate different beliefs, whether we approve of them or find them odious? Most smart people who care about intellectual freedom, from Voltaire on down, have historically said yes. Just because Scientologists frequently have exploited that loophole, does that mean we should close it?

    The fact that Smith is merely an ALLEGED follower of an unpopular religion/cult/whatever, and that he and his movie have apparently been condemned on this basis alone, is what tips things into witch hunt territory.

    As someone asked above, does anyone have anything to say about After Earth itself? What did you all think of After Earth as a movie, rather than Will Smith and M. Night Shamyalan as people?

    P.S., Here is a big-budget Hollywood sci-fi movie with two African-Americans as the leads, with an Indian-American directing, and no one even noticed. This seems like racial progress to me – unless the Smiths and MNS, due to their success, somehow don’t “count” as ethnic.

    P.P.S. I have not seen the film.

  62. And here’s a question for Vern: Except for mocking the character name Cypher Raige, every single thing you said about the movie was positive. So then what makes the movie merely okay, rather than actually good?

  63. Thank you Curt, well said. To answer your question, what makes it merely pretty good in my opinion is that the idea of facing one’s fears is such a well worn theme that it feels a little underwhelming as the ultimate point of the movie. The emotional climax comes much earlier when Kitai pulls a FIRST BLOOD, breaks down and starts crying about what he’s really upset about. If the ending could’ve had that much punch I would rate it higher.

  64. Curt, we went very far afield of the original topic, which was whether or not Smith’s ties to Scientology affected this movie’s critical and commercial reception. I personally hate religion because it offers an off-the-shelf philosophy that removes the impetus for people to use their life experience to formulate their own point of view, something I see as possibly the only unique aspect to the human experience. But I don’t think anyone here would argue against people’s right to believe whatever the hell they want as long as it doesn’t hurt anyone else. We’re just all such fiercely idiosyncratic loose cannons (sorta sarcasm alert) that the topic of organized religion is like blood in the water for us. I’d be surprised if there was a single one of us who hadn’t wrestled mightily with what that concept meant to us at some point in our pasts. It’s a loaded topic on which we’ve all saved up a lifetime of philosophical and historical ammunition. Perhaps a movie review isn’t the right place to discuss it, but I guess we couldn’t help it.

    As for AFTER EARTH, did the trailer give anyone else the idea that Will was doing a Lawrence Fishburne impression?

  65. I never heard anyone mention Scientology in relation to AFTER EARTH until reading this review, but everyone and their dog has mentioned the nepotism angle. I think that’s the bigger factor. Usually I don’t care about that sort of thing, but Smith has been so brazenly transparent about it that it’s offputting. Everything about this movie seems engineered by a team of scientists (that’s scientists, people) to push Jaden out from under Big Willie’s Style, but nobody was interested in taking in the bait. That said, nobody I know who has seen it said that it was terrible, just that it was boring and generic and kind of dumb. The kind of film that more or less hits it’s mark, but only because it was aiming slightly below the middle.

  66. “Curt, we went very far afield of the original topic, which was whether or not Smith’s ties to Scientology affected this movie’s critical and commercial reception.”

    Mr. Majestyk – None what so ever. Yes I love to roast the Church of Scientology whenever the opportunity arises, but you folks must remember that this movie was already pegged a turkey LOOOOOOOONG before that Friedman piece (was it him or wrote it?). The vast majority of negative reviews attacked the film as (shockingly) a film. People didn’t go see it because of (A) the universally abysmal reviews and (B) the ads just didn’t look good at all. Plus (C) Mr. Shymalan’s involvement I’m sure did the film no favors.

    As for the Smith/Scientology stuff…its an online conspiracy theory welded together with interesting circumstantial evidence. But that’s it. To apply it in any fashion to why this film flopped just borders on a petty excuse that ignores the obvious and simple reasons that I listed above.

    CrustaceanHate – I’m sorry but the nepotism complaint really ignores one tiny little thing that people forget. Remember when that kid did that KARATE KID remake which actually made money? Remember that folks?

    Mind you I’m not saying what Smith/Sony did was the right choice but in retrospect, I can understand the logic. I mean that kid already had a hit film, so they thought hey why not pair up this “new star” with his more famous daddy? Boom, money! Who knows if they had made this a low budget survival story set in modern times instead of setting it in the future and sci-fi (i.e. much higher budget), I’m sure the verdict instead would be critical flop but ultimately profitable.

    C’mon peeps, its not GODFATHER PART III here. Let’s strive for excellence and have some context here.

  67. RRA: KARATE KID had extra two things going for it: brand recognition and Jackie fucking Chan. Plus Will Smith wasn’t in it, sealing his trademark charisma in a lead-lined box so he doesn’t overshadow his son’s performance. AFTER EARTH, on the other hand, has a father/son casting gimmick and boy-becoming-a-man plot that makes the whole nepotism thing hard to ignore. It isn’t the main reason people avoided it (as you say, the trailers made it look awfully dull and generic) but it probably didn’t help.

    I’m not saying it didn’t seem like a sure thing on paper. Will Smith doesn’t do anything but films that look like sure things on paper, and he’s usually right.

  68. Then why didn’t people stay away from THE PURSUIT OF HAPPYNESSS?

    Larry, you should know I don’t pay for Blu-rays. They send them to me to review. I didn’t like this one tho.

  69. Curt-

    “We shouldn’t tolerate intolerant actions. But aren’t we supposed to tolerate different beliefs, whether we approve of them or find them odious?”

    But beliefs directly inform people’s actions. What laws they vote for, what products they purchase, what sort of culture they promote and create, basically any measurable way in which they are going to affect other people. We all (on outlawvern.com) give one another shit for the ridiculous things we believe about movies and stuff, why is “religion” or “spirituality” or “philosophy” some specially protected category of belief we’re not allowed to criticize?

  70. To re-clarify, I don’t think the “Will Smith is a Scientologist” conspiracy theory is why the movie flopped. But I do wonder how much it has to do with what seems to be the public turning on Smith, since in my experience people *do* bring it up, and think I’m a weirdo for calling bullshit and debunking it (because what kind of a freak would stand up for general fairness if the wronged party is an accused Scientologist?). The Hollywood Reporter link I used in the review gave 4 examples of major critics connecting the movie to Scientology in their reviews, and I’m sure that’s just a drop in the bucket. You can’t deny that this smear is out there and is one of the filters many people see Smith through. But you’re right, it’s only one of the factors and may not be the largest one.

  71. My love for Signs and The Village is intense, but after The Last Airbender, I didn’t watch this one.

  72. Great review, great talk back. Usually, a review for a film I’m not going to watch only gets a light read over, but this one has been really engrossing. I don’t want in on the debate (about the film or any religion, I’m not going to watch the film or take part in any religion) but I did want to post this comment to thank people here for having a decent debate without descending into usual internet foolishness.

    This is excellence being strived for.

    A+ kids.

  73. I gotta side with Tawdry on this one. Not sure if it’s because we share a similar cultural background, but I agree with his main point that when this much negative attention gets put onto a religion as Scientology that something is probably up, and that something might sound like pigotry.

    Sure, Scientology does some things I think are bad. But so do lots of other groups. Shit, you can’t tell me that Scientology is worse for the world than Wal-Mart or whatever.

    As to it being a cult, well, that’s kind of my educational background. It’s always peculiar to talk about religions because we usually speak of them as these enshrined constructs that exist wholly formed, yet we forget they grew and developed. Scientology is developing, too. At what point did Mormonism stop becoming a cult and become a religion? At what point did the Apostles hanging out stop being a cult and become a religion? Not to mention that almost all of these religions were doing some really awful things at this stage of their life, we really can’t be too hard on Scientology for bringing up some lawsuits or whatever to people who leave the religion.

    Not to absolve them of sin, I just think that Tawdry is right and that negative attention paid to them far outweighs any sense of proportion.

    I’ll catch this movie when it gets to HBO or something. Looked decent enough, and if it’s just Hatchet in space (but not space, Earth but not Earth) that would be cool.

  74. So, I was thinking about this and people writing it off because of possible Scientology connections. But, I think people were really turned off by the vanity aspect of it all. First of all, you’ve got M Knight who is so full of himself that his ego has become more of a talking point than his work. Then, you have the Smith family who are so full of themselves that it’s killed most of the good will the world once had for Big Willy. Finally, you have themes that seemed to some that they were coming from Smith’s cult beliefs (regardless of his denials, the guy built a Scientology school in Calabasas). Add it all together and I think a lot of people felt that this was more of a masturbatory exercise than a movie.

  75. Fred – Good fucking point. *Looks at everybody* Well?

    Vern – I don’t think people generally care as much about that issue as you think they might do. Let’s put it this way. Let’s look at Tom Cruise. If that whole SCientology/couch jumping stuff hurt him, its only domestic and not overseas if you look at box-office because for whatever reasons, foreigners just don’t care about that stuff. (I mean buddy, remember Michael Jackson? A pariah figure in America, but overseas he was still mother fucking’ Michael Jackson.)

    But even then, that trouble didn’t last that long ultimately for Mr. Cruise. Yeah M:I 3 took a dent at the time, but I think that whole public deal about him allegedly threatening Paramount to not air that SOUTH PARK episode on Scientology was what hurt him more than that saga from the year before, or maybe brought that shit back to the surface. Nobody likes a bully.

    VALKYRIE technically tanked in the states I guess, but $83 million for a historical-based political thriller where the heroes fail to kill Hitler and get executed? That’s good. It did $200 million global.

    LIONS FOR LAMBS tanked, but it was one of many Middle Eastern/War on Terror films that audiences had no interest in seeing. Cruise can’t be blamed for that. I never saw it myself, but people told me it was limpwrist. (Man, what the fuck happened to director Redford? The dude did QUIZ SHOW, that was terrific.)

    TROPIC THUNDER was an Oscar-nominated hit comedy, and Cruise’s cameo was generally considered one of the movie’s highlights. That gave him good press.

    KNIGHT & DAY didn’t do much in the states, but was Fox’s biggest hit that year. Did most of its money overseas.

    Then of course GHOST PROTOCOL was a smash hit and Cruise was officially back, at least stateside according to Hollywood. He followed up with ROCK OF AGES (which flopped), JACK REACHER which did OK (which I hope gets a sequel), and OBLIVION did OK too. People will forever crack Thetan/Bridge jokes at him till he dies, but he’s still a star and people have generally moved on from that stuff. His only problem might be that he’s getting older (a timeless movie star obstacle) and depends more and more on foreign audiences to help his films out, but he’s not necessarily alone on that. (Hell Hollywood in general is also hopelessly needy on foreigners to save their blockbuster films too.)

    “Sure, Scientology does some things I think are bad. But so do lots of other groups. Shit, you can’t tell me that Scientology is worse for the world than Wal-Mart or whatever.”

    Casey – So when has Wal-Mart forced abortions on their employees?

    C’mon folks. With the logic being deployed by Tawdry and others, nobody should ever be upset with the Catholic Church for raping kids and covering up those crimes. Or the LDS-supported Boy Scouts for covering up their own rape scandal. Or Islamic conservatives who want women stoned to death as adulterers because they were raped. What bullshit. We’re not Republicans or right-wingers or such dire people who look at minorities (ethnic or religious) as the sinister “Other” out to corrupt and destroy the rest of us. Bullshit is bullshit. None of us are haters.

    Dtroyt – I do remember years ago when Will Smith tried to produce a remake of SWISS FAMILY ROBINSON at Disney but it would star him, his wife and kids. I thought at the time that was actually a decent idea and obviously an interesting gimmick.

  76. Any thoughts on this being a metaphor for being black in America? Or something like that.

  77. Ink – I’m interested, but I don’t see what the metaphor is. Do you think there’s some subtext in there I’m missing?

  78. I don’t know that much about religion, but recently I joined a cult and I’m very happy. I joined the cult of wizard Thulsa Doom, a few years ago we were just another snake cult, today the tax free donations are pouring in, great outdoor meetings, we’re commiting regicide, lots of likes on Facebook, good times.

    I really liked this movie, I thought it looked beautiful, great James Newton Howard score as usual. Very simple story, only two characters for most of it meant there wasn’t the usual 20 characters providing all the sci fi exposition. Glad they went there with the Cypher Raige name, I remember when Avatar came out and someone wrote – Jake Sully? Why not call him Butch Brassballs?

    My dream project would be a DTV action sequel, Cypher and Kitai: Double Edged Swords. Lots of killing Ursas in slow motion, Cipher takes Kitai to a space brothel, father and son bonding while cliff diving with winged suits, using whiskey and THC inhalers then sad monologues about the horrors of war.

  79. Michael – Do you guys still have the Tree of Woe hanging around? And is it put to good use anymore?

  80. Speaking of Tom Cruise and cults, I just saw Eyes Wide Shut for the first time since fourteen year old me saw it upon its release. The song that is playing during the satanic ritual is probably the scariest thing of all time

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=38xqgBy12eM

  81. Renfield – I gotta watch that movie again. I remember loving it at the time but I haven’t ever seen it since. It did feel like the kind of movie you experience once and once only though.

    RRA – honestly, speaking on behalf of all non-Americans everywhere, I think we were more upset with Tom Cruise’s corruption of America’s Sweetheart Katie Holmes. The entire world turned into the disapproving but well-meaning father who doesn’t want to see his daughter waste her life on that crazy asshole she’s inexplicably attracted to. (Well, the entire world except those cynics who insisted the whole thing was a publicity job from beginning to end. And if that WAS the case, at least we got “Mission: Impossible 3” out of it. Now there’s a worthwhile result if ever there was one.)

    Just saw “Escape Plan”. I’ll try and put something up about it in the forums (it’ll be brief). Suffice to say, never has a 50% score on Rotten Tomatoes seemed more apt.

  82. Shoot McKay – we aren’t using the Tree of Woe anymore, apparently some Austrian body builder escaped and has formed a class action suit with the blonde from All That Jazz and a Hawaiian surfing legend.

  83. renfield – EWS is pretty damn good stuff.

    Paul – I’ve never understood the appeal of Ms. Holmes. Sorry, don’t see it.

    I do remember however that online conspiracy theory that Mr. Cruise didn’t father their daughter, but it was instead Chris Klein. (Well, at least she traded up for a good while.)

    Also, I disagree with you on ESCAPE PLAN. Whenever Vern gets around to reviewing it (what gives homey?), I’ll get into it.

  84. The Original... Paul

    October 24th, 2013 at 4:42 am

    RRA – well I may, possibly, have been overstating things just a bit, with regard to the charming Ms Holmes / Mrs Cruise. (Irony never comes across on the Interwebs.)

    I think the big clue might’ve been me calling “Mission: Impossible 3” worthwhile…

  85. I’ll go ahead and say it. I liked this movie more than the other current two-character sci fi survival tale featuring past traumas about dead relatives and a 3rd act hallucination that inspires the main character to get up and keep fighting. (I also saw this movie about 12 hours before that one, which probably has something to do with it)

    Anyways, I think I said it on some other board here, but this movie recaptures 80s-era HBO afternoon watching better than any movie in recent memory (certainly better than Super 8). The lean plot and episodic nature of the movie evokes stuff like White Fang, The Princess Bride, The Neverending Story, White Water Summer, and Enemy Mine without a bunch of wink-nudging.

    I can’t answer why people didn’t see this one in the theatres – I only know I waited till Redbox because I’m cheap, the trailer didn’t look very good, and Shyamalan’s name scared me away since he hasn’t made a good movie in 10 years. But I don’t really get the criticisms by the few people who actually have seen it-

    1) Almost every user review on Netflix or IMDB smugly mentions the lack of guns like that’s a flaw in the movie. Even though a) there’s clearly laser gunfire in that opening scene and b) Yeah it’s really unheard of for people to use swords in a sci-fi movie. I can’t possibly think of another sci-fi franchise where people use swords.

    2) People say Will Smith goes against his natural charisma by playing a stoic character. No shit! That’s called challenging yourself as an actor – what do you want to bet the same people probably complain about him playing a jokester all the time? It doesn’t matter because he’s great here. When you’re a kid, you’re kind of afraid of your dad (or at least I was) and Smith captures that stoicism and quiet menace perfectly. His big fear monologue is badass yet kind of ridiculous in the same way Mickey Rourke’s Expendables speech was. Jaden’s got some shaky acting scenes, but overall he’s solid, and downright fantastic in that First Blood-esque breakdown Vern speaks of. (I actually felt it was the successor to the Hulk father-son stage play scene myself, and damnit, I cried like this was f’ing Les Miserables or something).

    3) The pace – M. Night tried to defend his style by saying it might be too “European” for American audiences, and despite making several terrible movies in a row, he’s totally right here. There are scenes and shots that are straight out of Kubrick and Malick – if audiences are bored by this they’d probably turn off Universal Soldier Day of Reckoning in about 5 minutes.

    Finally 4) I’ve heard SPOILER the end was messed up because it wants you to cheer when the innocent young boy becomes a fearless (read: emotionless) killer. I actually think they meant for that to be a small tragedy, and when Jaden reverts back to crying-son mode a few scenes later, it’s almost a relief that he hasn’t lost his humanity. I kinda loved the bittersweet ending.

    It’s not a perfect movie – the action could be better, the props and sets are often borderline Ed Wood-cheap, the loading dock scene is the absolute worst green screen I’ve seen in years. There could have been more of a reason for it to be on Earth instead of some random planet, even though I really enjoyed the final shot of the newly replenished whale population (kudos to the filmmakers for using a character reading Moby Dick as something other than shorthand for “this character is consumed with REVENGE!!!”) Oh yeah, the score’s great too, which you can’t say about many movies these days. Anyway, it’s a small, minor classic to me. I look forward to watching it on HBO one afternoon.

  86. I like that he gets helped by a virtually extinct species and that there’s a fuckload of whales later. I like how much information is communicated to you visually rather than through expository dialogue. Fuck man, I thought this was a pretty cool movie. Maaaaybe his best since Unbreakable, but definitely since Signs.

  87. If loving this movie is wrong, i really don’t want to be right – it’s even better the second time around. As renfield said, I love the way this movie handles exposition and conveys information with visuals rather than dialogue; it takes its time and breathes, and it really does feel like an indie film at times and I mean that as a huge compliment. I really don’t understand the criticisms saying Shyamalan was bored or disinterested with the material – there’s a careful craftsmanship and thought put into his shots and compositions that beats anything in his “comebacks” Split and The Visit. The score is still great, the story is still great. The only criticism about this movie I can agree with are the FX/props/sets still look weird and cheap, but if that’s a dealbreaker to you, then that’s your prerogative by all means. But you also can’t talk about how awesome “Battle Beyond the Stars” is ever again, ok?

    I don’t understand people complaining about the acting – it’s not even just fine or ok, I think both Smiths are actually legit great. I really don’t care that Jaden dressed like White Batman or wore a dress or hangs out with Justin Bieber in real life; he’s great here and not afraid to be shown as vulnerable and weak and awkward – his mid-movie breakdown scene is powerful stuff and one of the best tear-jerking scenes of the last decade. I don’t understand people complaining about the accents or making fun of the names. “Cypher Raige” is silly and over-the-top, but who gives a shit? Is it really any worse than anybody’s name in Rogue One? Speaking of which, I’m glad we live in a world where everyone openly talks about how much they hate sequels and prequels and reboots and “what happened to originality”? “Why isn’t anything new”? Then this movie comes out and everyone shits on it. We get the movies we deserve/this is why we can’t have nice things, and I hope everyone remembers that when we’re all watching The Rebels blow up another Death Star in Star Wars Episode XXIII a few years from now. By the way, for all the thinkpieces and love Rogue One gets for being big expensive sci-fi without having a male white hero anywhere in it, can we at least agree this movie got there first? Or do people not think this counts because they once heard Will Smith is a Scientologist or something?

    By the way, I’m not saying we should give this a pass just because it’s original-ish. Jupiter Ascending is an original property that it is absolutely horrible, yet somehow managed to get a 26% on Rotten Tomatoes vs. 11% for this. To anyone who’s actually watched these two movies that’s insanity.

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