After Earth is made uninhabitable by humans, the Rangers, led by Cypher Raige (Will Smith), relocate the entire human race to other planets. The Rangers are mankind’s armed forces, protecting and leading them.
The aliens (no specific planetary origin is given) are not too happy with the humans moving in. They have bred Ursas, a species of alien monster that are technically blind, but can smell the pheromones released when a person is scare, using the scent to track and kill humans to control the invasion. Cypher has developed the ability to “ghost.” That is, he is not afraid of the Ursas, so they cannot track him because he is not emitting any pheromones.
After watching his sister, Senshi (Zoe Kravitz) killed by an Ursa, Kitai (Jaden Smith), Cypher’s young son, is eager to join the Rangers. Commander Velan (Glenn Morshower) doesn’t think Kitai is ready yet, and refuses to promote him to a Ranger. Kitai is afraid this will disappoint Cypher. While Cypher is an excellent Ranger, he doesn’t fare quite as well as a father. Faiai (Sophie Okonedo), Kitai’s mother, convinces Cypher to take Kitai with him on a training mission, where Rangers are trying to learn how to ghost (complete with a live Ursa).
When the spaceship crashes onto Earth, the entire crew is killed, except for Kitai and Cypher. Since Cypher is unable to walk, he much lead Kitai through the dangerous wilderness of Earth, where everything has evolved to kill humans. Kitai must use his limited resources and training to retrieve the beacon from the tail of the ship to signal for help to save both their lives.
Much like his character, I don’t think Jaden Smith is quite ready to follow in his father’s footsteps and be an action hero. Maybe this is part of their casting choice. More likely, Will Smith would only sign on if his son could join him. You almost feel as if Will’s guiding of Jaden in the movie echoes the real-life dynamic. He’s grooming his eerily clone-like replacement. The rest of the cast is disposable. Literally.
The action, scripting, and CGI effects seem overdone. Not in a Gatsby way, but similar, in that it is trying to hard to become the summer blockbuster Will typically signs up for. It falls more than a little short. Speaking of short, the movie is a surprisingly brief 100 minutes, though it felt at least two hours long. I was shocked when I looked at my watch leaving the theater. I was a little surprised that this wasn’t presented in 3D. Despite the quality (or lack thereof) of the film, the style and genre seems like it would have been filmed this way, especially to try to win the summer box office.
The movie is a bit predictable. You knew what would happen at the end. This is somewhat of a departure from a typical M. Night Shyamalan movie. Perhaps the surprise twist is that this isn’t a very good movie at all. Save your money on this one. Wait to see what the next summer blockbuster is. Hopefully, it will deliver.