Weekend Forecast for May 31-June 2, 2013
By Reagen Sulewski
May 31, 2013
After Memorial Day's explosive (literal and otherwise) box office, the new releases from the last week of May look to continue on that record setting pace. Ha! Just kidding. No, these are total after thoughts, and you'll likely to lucky to remember them past September, despite their high profile casts.
After Earth may have Will Smith front and center, but the performance of this film is more interesting for how it will affect the future potential of M. Night Shyamalan, who has spent the last dozen years or so frittering away all the good will he ever had with audiences by producing film after film of ludicrously plotted, poorly acted and overly didactic nonsense. This perhaps culminated with the instant classic The Happening, a film that even Ed Wood might have disowned. His follow-up, The Last Airbender, was marginally better in that it didn't become an instant punchline, but it was perhaps more incompetent in its own way, destroying a franchise in its cradle. In short, Shyamalan destroys everything he touches lately, and audiences are wise to it. Becoming infamous for one of the most precipitous drops in cinematic history can't be good for much of anything.
And yet someone's entrusted him with a great big budget and a real star again, albeit for a film that's ultimately kind of gimmicky. Will Smith stars with his son Jaden as explorers on an Earth 1,000 years in the future (at the exact moment the Kid 'N Play hairstyle came back), but filled with incredibly hostile creatures designed to attack humans (they must have been very lonely). While the elder Smith is the bait for the posters and ads, it's the younger Smith that's tasked with carrying the majority of the film, to which you're now remembering The Karate Kid remake, as well as Shyamalan's record of working with child actors except-for-that-one-time-oh-how-that's-such-an-enormous-fluke-in-retrospect.
While Shyamalan has become such a punching bag in the last few years that it's difficult to imagine him getting any positive reviews now, in the case of After Earth, the derision looks justified. Watching Jaden Smith run through the jungle while weird, poorly animated CGI creatures chase after him does not a good time inspire. Also, just try and read Will Smith's character's name (Cypher Raige) without rolling your eyes. I'll wait here.
The hope seems to be that Will Smith can sell this on his own, and it's not a terrible notion. In full sci-fi mode, Smith is one of the most consistent performers, even bringing the entirely pointless Men in Black 3 to a $50 million opening. However, Shyamalan at this point is worth negative box office – and when audiences find out the Smith that they're watching for most of the film is not the one they thought they would be, they are going to turn on it, and turn hard. They might have to make an entire wing of the Bad Idea Jeans museum dedicated to this film. I see this pulling one not-so-solid weekend of about $32 million, then dropping into oblivion.