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Animadversion: Surviving the unknown

June 16, 2013

Ever so often it is a good bet to check out what other film critics think about a film. Of course, criticism and opinions will differ, sometimes drastically. With After Earth the opinion is generally negative, and I can’t really fault most of the verdicts. After Earth is deliberately dire, expressionless film-making by director M. Night Shyamalan — a once maverick who has a lot to prove, at this point in his career.

This twist-less adventure builds on his former strengths — the father-son relationship (The Sixth Sense, Unbreakable, The Signs) — but crash lands as dastardly as the spaceship carrying the film’s two leading Smiths.

Will Smith and son Jaden Smith play estranged dad-son Cypher and Kitai Raige. The older is a famous commander who pioneered a technique called ‘ghosting’, which conceals rational (and irrational) fear and makes a person invisible to the virtually-blind, aliens known as Ursa; the younger Smith, who wants to follow in dad’s footsteps, is famously ‘yellow’ (scared).

The year is 1,000 years after we’ve made it unbearable to live on Earth. A mass exodus has us humans on Nova Prime, where see-through drapes and plastic rule both interior design and technology.

Our real prize — like any migrating republic — is a war with regional bullies: an alien race called the S’krell who sic their fear-sensing Ursas on us. Daddy Raige has little time for family, which results in a flash-back sequence that Gary Whitta and Shyamalan’s screenplay (based on the story by Will Smith) hammers repeatedly.

Soon, dad and son crash land on Earth. “Everything on the planet has evolved to kill humans,” Cypher tells Kitai before sending him off to track down the beacon that will get them help. Cypher has a broken leg, so he can’t go with the lad.

For the bulk of After Earth, Kitai runs around, whimpering while his father navigates him through lush fauna, mountains and springs, as the 14-year-old gets attacked by barbarous baboons, blood-contaminating parasites, giant vulture-cum-eagles and incredibly fake wild cats. There’s also a runaway Ursa set loose someplace near the other ship.

However, After Earth is still an improvement from The Last Airbender. Released by Columbia Pictures, the film is rated PG-13.

Hard on laughs When you have to look for laugher in a comedy and still find nothing, then that is what The Hangover Part III is about. Instead you get animal cruelty and a lot of annoyance in the shape of Zach Galifianakis’ Alan with Ken Jeong’s Mr. Chow filling the remaining screen time.

Without the successful gimmick — an alcoholic hangover and the need to retrace their steps from the previous night — Part III takes a linear story starting with Chow escaping from the Bangkok prison in the prologue.

The story goes something like this: Alan is faced with an intervention for his psychological health by his family and Wolfpack pals Doug (Justin Bartha), Stu (Ed Helms) and Phil (Bradley Cooper). The pack head to a clinic in Arizona, but are kidnapped in middle of the dessert by Marshall (John Goodman), a big crime boss linked to their earlier exploits.

Marshall has a beef with Chow who stole his gold and now he wants both back, and the Wolfpack may be the only ones to track him down (unknown to anyone, Alan is still in touch with Chow).

Part III, directed by Todd Phillips (Part I, II and Due Date), moves into action mode quickly with few laughs in between.

The Hangover Part III is released by Warner Bros and the film is rated R. — Farheen Jawaid