Tonight, the movie After Earth opens in theaters, and it’s already received a drubbing from critics.
Hey, big-budget movies get hammered by critics with regularity, so why is this one noteworthy? Maybe because even the movie critics have sensed that this vanity project by Will Smith has a strong whiff of Scientology about it.
Now, we all know that Will and his wife Jada Pinkett Smith are still on the down-low about their involvement in the church, but Will’s given an awful lot of money to Scientology fronts. It’s tempting to conclude from that generous giving that the Smiths also power up the e-meter on occasion, and maybe indulge in a little whole-track auditing from time to time.
We’ll come back to that idea in a minute, but first, let’s get you caught up on Will’s new picture and its reception. First, here’s a trailer for After Earth…
Next, we wanted to give you a taste of what’s been said about the film…
Alan Scherstuhl, The Village Voice : “Dad — stern, joyless, the Fresh Prince now a dour warrior king — grumbles ridiculous homilies at [his son], junk cribbed from acting classes, Scientology, and Tom Cruise’s scenes in Magnolia : ‘Root yourself in this moment now. Stop, smell. What do you feel? ‘ And, bafflingly, as if they’re taking improv together, ‘Recognize your power: This will be your creation’.”
Brian Tallerico, HollywoodChicago.com : “The ‘sci’ in M. Night Shyamalan’s sci-fi blockbuster After Earth clearly stands for Scientology and not science. There’s nothing remotely approaching honest science in this boring, preachy, horrendously made film that occasionally looks good but has nothing more worthwhile to say than a pamphlet trying to get you to convert to a cult.”
Scott Foundas, Variety : “Papa Smith, who also takes a story credit, reportedly conceived of After Earth as a contemporary survival tale set in the wilds of Alaska, and the pic might have packed more punch rendered in spare, Jack London-esque fashion. Festooned instead with special effects— from CG animals (none as convincing as Life of Pi ’s tiger) to bits of CG volcanic ash hovering against charcoal CG skies — it’s a leaden affair, even at barely 90 minutes (not counting credits). Donning an impermeable tough-guy facade, and hovering on the edge of consciousness for much of the running time, the senior Smith gives one of the least substantive performances of his career, while the undeniably charismatic Jaden toggles between two primary modes of expression: paralyzing fear and simmering rage.”
Lou Lumenick, New York Post : “Eleven years and several progressively more dreadful movies after “Signs,’’ director M. Night Shyamalan would be lucky to get a gig directing traffic. His work on this reported $150 million vanity project manages to generate no suspense or excitement. Only yawns. Will Smith, who co-produced with assorted family members, also contributed the vaguely L. Ron Hubbard-ish story, for what is laughably described in the press notes as a ‘franchise.’ The erstwhile box-office king, who appears to be suffering from delusions of grandeur in recent years, really should stick to his day job.”
Joe Neumaier, New York Daily News : “Summer 2013 has its first bomb, and sadly, it’s landed right on Will Smith.”
Laremy Legel, Film.com : “The level to which After Earth is a catastrophe is amazing, but what’s even more impressive is the lengths everyone must have had to gone to for such an epic level of failure. Everyone involved, from director M. Night Shyamalan all the way down to Jaden Smith is culpable, and truly capable of so much better. After Earth shouldn’t be seen on this planet, and if we ever discover new ones, habitable ones, we should take steps to make sure it’s never shown there either, just in case.”
Richard Roeper, Chicago Sun-Times : “After Earth is a film without wit or sparkle. At times the special effects look so cheesy, you wonder if they’re going to pull back and show members of the crew rocking the ship or working the strings on puppets. In the meantime, we keep getting heavy-handed metaphors about overcoming fear and unbearably clunky dialogue. Also, I could go the rest of my life without seeing another grotesque, screeching monster with deadly pincers and an unquenchable appetite for humans.”
Yee-ouch! These folks really, really didn’t like the film.
Now, before we get back to Will and Scientology, we wanted to point out something about the film’s director, M. Night Shyamalan.
We noticed some time ago that Shyamalan has a fairly unique profile at Metacritic.com, a website we visit from time to time. Metacritic’s schtick is to read movie reviews and assign them numerical values, from 0 to 100, as a way to average out a film’s general reception.
Clearly, it’s not an exact science, and it’s not unique — other sites also have a way to rate movie reviews numerically — but over the last few years we’ve found that Metacritic ratings can sometimes be interesting. And particularly in the case of Mr. Shyamalan.
What we mean is, we noticed some time ago that Shyamalan had an uncanny knack for getting a consistently lower Metacritic score with each movie he’s made since his 1999 hit, Sixth Sense. Here, take a look at his record as a director and you’ll see what we mean…
See what we mean? If you can find any other director whose career has the same unwavering trajectory, we’d like to know.
Anyway, you’re probably wondering how the theta power of Will Smith and his son Jaden is affecting Shyamalan’s power curve.
So far, the Smiths are helping M. Night break his string! With 29 reviews in, After Earth has zoomed up to…
…Yes, a 31!
Well, perhaps the team of Shyamalan and the Smiths will prove to be such a potent force, After Earth will turn into a franchise after all.
Speaking of which, it is very interesting to us that a simple story about a father and son out on a hike in the Alaskan wilderness was turned into a $150 million picture with a thousand-year backstory. From the reviews, we get the sense that a huge amount of work went into tracing that history, much of which apparently was cut from what Smith had intended to be a much longer film.
OK, so there are our clues: wild space history, motivational speaking about banishing emotion, and tough love for children. So how does that score on our Scientology antennae?
Very high, actually. And we couldn’t help thinking about our previous story about whole-track auditing. You see, when the popular press mentions Scientology’s penchant for space opera, invariably they’re referring to the materials of “OT III” and the Xenu incident, which was parodied so well on a 2005 episode of South Park.
But what we learned in our story about whole-track auditing is that well before they run into Xenu, Scientologists could spend years “remembering” their own wild space memories of running prison planets or blowing up star cruisers in events that transpired millions of years ago.
We have to wonder, if Will Smith has been indulging in whole-track auditing, has he taken it a bit too seriously? Did he think his own “memories” of space opera adventures might make for good screen material? If so, he’d be in good company: Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard wanted to turn his Xenu material into a film, Revolt in the Stars, but his 1977 script didn’t make it to the screen.
Other writers are drawing additional parallels between the film and the specifics of Scientology.
The Smiths still refuse to talk about the extent of their Scientology involvement, but they have been freaking out people with some bizarre talk about multidimensional mathematics, or something.
Either way, this family is weird. And if they thought After Earth was going to be an effective recruiting film for Scientology? You all remember how well that turned out last time, right?
UPDATE: Matt Patches has now adapted his comparison between After Earth and Scientology for New York magazine, it appears. While over at Gawker, our old friend Dave Touretzky is trying to tamp down talk of parallels between the two.
We’re with Patches on this one. Touretzky is being a little too literal here for our tastes. We don’t expect Smith to make a faithful adaptation of The Problems of Work, for crissakes. We hear Smith has been getting auditing since at least 2006, perhaps as early as 2003. As a result, he’s now playing a humorless asshole barking motivational nonsense at his kid about removing emotion from his approach to survival.
That sure sounds like plenty of Scientologists we know.
We like the headline on the Patches piece: this film is Smith’s love letter to Scientology, whether or not actual e-meters show up in the thing.
Mark Bunker gives us another glimpse of material from his upcoming documentary, Knowledge Report. It’s a few minutes with the super-smart Bruce Hines explaining the mind trap of the “Truth Rundown”…
And here’s the latest part of Karen de la Carriere’s interview with Carol Nyburg, on escaping the Sea Org…
Posted by Tony Ortega on May 31, 2013 at 07:00
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