After Earth Review

A few days ago, I got to see the movie After Earth. In case you’ve forgotten, After Earth was an M. Night Shyamalan film that came out last year starring Will and Jaden Smith.

It was a total bomb.

I was disappointed by the bad reviews (11% on rotten tomatoes!) and decided that it was not worth the money to see in theaters, a decision I now regret.

I feel that After Earth had a few similarities to John Carter. Not in the sense that the stories were similar, but more in the sense that nobody seemed to know what to do with them and they ended up languishing briefly in the theaters before being sent quickly to DVD.

Granted, John Carter was a better movie than After Earth. While both were predictable yet entertaining, After Earth struggles with a factor common to all of Shyamalan’s films: a rather grandiose self-importance with little to no humor to make the pretentiousness bearable. Shyamalan likes to hammer his themes in hard and After Earth is no exception.

Quick plot summary: Will Smith (Cypher) is a celebrated general of the space traveling/world-protecting Rangers who is taking one last mission before retiring. His young son, Kitai, has just been refused promotion into the Rangers because of his failure to perform well in the field. Cypher decides to take Kitai with him on his mission, which should be a simple there and back journey. But, this being space, something goes terribly wrong and the ship is forced to crash land on Earth- an Earth that has been abandoned by humans for generations because it had become too dangerous and no longer able to support human life. Cypher and Kitai are the only survivors and Cypher has been gravely injured. Their only chance for rescue means Kitai must travel, alone, for several days, to get a working help signal from the other half of the crashed spaceship. Oh, and Kitai is being hunted by an alien creature that literally sees fear.

The locations are beautiful and I think that Will and Jaden Smith make a fine acting pair. They felt a little wooden in this film but I think that was due more to poor character development than poor acting (I get that Cypher is the strong silent type with no fear, but why?? This was never explained satisfactorily.)

Ultimately, After Earth was an entertaining film and one I’m glad I got to see. I can’t recommend making an effort to search it out to watch it but if it falls in your lap, it’s not a bad way to spend an hour and a half.

Frozen

I have a confession to make.

I did not like Frozen.

I hope my friends/readers will still remain such after this post but I would be lying if I said I found that movie enjoyable.

I’m not saying it was horrible. I love love LOVE that the people behind animated kid movies are finally realizing that they all don’t have to be about romantic love. And I love that Anna’s rescue came from her own actions, not from someone else saving her. And these are huge steps in the right direction for Disney. Too many girls grow up watching Disney movies where the message is always the same: You can be as fierce, strong and/or independant as you please. But your story will not be complete until you end up with a guy. (I do want to clarify though that I have no problems with romantic movies. I still love most Disney movies and watch them regularly!)

But despite these good bits, I was so disappointed and bored with the rest of the movie that I’m not sure they really matter. I’m going to do this in a list format because I think that’s going to be the easiest way for me to organize my thoughts.

1) Besides “Let It Go”, were any of these songs actually good? I thought they sounded terrible. Like Broadway showtunes. Disclaimer: I hate Broadway musicals, with a few (very few!) exceptions. I’ve only seen the film once but I couldn’t tell you one thing about the other songs. Wait, no. There was the ice song at the beginning. And then the snowman song. And then there was the Hans and Anna song, and then the troll song. Were there more? I don’t know. I don’t really care. They all sounded distressingly similar to the point where I wasn’t sure if this was actually a new song or just a continuation of a theme. I had mentally checked out during a good chunk of the muscial offerings.

2) Oh look. Dead parents. How infuriatingly unremarkable.

3) The “love” story between Hans and Anna was creepy. And very, very disturbing. Even for a kids’ movie when you’re really not supposed to think too hard about the plot. Really though, our heroine just agreed to marry a man she just met. As in, literally, a few hours ago, she had no idea he existed. And then leaves that man in charge of her entire country. Am I really supposed to believe that a girl that naive can truly go on a journey beyond the castle she hasn’t left in years to save a sister she doesn’t know and hasn’t seen since she was a child?

FrozenCastle

That is truly phenomenal.

4) Elsa goes from not even being able to keep herself from freezing the sceptre to building ice castles and weight bearing staircases. Annnnd creating life (where in the world did Olaf come from? Was that a freak? Or can she make other living creatures??). I’m also a little…intrigued…by the idea that she went from a mousey little blonde to being a Nordic sexpot just because she’s started using her ice powers.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s a great sequence. It’s got a great empowerment message, it looks good, it feels good. And I understand we’re running on Disney time here which means true love grows in a few days and whole kingdoms can be traversed in the course of a few hours. But it doesn’t work. If it was that easy to control, why didn’t she learn to master her powers in the years she was locked in her room?

5) Why is it so hard to create distinctive looking female characters? Hans and Kristoff look very different.

This is Hans.

This is Hans.

This is Kristoff.

This is Kristoff.

They look different.

Elsa and Anna are the same character with different hairstyles.

I know they're sisters, but they are allowed to have differences other than hair color and height.

I know they’re sisters, but they are allowed to have differences other than hair color and height.

Why do we keep restricting ourselves to such narrow confines of female beauty? (Slightly related- has anyone noticed that if you were to take the women from The Bachelor (any or all seasons) and put them in the same dress with the same hairstyle, excepting minor gradations in skin and hair color, they would all look the same?)

To be fair, I could take any Disney or Pixar movie and pick it apart like this. But I feel that other movies have a redeeming value that, in my opinion, Frozen does not. You want an unconventional love story? Go watch Brave.  You want a traditional Disney musical? How about Beauty and the Beast? Or The Little Mermaid? Or Tangled (anybody else think the Stabbington Brothers are two of the hottest animated Disney villains in a looong time? Or is that just me?)

Since I feel pretty bad about posting such a curmudgeonly review of a movie that everybody just seems to LOOOOVE, here are two reviews from the Egotist’s Club that both describe what an excellent movie it is.

Part 1

Part 2

I would love to hear about why I’m wrong about Frozen! Or maybe you agree with me??

The Hunger Games

hungergamescoverWell, I finally did it. I finally read The Hunger Games. I actually finished it several weeks ago and was hoping to rewatch the movie to provide a more well-rounded sense of the story, but since I got about two thirds of the way through the movie and have had no desire to finish it since then, I realized I should probably just go ahead and write my review.

My cousin first gave me this book before it got really big. I had heard about it and was interested to read it but somehow it just kept getting put aside for another book I wanted to read first. A few years after he gave me the book, the movie came out and I was taken to see it by some friends. I thought the movie fine, not really that great and I was clearly missing some references by not knowing the book. But now that I have read the book, I’m wondering how anyone stomached that movie at all.

The book was much better than I was expecting. Katniss is truly a survivor and it’s very clear to see how her background trained her to be one. And yet she still has compassion for others, a sacrificial love for her sister, and an innate decency that prevents her from killing anyone or even wanting to (except in self defense or mercy).

I’m not about to start learning archery or wearing a side braid because that’s what Katniss did, but I did enjoy this book much more than I was expecting. I’ve already checked out Catching Fire so I’ll probably be posting a review when I finish that and will maybe even watch the movie (although I have to admit, I’m more interested in watching the movie to see a former place of employment than I am in actually seeing the movie!).

A New Tolkien

Oof. How time does pass. As it’s been a while since I last posted, today will be a 2 post day! Hooray!

If you’re a Tolkien fan, you’ve probably heard this news already. For those who haven’t, we’ll be getting a new translation of Beowulf in May! From what I understand, this will be a translation Tolkien did in 1926 that for some reason has never been published. It sounds like there will be some extra goodies like essays and (perhaps??) a new Tolkien story as well.

Here’s the article from The Guardian on the release.

And here’s an article from TheOneRing fan site.

Exciting news!