Ah, After Earth. Will Smith was looking to make an action vehicle with his son Jaden and this “classic” was born. This 2013 sci-fi “epic” sees the father and son duo land on Earth to find un expected horrors roaming around the planet that they abandoned centuries ago. This M. Night Shyamalan vehicle crash landed on May 31, 2013 and was burned by critics upon release, with the film receiving an abysmal rotten tomatoes score of 11%. More importantly, the film flopped at the box office, making $243.8 million based off of $130 million production budget. The film lost the studio nearly $30 million and Will Smith has gone on record to state that After Earth was his most painful failure of his career. So, what happened? The ingredients for a great film were there; however, After Earth’s failure continued the downfall of M. Night Shyamalan’s career. Let’s dive deeper into the reasoning behind this big box office failure.
The Sci-fi Feature Was A Dull Mess
How do you take one of the most charismatic actors on the planet and make it him an extremely bland character? This sci-fi vehicle was clearly designed to make Jaden Smith a bigger star. In terms of acting ability, Jaden isn’t too bad of an actor, with him being pretty good in The Pursuit of Happyness and The Karate Kid remake; however, the young actor was not ready to helm such a big movie. After Earth lands on Jaden’s shoulders and unfortunately, he just doesn’t have the charisma or presence to carry the film by itself. However, Jaden isn’t the guy to fully blame here because the script easily let’s him down. The sci-fi feature is surprisingly dull and unnecessarily too serious. Will Smith has seemingly been stripped of his natural charisma. Say what you will about Wild Wild West – which Smith deems as his worst movie – but that film at least gets by thanks to the magnetic presence of the Hollywood star. After Earth’s premise had solid potential, though it wasn’t something deeply original. Still, the plot is brimming with compelling content and its a shame that it fails to stick the landing. After Earth isn’t The Happening or The Last Airbender bad, but this film needed good reviews in order for audiences to truly give this a chance. The reviews likely killed any sort of buzz that this film had and despite Will Smith being involved, this was clearly an vehicle for Jaden Smith and audiences haven’t exactly gravitated towards the young Smith at this point in his career. Add in the fact that Shyamalan’s name wasn’t in the good graces of fans at the time then audiences likely decided to skip this 2013 feature.
M. Night Shyamalan’s Name Was Attached
Not surprisingly, during the early advertisements of this movie, Columbia Pictures actually tried to hide the fact that Shyamalan was the director of the 2013 feature. While Shyamalan was credited for his work on After Earth, this studio opted to not mention his name. This is the same guy who did The Sixth Sense, Unbreakable, and Signs, so Shyamalan’s name was always mentioned whenever one of the new films came out. However, after The Village, the filmmaker kept churning out a collection of bad movies. First Lady in the Water, The Last Airbender, and The Happening, the latter two arguably killed any good will with audiences who previously loved his early work. Despite trying to keep Shyamalan’s name quiet, it wasn’t hard to find out that he was attached as a director of this piece. The Happening effectively destroyed most of Shyamalan’s momentum and After Earth buried it even further. This film needed strong reviews. Unfortunately, After Earth was bashed by critics and audiences likely avoided this picture because they didn’t want to sit through another Shyamalan disappointment.
There Were Better Movie Options During This Time
The box office for the weekend of May 31st didn’t exactly light the world on fire, with the No.1 film only making $35 million that weekend. However, Fast and Furious 6 was only in its second weekend, and the fact that it beat newcomers Now You See Me and After Earth speaks volumes on what audiences cared more about. Though to be fair, Now You See Me had incredible legs that would see the 2013 feature amass nearly $400 million by the end of its theatrical run. The box office around this time also featured Star Trek Into Darkness, Iron Man 3, and The Great Gatsby, films that ultimately garnered over $100 million. With the weak critical reception of After Earth, audiences opted to check out better choices. Bad word of mouth kept After Earth from having long lasting legs like Now You See Me. At the end of the day, the passable sci-fi movie failed to truly connect with audiences.