A long time ago, humanity has left Earth and had to look for a different planet to live on. Unfortunately on their way to a safe space, they encountered the Ursas, vicious killing machines that can only see fear. And so a new special unit of soldiers was developed who were trained not to feel fear at all. Kitai (Jaden Smith) has been working hard to become one of them, just like his father Cypher (Will Smith), who is very renowned. But Kitai hasn’t managed yet to reign in his fear. But then circumstances have Kitai and Cypher stranded on the original Earth with an Ursa on the loose and since Cypher is injured, it rests with Kitai to seek help.
I was prepared for this movie to suck. A lot. I’ve only read bad reviews and I’m not a fan of Shyamalan anyways. But I do like Will Smith, so I decided to see it anyway. I packed alcohol and braced myself. And I was actually quite surprised by how not sucky the film turned out to be. Was it awesome? Well, no. But if you expect the worse, it does kinda suprise you in a positive way. I only took a sip of my vodka bottle.
I think what makes the movie quite charming for me, was that I saw it as a father’s (public) examination of a very private fear. A fear of not being good enough for his son, of letting the son grow up and of how to best support him growing up and what values to impart him with. I did not always (or actually very rarely) with the conclusion the movie draws and it certainly doesn’t propose a parenting model that will fit a whole lot of people. But somehow it made the film, despite all its bombast and special effects, rather intimate and I did appreciate that.
The rest of the film, though… maaan, it was extremely dumb. The Ursas were dumb (so apparently, they can only “see” fear? Which means that they would have to run into every rock and tree. And you know, fear is a smell, but somehow when people stop being afraid, they immediately become invisible to the Ursa. I whish farts worked that way so that it doesn’t stink as soon as you stop farting). The story was extremely contrived. The resolution was absolutely predictable. The world building was generally sketchy.
But at least it was a Shyamalan movie without an unncessary plot twist. It feels like the film should receive standing ovations for that alone. And Will Smith is a good actor and I enjoy watching him anywhere, also here. Jaden Smith can’t really hold his own, I’m afraid, but it’s not entirely hopeless that he might get there at some point. And it’s also kinda cool that you get a SciFi-action-vehicle were basically the entire (at least major) cast are POC. I’d chalk that up as a win.
So, is it really a film you have to see? No. You certainly don’t have to spend money on a cinema ticket for it. But it’s also not completely unbearable and unwatchable.
Summarising: There are worse films around.