Do you remember Deep Impact and Armageddon in 1998, Dante’s Peak and Volcano in 1997 or Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves and Robin Hood in 1991? There are countless other examples, last year we had two takes on the Snow White fairytale with Mirror Mirror and Snow White and the Huntsman. Later in the year we will get to see how White House Down compares to
Die Hard in the West Wing Olympus Has Fallen. Before that we have the recently released After Earth to pair up with Oblivion from earlier in the year:
Oblivion: In the future, one man (Tom Cruise) and his wife (Andrea Riseborough) remain on an abandoned earth to maintain the machines set to mine the planets natural resources.
After Earth: In the future, a man and his teenage son (Will Smith and Jaden Smith) crash land on an abandoned and inhospitable earth.
Oblivion: Despite a few missteps in recent years, Tom Cruise is still one of the biggest stars in the world as he has been since the late 80’s. the supporting cast includes Morgan Freeman, Olga Kurylenko and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (Jaime Lannister in Game of Thrones) , but the standout performance comes from Andrea Riseborough who is nothing short of amazing in a limited role.
After Earth: The film is book-ended and contains flashbacks with other characters the film is largely a two character movie. The two are played by superstar Will Smith and his son Jaden who you may remember from The Karate Kid. The girl in the flashbacks is played by Zoë (daughter of Lenny) Kravitz last seen in X-Men: First Class.
Whose behind the camera?
Oblivion: With just his second feature Joseph Kosinski again shows the visual flare he showed with TRON: Legacy, but again shows a lack of depth in his character development.
After Earth: Newsflash, the Emperor is but fucking naked. M.
Night Shyamalan is not a good director. The Sixth Sense (1999) is just about the most overrated movie of the last twenty years. The Village (2004) is okay and Unbreakable (2000) is a decent film. The rest of his output is forgettable at best.
Oblivion: The movie is set within a believable Sci-Fi world. The film is shot largely on location this is enhanced by visual effects rather than dominated by them, this helps it look amazing. The acting is generally good and as mentioned above sometimes amazing.
After Earth: The film looks good and the action scenes are practically well handled.
Oblivion: The plot and the characters all feel a little thin and the twists and turns in the plot are telegraphed to the audience.
After Earth: The dialogue is terrible at best. The plot is thin and full of holes.
The two movies are both set on a largely abandoned earth and feature megastar actors with something to prove.
Oblivion is largely plot driven and plays out with a combination action adventure and mystery thriller. After Earth is more like a computer game where one character has to achieve a task within a timescale.
After Earth isn’t a terrible film and doesn’t deserve the critical pounding it has received. That isn’t to say it is a great film, it is deeply flawed and gets away with a lot thanks to its short running time and well choreographed action. Oblivion is surprisingly good, the end is either perfectly executed or a contrived cop-out depending on your point of view.