Monday, January 7, 2013

Will you pay to see this Movie? Jaden and Will Smith in After Earth

What makes you decide to see a movie? That questions seems to demand more consideration with each passing year.

After years of slowly escalating ticket prices, particularly in major cities, Hollywood embraced IMAX and 3D as excuses for significant surges in pricing. (And there are more bells and whistles ahead to draw you into those empty seats.) Suddenly a ticket to spend 2 hours in a movie theater can surpass the cost of a download that can be watched every night of the year.

As Home theater capability became more advanced, and more spectacular, average movie theater outings lost some luster too. Why trudge to a crowded, distracting theater when you could swap those soda-sticky floors and broken seats for carpets and couches in your own living room? With the coming of $300 HD TVs, even college students found more reasons to stay home.

My guess is, outside of event movies, deciding to catch a first run release is, for nearly everyone, a decision weighed against a slew of convenience and practicality considerations. With the exception of just looking for a night out of the house, what do you need to know about a movie up front, before you decide to pop open your smart phone app and find a showtime?

As an occasional post, I'll highlight an upcoming film that has the makings of a potential successful release but may have some real negatives attached. A movie with promise that I'd have a hard time marketing - just who, and where, is the audience?

That film for this post is After Earth, and the question I'm asking is this: Is Jaden Smith a movie star?

More to the point, is Jaden Smith, as opposed to "Will Smith's son" Jaden Smith, an honest to Hollywood box-office draw? Because the trailer suggests that it's Jaden whose got the camera pointing at him in front of a future Earth that's color coated in CGI critters and special effects.

Dad's there alright, but perhaps more important than his role as Cypher Raige, father to Jaden's character, Kitai Raige, is his role of real life dad, lending his own star power to get his son into his first starring role as a teen (Jaden's now 14). You may have noticed that it's Jaden's name that precedes his famous father's on the movie poster.

Jaden, as many know, has already done a star turn in 2010's remake of The Karate Kid, an unarguable success at $177 million in U.S. box-office. But kid spunkiness doesn't easily translate to teen superstar.

And there's another huge question mark hanging over this production. Is the future of After Earth tied at all to its director? After Earth comes after a string of underperforming, overly gimmicky and sometimes infuriatingly vapid films like Signs, Lady in the Water, The Happening and Devil. Is there an audience segment out there clamoring to see the next M. Night Shyamalan movie? The director also heads up the writing credit list, a team of 4 credited in total. And the senior Mr. Smith credits a line as Producer.

The first feature trailer has a state-of-the-art, slick, big budget look that may feel a little too cliché for a little too long. Special effects are borrowed and landscapes are, by now, nearly stock footage staples. The tag of the trailer contains the revelation that these characters are on Earth. If that's the extent of the surprises in store, your degree of being entertained may be in direct correlation to your exposure to science fiction movies, or lack there of, over the last twenty years.

There is a line though. "...danger is very real but fear is a choice." The lesson and inspiration for survival comes from that single line and could promise at least, a futuristic coming-of-age story.

But if After Earth suffers from Mr. Shymalan's penchant for a gimmick ending, it could also suggest a real life storyline - it may not be wise to hang your kid's acting career on a questionable writer/director. The danger for a career is also very real.

After Earth is being released by Columbia Pictures and follows some of the summer's biggest blockbuster releases with its June 7th debut. Do you know someone who will add After Earth to their summer must see list? Is this strictly a kid movie? Take a look at the trailer below and answer the question for yourself -

Will you pay to see this movie?

NOTE: Read an update to this post at: "The Art of Movie Marketing: After Earth finds its strengths." on - the editor.

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