A notoriously huge bomb from one of cinema’s biggest stars has curiously found new life on Netflix a full decade after the film initially failed in theaters. The movie in question is 2013’s After Earth, which starred Will Smith and, his son Jaden Smith, and was directed by M. Night Shyamalan, of The Sixth Sense and Split fame, The results were nothing shy of disastrous for Sony Pictures at the time. And yet, the world of streaming has curiously given the movie new life.
Slash Film wrote that the expensive sci-fi flick recently dropped on Netflix and rapidly made its way into the streamer’s top ten daily charts. Stacked amongst all of the pricey, flashy, Netflix original films, a critically-panned flop is being watched more than almost anything else available on the service right now. It’s a movie that even Smith, who’s had far more successes than failures in his career, acknowledges as a critical misstep. In his autobiography “Will” (via People), the actor wrote a bit about the experience.
“After Earth was an abysmal box office and critical failure. And what was worse was that Jaden took the hit. Fans and the press were absolutely vicious; they said and printed things about Jaden that I refuse to repeat. Jaden had faithfully done everything that I’d instructed him to do, and I had coached him into the worst public mauling he’d ever experienced. We never discussed it, but I know he felt betrayed. He felt misled, and he lost his trust in my leadership.”
“We never discussed it, but I know he felt betrayed. He felt misled, and he lost his trust in my leadership,” Smith continues. “At 15 years old, when Jaden asked about being an emancipated minor, my heart shattered. He ultimately decided against it, but it sucks to feel like you’ve hurt your kids.”
How Flop Is The After Earth?
Indiewire reported that After Earth is set in the 31st century and casts Will and Jaden as a military general and his son, respectively. The two crash land on post-apocalyptic Earth and must fight to survive on the now-hostile planet. Critics tore the film apart when it opened in May 2013. “After Earth” boasts an 11 percent on Rotten Tomatoes, making it one of the worst-reviewed Will Smith movies to date.
Following the release of After Earth, Jaden has yet to return to making a studio-backed Hollywood tentpole. The young actor took a five-year movie hiatus before taking a supporting role in the Sundance favorite “Skate Kitchen.” His most recent film, “Life in a Year,” opened in 2020. Jaden’s most notable screen role is a series regular gig on Netflix’s “The Get Down,” which aired from 2016 to 2017.
TV Overmind stated that the box office for that 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.