Memorial Day Movie Showdown: ‘After Earth’ Vs. ‘The Purge’

Memorial Day is shaping up to be the weekend of SF throwbacks, both to ecopocalypses and crime apocalypses. In one corner, we’ve got huge would-be blockbuster After Earth, and in the other, we’ve got scrappy thriller The Purge. Which one will be worth your Memorial Day dollar? Let’s weigh the contenders.

After Earth

Basic Premise: Jaden Smith fights his way through a jungle with guidance from his seriously injured father in order to get the hell off a future Earth full of pissed-off animals that want to eat him.

Pros: Will Smith is the single most popular actor in the world for a reason, and the fact that he came up with the idea, wrote the script, and kept M. Night Shyamalan out of the writer’s room means this might be pleasantly cheesy, as opposed to cringe-inducingly cheesy.

Cons: This is a star vehicle for his kid, and the way he’s pushing him is kinda of creepy. It doesn’t help that the trailers can be summed up as “Will Smith is a crappy father.” Also, the ads have conspicuously avoided mentioning M. Night Shyamalan, something we suspect is happening for a reason.

The Purge

Basic Premise: America has solved all its problems by suspending emergency services twelve hours out of the year and basically letting people kill each other.

Pros: Ethan Hawke and Lena Headey, two actors who tend to elevate whatever material they’re starring in, anchor the cast. Also, the director, James DeMonaco, was a screenwriter on two other “siege” movies worth watching, The Negotiator and the surprisingly good remake of Assault On Precinct 13.

Cons: As you can see from the trailer, this promises to have all the subtlety of the beatings you see in the opening. This could be a solid thriller with a political undercurrent, or it could be a bad Twilight Zone episode.

So, what’s your call? Both? Neither? Let us know in the comments.