Young Kitai is in training to become a Ranger (a futuristic animal-fighting soldier), and spends most of his life feeling bad about his big sister's death and resenting the long, legendary shadow cast by his father, General Cypher Raige. When the General decides to announce his retirement, he is urged by his wife (played by the fantastic Sophie Okonedo) to try to connect with Kitai, who has just failed to be promoted. The two of them are caught in an asteroid event and the plane is crash landed on Earth, abandoned a thousand years prior and now too toxic and full of scary things to be considered habitable by humans. The entire non-Raige family crew is killed in the crash, leaving a gravely injured Cypher to guide his son via computer screens through a world trying to kill them both, in hopes that Kitai can find the missing parts of the ship and set off a distress beacon.
The idea of the film is actually fairly solid, although I'm not sure how Disney got involved in such a dark premise. The relationship between father and son is strained at best, and the family has obviously been shattered by the violent death of Kitai's sister, played well by Zoe Kravitz. There's a lot to work out, and all the things trying to kill everyone are super not helping. The film probably looked pretty good in script format, but a few things make it not work so well as a film. Jaden Smith's accent is an awful distraction from his overall performance. Seriously. It would be better if he dubbed over himself and re-released the movie. The pacing is awkward, and greatly lessen the emotional impact of the flashbacks. The special effects with Kitai's suit are pretty cool, but the rest seems very derivative. Neither world is explored properly- we're either given too much or too little information. The tone of the whole film is just...off.
Is this a good movie? Of course not. It's directed by M Night Shyamalan post Unbreakable. However, it is watchable. I'd recommend it for the younger teenagers constantly asking for R rated films. It's likely dark enough to sate their craving, and yet tame enough to satisfy Disney producers.