MOTW: "After Earth" Showcases the Planet One Thousand Years into the Future

Photo Credit: Columbia Pictures
May 31st, 2013

MOTW: "After Earth" Showcases the Planet One Thousand Years into the Future

Will Smith is known for his acting and music career, but after the futuristic thriller "After Earth" is released, he may just be known for his story ideas as well. The film, which also stars his real-life son Jaden, comes from an original idea Smith had. He came up with the concept; then, he turned it over to "The Book of Eli" scribe Gary Whitta and director M. Night Shyamalan to write. The result is a sci-fi action film with plenty of excitement and spectacular CGI effects that looks primed to make plenty of money.

The film begins on a planet called Nova Prime, which is outside of the solar system that holds the planet Earth. Humans found Nova Prime after searching for a replacement for Earth, which was becoming uninhabitable due to a long series of catastrophic events. Once they did tests and saw that Nova Prime could sustain human life, everyone on Earth moved to the new planet. They left Earth behind, along with all the wildlife that were once threatened by the growing population of humans.

The colonization of Nova Prime went smoothly, and one thousand years later, the planet and the humans on it are thriving. Two of those humans are Gen. Cypher Raige (Will Smith), who is a very wise, patient, and stern military man who feels like his son Kitai (Jaden Smith) isn't living up to his potential. Kitai resents the fact that his father is taken away on long missions, which strains their relationship and makes them virtual strangers to each other. Kitai's mom Faia (Sophie Okonedo) tries to reassure Cypher that their son is just going through a phase and that he really just misses his dad. Together, they come up with a plan for Kitai to join his dad on his next long deployment in the hopes that it will bring them together.

The plan ends up working, but not in the way they thought. The father and son bond because their spaceship gets caught in a meteor storm and is heavily damaged. It crash lands onto Earth, where Cypher and Kitai soon realize they are the only two survivors from the spaceship. Cypher is badly wounded, but the distress beacon they need to call Nova Prime for help is far away, having flown off the spaceship as it was crashing. Kitai must go and get the beacon to get help for his dad, but he has never been to Earth and is completely unfamiliar with the terrain.

In the thousand years since humans left Earth, the planet has been overrun by animals that see humans as a threat to their survival. Several dangerous species see Kitai and immediately try to kill him, lest humans expand and threaten their natural habitats. Though he is very scared to face the animals, he remembers the words of his father, who explained that fear is a choice, even as danger lurks. Danger may be real, but Kitai can control his reaction to the danger by eliminating fear from the equation. This is much easier said than done, but the boy, who is only thirteen years old, has no choice but to try and shove his fear aside in order to find the beacon and save his father's life.

The film sets up plenty of scenarios where Kitai must face one or more wild animals, with one scene depicting a stampede that the poor boy was not expecting. It is a tall order for someone so young to have so much responsibility lying on his shoulders, but Jaden makes his character very believable. If Cypher thought that Kitai wasn't living up to his potential before, his mind will definitely be changed by the time the film is over. Whether the boy ever finds the beacon or not, the fact that he faced his fears while in an unfamiliar planet and risked his life to save his dad is a big deal.

Jaden has come a long way since his first movie "The Pursuit of Happyness," which also starred his father Will. In that film, he didn't have that many lines and looked cute and harmless most of the time. In "After Earth," he follows in his father's footsteps as an action hero with plenty of lines who is hardly harmless, especially to the wild animals trying to hunt him.

"After Earth" has a running time of 100 minutes and has been rated PG-13 by the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA). It is set to be released on May 31, 2013.