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After Earth

Entry updated 17 July 2023. Tagged: Film.

US film (2013). Columbia/Overbrook Entertainment/Blinding Edge Pictures. Directed by M Night Shyamalan. Written by Gary Whitta and M Night Shyamalan, based on a story by Will Smith. Cast includes Kristofer Hivju, Zoë Isabella Kravitz, Glenn Morshower, Sophie Okonedo, Jaden Smith and Will Smith. 100 minutes. Colour.

One thousand years in the future, humanity has abandoned Earth to live on another planet after Alien invaders rendered the planet uninhabitable by causing all of its species to mutate into deadly creatures (see Mutants). Military commander Cypher Raige (Will Smith) has been a stern, distant father to Kitai Raige (Jaden Smith), and both are haunted because Cypher's daughter Senshi (Zoë Isabella Kravitz) was killed by an alien. Cypher decides to take his son with him on a journey through space, but a "graviton disturbance" causes an "asteroid storm" that forces their spaceship to crash-land on the quarantined planet Earth. A badly wounded Cypher then must send his son on a long, dangerous trek through the wilderness to retrieve and activate a distress beacon. Guided by Cypher's advice, delivered via radio, Kitai learns to overcome his fears, survives encounters with Earth's lethal animals, and eventually kills a homicidal alien and reaches the beacon, bringing rescuers to the scene.

Despite scathing reviews, After Earth is a mediocre film, not an awful film, which offended many viewers for two reasons unrelated to its overall quality. First, the entire project seemed an all-too-obvious effort by ageing action star Will Smith to promote his less-talented son as his successor; second, many felt that the film's hollow profundities, a characteristic feature of M Night Shyamalan's films, were intended to convey the teachings of Smith's controversial religion, Scientology. Further, as the above terms in quotation marks convey, the film displays the scientific illiteracy that one might expect in a story created by an actor whose only contact with sf has been in such films as Independence Day (1996), Men in Black (1997), and I, Robot (2004). Yet this movie might be defended as a more interesting cinematic variation on the theme of the Dying Earth than Oblivion (2013), a generally better film that was released around the same time, although After Earth fails to fully explore the promising notion of an Earth transformed by alien intervention into a version of the titular planet in Harry Harrison's Deathworld (January-March 1960 Astounding/Analog; 1960; vt Deathworld 1 1973). The novelization is After Earth (2013) by Peter David. [GW]


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