MPAA Rating: PG-13 for sci-fi action violence and some disturbing images.
Cast: Jaden Smith, Will Smith, Sophie Okonedo
Running Time: 100 Minutes
Release Date: May 31, 2013
Potential viewers, take heed: After Earth is most definitely not a 1990’s Will Smith sci-fi movie. Cypher, as portrayed by Will Smith, is not the alien punching, cigar munching, one-liner spouting Will Smith that we all know and love. Well, maybe he used to be, but now he’s retiring to become a better dad.
In the world of After Earth, what was once humanity’s home planet has been abandoned due to irreparable human-inflicted damage. In the meantime, the creatures remaining on Earth have evolved into fear-smelling human killing machines.
The only way to protect one’s self is to become devoid of fear, and thus be absent of the fear-induced pheromones that draw the creatures’ attention. Cypher is good at “ghosting” his fear. So good, in fact, that he is the Prime Commander of the Interplanetary Authority that deemed Earth uninhabitable. His son Kitai (as portrayed by Smith’s real life son, Jaden) is not so good. He flunked out of Not Being Afraid of Stuff school (not its actual name) and, along with everything else he fears, is afraid of being seen as failure in the eyes of his father. In an effort to bond, Cypher plans to bring his son on one last, nice and easy mission.
Obviously, predictably, and inevitably, they crash on Earth and have to face great peril in order to survive. The only problem is there’s not that much peril. For a movie where the main characters are stuck on an entire planet that is out to get them, there is a surprising lack of action and excitement.
What there is, in abundance, is father and son bonding, and that is where this movie succeeds. Over the course of the film we see both father and son trying to protect the other and each of them grows in the process. The movie does not succeed as a thrilling sci-fi adventure as it portrays itself in its trailers.
Also of concern is the philosophy of fear being a choice that should simply not be chosen. In the world of After Earth, fear is what gets you killed. In the real world, it is just the opposite. Healthy and rational fear prevents people from making stupid choices and putting themselves in dangerous situations. Obviously one does not want to be paralyzed by fear, but it should be something that is acknowledged and overcome rather than totally suppressed.
After Earth is a surprisingly heartwarming father-son story about a boy learning to be a young man, and a general learning to be a father. Those going in with that expectation will be pleased, but those looking for action will find that it missed the mark.
On a scale of 1 to 10 with 1 being the worst, 5 being the best and 10 being the worst again, I give it an 8 and an emoticon based sub ranking of, “Confused Face”.