After Earth, starring Will Smith and his son, Jaden Smith, turned out to be quite a pleasant treat and one that I certainly wasn’t expecting. Directed by M. Night Shyamalan, the film was definitely more of a moral tale than just a sci-fi movie, and that’s what made it unlike any other.

In life after Earth, people have left the planet to inhabit another celestial body now that Earth is unable to support human life. But when they invade the new planet, Nova Prime, which they eventually make their new home, they are not kindly welcomed by the aliens (ursas) that already inhabit the planet. And who could blame them, considering the humans were reckless and shamelessly destroyed their own planet? But anyway, these ursas are more than outraged and hunt down the humans by smelling their fear. One of the movie’s lessons is that fear, while an option, is not real. Thus, it is the fearless veteran space soldier, Cypher Raige (Will Smith), who is able to defeat these monstrous ursas through what is called “ghosting,” or the ability to fight without fear.

Meanwhile, Cypher Raige’s son, Kitai (Jaden Smith), seems to be quite the opposite of his fearless father. In contrast, the young Kitai has just failed his cadet promotion test, has survivor’s guilt (his older sister died protecting him from an ursa), does not have the best relationship with his strict father and does not carry his father’s much admirable fearlessness. In an attempt to build their father-son relationship, Cypher Raige decides to take his son on a trip along with the rest of his crew and an ursa tied down in the ship. Much to their misfortune, the ship gets caught in the middle of an asteroid storm, is damaged immensely and thrown into Earth’s orbit. Plummeting from the sky, Kitai falls unconscious as the ship spirals out of control to the ground, being sucked in to the familiar gravitational force of Earth. Upon landing, the ship splits in two and the tail of the ship lands approximately 100 kilometers away. Miraculously, Kitai and his father survive the horrific crash, while everyone else on board dies. Oh, wait. The ursa is the one other survivor and is now a danger to Kitai, who must set out on a journey to find the tail of the ship and reach distress beacon because his father has been severely injured.

It is up to Kitai to embark on this almost impossible and certainly terrifying mission to reach the tail and save himself and his father. You just can't help but feel sorry for Kitai. The camera then follows the young and insecure Kitai through the wild and lively jungles of Earth. The visuals are certainly stunning and reminded me of James Cameron’s Avatar. We see flocks of birds streaking across the sky, as well as powerful and misty cascades of waterfalls. I must say that one of the most thrilling parts of the film was when Kitai jumped off from a cliff and dove to the ground with a giant bird on his tail.


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Despite the well done visuals, the terrifying ursas and rogue baboons in the film, the story here isn’t about the wild threats, but rather about Kitai and his father. Will and Jaden both do a terrific job in playing their characters and eliciting sympathy. Will, although playing a strict and stoic father who gives tough love, plays a very human character who softens because of his injury and fear for his son. This is the story of a son stepping out of his father’s shadow and giving himself his own identity.

While the movie has received plenty of negative reviews from critics, I was left scratching my head at the end. Never in the movie did I find myself slumping over in my chair fighting sleep, checking the time longing for the end, or shaking my head. The scenes were never too long or too short. The characters were believable and genuine and the morals in the story were moving and certainly make me think. In my opinion, After Earth is a wise and refreshing film. While it is not the most thrilling or action-packed, Shyamalan was smart to make the main focus of the movie the relationship between father and son. In that — and all clichés aside — After Earth is fearless.

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