Blerd Film Club: After Earth

Will Smith doesn't get enough credit for all the sci-fi and fantasy films he does. Those are genres that don't often feature black people and Will Smith along with Angela Bassett are always jumping at the opportunity to do those. In the case of After Earth Will didn't jump at the chance to do the film, he created it. One day Will was sitting at home watching TV with his brother in-law and came up with the idea. He passed it around a tight group of friends who helped flesh out the story before taking it to Sony hoping for a green light.

The story of After Earth follows the story of General Cypher Raige on his last mission as a member of The Ranger Corps. The Ranger Corps is a group of military protectors for the human race. They specialize in the ability to ghost. This means they're able to remove any sense of fear. The skill is valuable as an alien race callked the S'krell have created beasts called Ursas that track and kill humans based on fear. Cypher was the first person to develop this ability.

His son Kitai has failed the examination to become a Ranger. This is due to Kitai's recklessness in the field. There is a heated discussion at dinner when Cypher returns home for the first time in years. Cypher informs his wife this will be his last trip. She suggest that Kitai go along as she sees him searching for a connection with his father and blaming himself for his sister's death. Like father like son, Cypher also blames himself for his daughter's death. In reality Kitai was 6 and Cypher wasn't on the planet.

Cyper agrees to take Kitai. While boarding the ship a ranger with one leg demands to be stood up so he could salute Cypher who had saved his life. On the ship Kitai smiles and stares at his father reading and brings up the fact that he too reads. It's just a silly father son moment which confuses Cypher who has seemingly closed off more than just fear. Kitai sneaks off and views the Ursa they are transporting. The Rangers on board tempt him to touch it, to prove he has no fear. Cypher stops this and sends Kitai from the cargo bay. The ship is struck by a field of asteroids and crashes on Earth. 1000 years since last human contact. Kitai and Cypher are the only survivors in their part of the ship. Cypher's legs are broken and he sends Kitai to the tail end of the ship where he can reunite with the crew and fire off a help beacon.

The next hour of the movie is Kitai traveling through different environments and interacting with different creatures. However, two of his required inhalers to breathe on Earth are damaged. Cypher believes he can't make the journey but he rushes off. They lose communication but Kitai makes it to the tail of the ship where he can restock on supplies and contact his father. However volcanic ash is blocking communications. Kitai finally calms down and views his surroundings. He realizes he needs to get above the ash cloud. He also sees the Ursa has escaped and killed the rest of the crew members.

Kitai makes his way to mountain top with his father watching, unable to communicate. He's attacked by the Ursa and manages to defeat it by finally closing off his mind to fear. His father nods and passes out as the beacon is fired off. With wormhole technology help is there almost immediately. When Kitai gets on the ship his father is receiving treatment for head wounds and broken legs. Cypher demands that he be stood up. He salutes Kitai, instead of returning the salute Kitai rushes in for a hug. Cypher returns the hug.

I won't say After Earth is a perfect film. The film spends most of the time focused only on a 14 year old with almost no lines of dialogue beyond the first twenty minutes. It's not great. However, if you're into crazy scenery and sci-fi tech then it's going to be enjoyable because there's tons of that.

A lot of critics were upset about this film due to nepotism, not necessarily the content. Jaden Smith starred in this film, alongside his father. The story was written by Will Smith before passing it off to M. Night Shyamalan and Gary Whitta for tightening of the plot and fleshing it out. Again, these are two long time friends of Will Smith. The producers of the film were Jada Pinkett-Smith, and Caleeb Pinkett, Jada's brother, and James Lassiter who has been working with Will Smith for decades. Essentially Will had an idea for the story while watching TV with Caleeb and decided to keep the project in the family. People had a lot of issues with that and took it out on the reviews.

The issue with that is, the Smith-Pinkett family is not the first to do this, by a long shot. The Baldwin family, The Gyllenhall family, Liv Tyler, Charlie Sheen, Robert Downey Jr and so on. The list of actors who got into Hollywood through friends and family are ridiculous. That should have no way been factored into the reviews because Will Smith wanted to work with his talented friends and family.

Then there's the narrative that this movie was a flop. The film received little promotion and none of the marketing mentioned that Shyamalan or Whitta were attached to the film. The opening box office was 30 million, for Will it was right in the middle of his openings. It was however the first film Will had that didn't go number 1 as it was beat out by Fast and Furious 6. However, it didn't end up going to number one the next week taking in another 45 million the next week. Even with the opening numbers it beat out other films in the genre when compared to Avatar:The Last Air Bender and Oblivian. Depending on who's numbers you use for the budget, the film either doubled it's money or just barely didn't. It was also good enough to get a spin-off series of books, a comic book, a children's book, and more.

The notion that this was a bad film, a flop or dark spot on Will Smith's filmography is a joke. Were the accents terrible. Yes. Did they expect too much of a 14 year old actor. Again, yes. Despite that, it's not a bad film. It's essentially an hour and a half. Most of that time is spent exploring a post human Earth and different future technology. If you aren't into those things you're going to dislike the movie, but for people who enjoy those things it was a good film. Great, not all but way better than what critics said and how it is remembered.

Download a free copy of Darrell's book Phantasmagoricalread some of his other work at and hear him on the Powerbomb Jutsu Podcast
Blerd Film Club: After Earth Blerd Film Club: After Earth Reviewed by Blerds Online on Thursday, February 28, 2019 Rating: 5

No comments:

Powered by Blogger.