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After Earth - Film Review

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by Happy Mom (subscribe)
I am a world traveller & a mom of two, (8 & 6). I love to meet people, and am fascinated that there are 7 billion stories out there to be explored. I think Melbourne is the most happening city to live in with all the fun activities around town.
Published June 16th 2013
Fear is an Illusion, that exists only in your mind
"People watch movies for various reasons" was my husband's response when I said that I really enjoyed the movie After Earth whereas he was absolutely disappointed by it. He wanted to see some Will Smith style action; I went for the graphics and the story. I love stories, and After Earth is exactly that: a simple and straightforward story. Directed by M. Night Shyamalan, who has box-office hits such as The Sixth Sense, The Village and others to his credit, After Earth is a coming of age story set 1000 years from present day with some important messages and underlying themes which are quite easy to pick up.

After Earth Poster (Image courtesy official facebook page of the movie)

Storyline: In a family that obviously has some communication issues, Cypher (Will Smith) is seen as a disciplinarian father to Kitai (Jaden Smith) who is trying hard to please his father with his training performance as a cadet to become a "ghost" ranger. "Ghost" rangers are part of the special army who have no manifestation of physical fear and can therefore fight the man-eating aliens who have been sent to this multi-moon new planet, Nova Prime, to invade it. These ferocious creatures (known as "Ursa") are blind, but can "sense" their prey through their fear. Kitai's mother Faia convinces Cypher to take Kitai along with him on his last mission before retirement to spend some bonding time with him and to save him from "drowning". Due to unforeseen series of unfortunate events, Cypher and Kitai are the lone survivors of their spaceship crash and find themselves on a hostile planet, where "everything has evolved to kill humans": Earth. This is the setting in which father and son begin to communicate, develop a relationship and trust one another, because that is their only chance of survival and hope to reach their home planet. Kitai has to face the challenges of this dangerous planet, such as low-oxygen levels, sharp and strong shifts in temperatures, wild animals, and the threat of an Ursa that might be on the loose. He must reach the tail of the spaceship that fell a 100 km away while crashing, with a state-of-the-art "cutlass" as a self-defense weapon, in order to retrieve the signal emitter that will inform the rescuers of their location.

Things to observe:
One of the most interesting things to note is the use of organic fabrics in the movie. The most obvious one is the very sensitive bodysuit that can detect the highs and lows of several elements in the environment. For example, the bodysuit changes its color when the temperature fluctuates. It also detects approaching danger. Then there are the beautiful white sail-shaped fabrics used for the housing on Nova Prime, the spongy fabrics used inside the spacecraft, the earthy tones of the clothes Faia wears, etc. I enjoyed the connection these organic fabrics make with the environment.

Another interesting theme that I liked was the devolution of technology throughout the movie. At the beginning, we see the most advanced technological equipment imaginable, with spacecrafts voyaging through deep space, hand-held x-ray machines, "rollable" tablets, 3D virtual screens, etc. But as the movie progresses, the lone survivors have to make do with less and less technology as gadgets either break down or are unable to perform at their optimal level. In one scene, Kitai finds himself all alone with no way to communicate with his father, and has basically reached the cave-man era. There is a more obvious reference to it, as he must spend a night inside a cave where he sees cave art, and reverts to a cave drawing to get his bearings straight.

The most important take-home message of the movie is that real courage and strength comes from conquering one's innermost fears and overcoming inner demons because "danger is real, but fear is a choice". Another message is that we need to look after our planet, or else we are headed towards a self-destructive doom. There are several references to "whales" as a symbol of man's abuse of nature with mention of the book "Moby Dick", a question from Cypher's daughter who wonders whether men actually hunted the whales to a near-extinction level, and a scene at the end of the movie where large whales are shown swimming in flocks in the Earth's oceans, as humans are no longer a threat to their survival.

The cinematography is exquisite throughout the movie, whether it is depicting the sophisticated civilization in Nova Prime, the travel through deep space, or the scenes of the evolved Earth. The way the plants "shut down" for the night drops in temperature, or the ruins of a once great dam, or the "temple run" type of a chase by baboons, the movie is a visual masterpiece.

The strengths of the movie: simple storyline, visually stunning cinematography, good acting performance by Will Smith and Jaden Smith.

The weaknesses of the movie: simple storyline without any surprises or twists or a suspenseful climax, not enough action sequences from Will Smith, and lack of innovation in storyline or graphics. The movie leaves the audience wanting something more, a sense that the move was lacking a high or a buzz. It almost makes one feel that the movie is all about Will Smith promoting or re-launching his real life son Jaden Smith as an actor.

Despite the above, After Earth is an entertaining movie and I would give it 3 stars (out of 5). I enjoyed it.

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Why? To see Will and Jaden Smith combatting their fears
When: Check session times
Where: In the movie theaters
Cost: $10 - $30
Your Comment
I recently went to see the film, and thought it was pretty good. I also loved the visual effects, but had an issue with the overall message of the film. If you're interested, you can read my review.
by Bryony Harrison (score: 4|12442) 2253 days ago
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