YEP YEP – “We are all telling ourselves a story,” says the father to the son. “Fear is not real. The only place fear can exist is in our thoughts of the future. It is a product of our imagination, causing us to fear things that do not at present, and may not ever, exist.”
I must admit, I’m a sucker for a good father-son themed, coming of age film.
M. Night Shyamalan’s After Earth is one that got past me – but I’ve now seen it three times and appreciate the writing and the structure more after each viewing.
I also must admit I always appreciate a story well told in under 100 minutes.
The father is played by Will Smith and the son by Smith’s real life son, Jaden. This is their second film together. Jaden was a wee lad when they collaborated on The Pursuit of Happyness (2006) – probably Will’s best performance – still, it’s obvious they have both grown as actors. Will Smith is now one of the best in the biz, and Jaden delivers easily his best performance here.
After Earth is a very well-crafted film. Like Gravity, it meshes the actors and the action seamlessly in to the CGI world, in this case a post apocalyptic space vessel landing on an illegal “danger zone” planet – earth. Yep, knuckleheaded humans blew it again and blowed up the ozone.
“Everything on this planet has evolved to kill humans,” dad tells son just before he sends him on the mission to save their lives. “Do exactly as I tell you – and we will survive.”
The only way to defeat the gnarly blind earth beasts (Ursas) is to master the art of “ghosting.” By eliminating fear, and therefore not secreting the scent of anxiety, the spider-like crab gargoyles cannot “see” their prey.
Dad can do it. Son cannot.
“Root yourself in this present moment now. Sight, sound, smell. What do you feel?”
Commands from an officer to a cadet. A mentor to his pupil. A father to his son.
Strong themes: Forgiveness. Redemption. Mind over matter. Your inner strength comes through your ability to block out all fear and dominate your surroundings.
What works most in After Earth is the obvious – and it is what separates this film from most of Shyamalan‘s recent efforts: Emotional depth. A disciplined military father teaching his struggling son the skills, knowledge, and wisdom to survive in the world. But his trust must be earned – and the stakes are high. The learning curve steep.