February 26, 2014 by Welcome to the Jungle
M. Night Shyamalan
Sony Pictures (2013)
Of all the movies I have seen about a future destructed, deserted planet Earth, After Earth was one of the best scripted movies I have experienced. The visual content, the special effects, the actors, the plot line, and the way it kept you on the edge of your seat the entire length of the movie was spectacular.
The very first scene of the movie is intercut with the opening credits which is very unique in film. As the son Kitai, played by Jaden Smith, is told by his dad to stay calm as their ship is crash landing on an unknown planet to them (which we later learn is Earth), the father Cypher Raige, played by Will Smith, is swept off his feet and sucked out of the ship.
From the first frame of the film to the very last scene, my attention was captured by the suspense and the constant flow of events. The story is of a father and son, as they venture off their home planet, Nova Prime, to spend some time together and try and fix the differences between them. The world they live in has been invaded by aliens who have creatures named Ursas attack humans. These terrifying, deathly creatures can literally “smell fear”. To ward off the creatures, Cypher Raige develops a way to suppress all the fear that he has and as a result, becomes invisible to the Ursas. Cypher Raige teaches the other Rangers his technique and together they become victorious against the aliens. On Cypher Raige’s last venture before retirement, he takes his son but all does not go according to plan when the ship is caught in an asteroid shower which destroys the ship. Cypher and Kitai crash land on Earth, a planet where thousands of years ago humans occupied the land but now it is inhabited with deadly creatures, unstable breathing conditions, and an unsafe environment. Kitai and his father are the only two to survive the crash, though the father’s legs are broken and his main artery damaged. It is up to Kitai to retrieve the device to release a signal beacon into the galaxy as a cry for help; their only way of survival. With the help of Cypher Raige, Kitai overcomes impossible obstacles: creatures coming at him from all directions, bites from insects which lead to temporary blindness and paralysis, and freezing temperatures at night. There are moments where all hope is lost, where the characters make you feel as if you are in their position, helpless. The director, M. Night Shyamalan, has brilliantly created a movie of survival and drama.
The two main actors in this movie, Will Smith and Jaden Smith, are real life father and son which makes this movie that more heartfelt and meaningful. Though they are father and son, the icy feeling of disapproval from the father creates a strained relationship between them that is felt almost the whole length of the movie. Will Smith’s daughter in the movie died a few years earlier and the guilt Will’s character feels about her death is taken out on his son instead. The father believes that his son should have saved the daughter from the Ursas, though he himself knows he should have been there to save her. Jaden Smith is an incredible actor, and halfway through the movie there is a scene where he stands up to his father, he releases his anger and says what has really been hurting him all these years since his sister died. All hope is lost at this point in the film, he has run out of medicine to give him the strength to make it the whole way on his journey, and the only possibility is for him to jump off a cliff. The father does not believe in the son, and Jaden’s acting is spectacular; his facial expression, his determined look. He screams, even though his father was only on a projected screen on his arm, but he fought like he was seeing him in person. He did not want to hide his emotions anymore, and this was believable as I watched the way he portrayed himself and delivered the lines.
Will Smith has always been one of my favorite actors, and in this movie he proved himself once again. He kept a controlled facial expression, very poised and controlled. When he speaks to someone in the film, he acts with authority and meaning. The scene that best portrays this is when he is giving specific instructions for his son to follow. Though he is in the destroyed ship and unable to move, his dignity has not faltered as he determinately presses his son to continue the journey. When he thinks about his daughter, Will Smith delivers a feeling of shame and guilt. Even though he never admits that he should have been there to save her, you always receive the impression that is what he is thinking. He is also able to switch the character’s mood from being a lovable dad in the flashbacks of the daughter and when he speaks to his wife, and then a serious leader with his son.
Director M. Night Shyamalan did a superb job at creating a successful story. He arranged for the music to be played at the right times, when I was at the edge of my seat and the suspense was building. He ensured that some of the best scenes were spread throughout the movie, and he was original with the way it was filmed. There is a part when Jaden Smith runs off the cliff and is “flying” down the mountain side. The camera captures him from all angles and it seemed very realistic. When Jaden Smith almost freezes to death because of the unstable weather conditions, it shows a close up of his face and that was creative because it let us see his face freeze. The first scene was a foreshadow of the storyline because that exact scene was repeated later in the movie. As well, in the beginning of the movie the daughter, played by Zoe Kravitz, tells her father about a book that a boy lent her, Moby Dick. This reference to the whales in that story appeared again when Jaden Smith was almost at the end of his journey and he has a vision of his sister. He talks about Moby Dick. At the very end of the movie, the last scene shows several whales swimming in the ocean. This reference kept consistency throughout the entire movie. The story was successfully conveyed through all these techniques the director used.
After Earth had some of the best special effects that I have ever seen in a movie. Throughout the entire film, special effects are used. At the beginning of the film when they are on a completely different planet, there are lots of effects to make the viewers believe that this world exists, that the ship flying through space is real, that the asteroids it collides with are real asteroids, and all the creatures they create are computer generated. The scene where dozens of gorilla-like creatures chase Jaden Smith was memorable because the special effects used to generate them made it seem like these were real animals that you could run into in the forest. As well, all the high advanced technology they pretended to use in some scenes was special effects but it made it seem realistic since our view of the future is that everything will be high tech. When Jaden jumped off the cliff, the special effects were amazing. It looked and felt so real. The soundtrack added meaning to the story as well; for instance, all the loud noises during the crashing scene and the various noises the creatures made. It added to the success of the movie, and it made the film seem more suspenseful.
Unlike other corrupted futuristic worlds that are created in some movies, this movie was incredibly well developed and produced. It focused on showing us how Earth may look in thousands of years if we do not take care of it, but it also was more than just that. It was about the relationship between a father and son and the difficulties that a family experiences. More than anything, the movie is spectacular because Will Smith and Jaden Smith are father and son for real life. It added to the story because it made us believe that the father-son image was real, that they wanted to survive together. The acting, the plot, the special effects, the scenery, and the action were second to none. How would you react if you were stranded on a deserted planet, knowing that monstrous creatures are surrounding you, you have hardly enough oxygen to survive and the medicine to help you is limited, your father is dying, you need to control your fear in order to win the battle against the Ursas to save your life and that of your father?
Anna P. is a proud Fredericton High School student in her final year who has watched several movies starring Will Smith and Jaden Smith and is an avid movie fanatic.