After Earth: Greatest Cinematic Achievement of the 21rst Century
For those of us whose heads remain above sand-level we know that our world is hanging by a thread. Driven by our various human capacities for greed, love, passion, we have transformed our world into something our ancient ancestors would not recognize in the least. Psychic visionary M. Night Shyamalan (Whose last name is suspiciously close to shaman) has given us a vision of a world subtly extrapolated from the one we are headed toward now. Earth has been abandoned, and as such, so have all human emotions. We enter the family of the stern father figure portrayed masterfully by Will Smith (Fresh Prince of Bel-Air) who embodies the ideal soldier and of the mother who warmly approves of everything with a strange detachment, and of the son who is a real human. Will Smith’s character lives without fear, undetectable by future monsters who don’t like the smell of it. (Fear that is. It’s a pheromone or something kind of sciency, don’t worry about it.) He is able to “ghost”, which is apparently pretty important. “Ghosting”, a term which is destined to enter our common lexicon, is to be so completely without fear that an alien that only has about 3 minutes of screen time won’t be able to see you when it is expedient to whatever harebrained plot you are living out.
But you can’t talk about After Earth without spending ample time on the powerhouse that is Jaden Smith. At his young age, to be able to portray a breathing conscious organism the way he does, well it’s nothing short of miraculous. The way he is so corporeal, and able to speak audibly, when you consider who his father is, it should come as no surprise what a talent he is. He is present, the entire way through in his portrayal of the son of a stern military father figure, who is real. You really believe that he is a person as you watch him. Jaden is the son who just can’t seem to live up to the expectations of his hero dad and is haunted by the fact that he should be dead. His, obviously superior, sibling being killed in an inexplicable encounter with the previously mentioned fear-stink hating monsters, Jaden is left to stare blankly, all alone. Wherever you see him throughout the film, his eyes are haunted by the same dead, soulless expression, totally devoid of any active human emotion. When you see him move, it comes as a total shock to the system.
He so wants to live up to the mythic figure his father embodies but, alas, he cannot ghost and this presents a problem in at least one scene in the movie. For a bit. His survival instincts consist of throwing rocks at threatening animals, falling, getting poisoned by a slug, and generally looking confused. Jaden’s choice for his character’s accent is interesting to note as well; it stands somewhere between Kentucky colonel and a statue of Winston Churchill. The story is incidental when looked at against such towering talents as these. They crash on a planet that turns out to be Earth, have to find something but daddy Will’s leg is smashed up, so it’s up to the son. He proves himself in a mystical spirit journey. It’s also fascinating to note that Shyamalan chose to point out several times that everything on the planet has evolved specifically to kill humans, even though humans have been absent from the planet for quite some time. What could this mean? It’s just like him to challenge us with such puzzling questions about the nature of reality. At any rate, I don’t want to spoil anything, but at one point Jaden is almost able to have a facial expression.
In conclusion, Earth, leg, somnolent adolescent who is definitely a real human, sort-of adventure, smelly fear, ghosting is hard and also a thing that isn’t totally stupid and ridiculous, and Jaden is almost certainly real. Best movie ever.