After Earth is a movie for fathers and sons. This is a movie that explores the journey to manhood that all young males take at some point in their lives. This is not a blockbuster sci-fi action movie with lasers blasting. This is a movie that reminds me more of Kunta Kinte’s quest for manhood in volume 1 of Roots prior to his capture than anything related to science fiction. After Earth is the story of a young man named Kitai Raige (Jaiden Smith) who is the son of a famous general Cypher Raige (Will Smith). His goal in life is to live up to and exceed the heroic and powerful personality that is his father. Just as with any son, his relationship with his father is a mixture of awe, worship, fear and rebellion. While on a training mission to another planet, their spaceship crashes on Earth, one thousand years after humans had left the planet due to its polluted climate and changing environment. This new Earth that they are on has evolved to become a place where humans are now the hunted and Earth itself is no longer welcoming to humans. Even the atmosphere of Earth is deadly. Kitai’s mission as well as the story is very simple. Travel 100 miles to retrieve a rescue beacon while avoiding Earth’s natural predators, and the nasty surprise that they were carrying on their ship. Cypher, Kitai’s dad is severely wounded and is only able to guide Kitai via remote computer. Just as in real life, Kitai is initially guided by his father through the various pitfalls that he encounters, but then it comes to a point where Kitai has to make a decision that he feels is right for him although it goes against his father’s wishes. This is the reality in all father/son relationships, where eventually the son steps out on his own whether he is ready or not, which of course always leads to conflict between fathers who want to hold on and children who are ready to step out. From this point forward in the film, Kitai is no longer able to maintain contact with his father, but all of the decisions he makes is based on the wisdom and knowledge his father has provided for him. This is what makes this movie so powerful to me. The fact that Will Smith is playing the role with his son Jaiden makes it even more poignant. I found myself getting emotional at times seeing their relationship play out, especially when reflecting on my fathers and sons.
For people expecting something in the vein of Star Trek, this is not the movie you will get. I have seen titles of movie reviews bashing the film, but they are just haters in my opinion. Yes the acting is a little wooden, and I don’t particularly care for the voice Will Smith adopts even though I know why he is doing it. Despite those flaws, this is a good film. Will Smith and the producers also do a marvelous job of creating a truly unique looking culture, with almost bio-organic looking ships and equipment. Much of the architecture that they created was truly unique and not your standard clean metal space type cities and structures.
This movie is for everyone, but especially fathers and sons!