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'After Earth' Imagines a Hostile Future Planet

  • Penelope Poulou

M. Night Shyamalan's new sci-fi summer flick, After Earth, is about life after humans destroy their planet.

Set more than a thousand years into the future, what little is left of humanity lives on a different planet. During a space mission, a father and son crash land on Earth, a luscious, jungle-like planet healed from humans' abuse, but hostile to its former children.

The father, a starship fleet general played by Will Smith, tries to calm his son down after their spaceship is hit by meteors and is going down.

General Cypher and his son, Kitai, played by Smith's real-life son, Jaden, are the only survivors. Cypher, stranded in the ship’s hull, is critically injured. Kitai must to retrieve a beacon 100 kilometers away to call for help.

“We need that beacon," Cypher tells his son in the film. "You understand? You are going to retrieve that beacon or we are going to die.”

Kitai battles extreme temperatures, poisonous plants and wild animals in his quest to retrieve the beacon.

Jaden Smith, 13, says there is a lesson in After Earth, if we continue polluting our planet.

“If we don’t get rid of all the horrible plastics and the oil and fossil fuels," he said. "We’re on an escalating path that just keeps going up, keeps going up, so I definitely think it could get to the point where Earth will evict us.”

Garrett Reisman, a Space X engineer and former NASA astronaut, says that although the film is based on the real science of space travel, it does take liberties.

“Even if we went on a crash program over the next 10 years, we wouldn’t come close to taking that kind of a number of people," Reisman said. "We still have such a long way to go. My message is we better take care of this planet because if we mess it up too fast, before we have an opportunity to leave, we are going to be in big trouble.”

Will Smith says while the film aims to educate, it's main purpose is to entertain.

“It’s rare that you can make a movie like this that your grandma, and your aunt and your little niece can all go to," he said. "There is something for everybody in the movie.”

After Earth is also about a father-son relationship, not unlike the one Jaden has with his dad. Like Kitai, Jaden says he wants to forge his own path.

“I just want to make movies, and I don’t want to be labeled as following in his footsteps," Jaden said.

Will Smith says he’s there to teach his son the trade, and how to survive in the jungle that's Hollywood, which is not very different from the futuristic poisonous jungle envisioned in After Earth.