***THE SPOILER ALERT LIGHT IS ON***
I just walked in the door after seeing After Earth. What a fun film. Realizing that the critics are doing a major pan job on this film, I find that it is a film worth watching. This film doesn’t make you think, it’s just good sci-fi entertainment. I was a little apprehensive considering who directs, M. Night Shyamalan. I have never really cared for his previous work, but I was pleasantly surprised to see him breaking new ground in making a purely science fiction film that doesn’t include all of his usual heeby-jeebys.
One thousand years before the story begins, the Earth has become uninhabitable by humans for numerous reasons. The entire population has moved to another planet they call Nova Prime. Unfortunately, Nova Prime is also considered a sacred planet by a race of aliens that create monsters the humans call Ursa. The Ursa have one purpose only, and that is to eradicate all human life from Nova Prime. The Ursa have no sight and hunt their prey by detecting pheromones that humans emit when they are fearful of something. There is almost no way to stop the Ursa because they have been genetically engineered to be virtually indestructible. The rangers learn that there is a way to kill the Ursa but it takes a special weapon and Rangers who have the ability to Ghost, or bury their fear so they become undetectable. Not all Rangers have this ability. It runs strong in the Raige family. For a more detailed description, see my book review for the prequel to the film entitled After Earth: A Perfect Beast.
The film opens with young Kitai Raige being rejected to become a Ranger. Despite his appeal that being turned down will disappoint his father, Cypher Raige, who also happens to be the Supreme Commander of the Rangeers, he is still turned down. Later that evening, the Raige is having a meal, and Kitai informs his father that he has been turned down.
Cypher has a mission that he has to accomplish, which is escorting a contained Ursa to another planet for study. At the urging of his wife, Cypher decides to take his son along in an attempt to bond. They leave Nova Prime and in route to their destination, the ship is disabled in an asteroid field and is forced to crash land. Unfortunately, they are forced down on Earth, where every living thing left on the planet has evolved to be hostile to human life, and the atmosphere is also hostile to life. Upon descent to the planet, the ship breaks in half and crashes killing almost everyone, at least in the forward section. It is not known if the Ursa has survived the crash. Cypher locates a rescue beacon that has been rendered inoperative in the crash. He knows there is another beacon located in the tail section of the ship. Unfortunately, he has both legs broken in the crash and the tail section of the ship is some 100 kilometers from the front section. The only thing he can do is send Kitai to get it.
He outfits Kitai with a weapon and a backpack that will allow Cypher to monitor and guide Kitai as he tries to get to the beacon. As Kitai moves through the wilderness, he encounters several different life forms that do indeed try to kill him, but his ranger training allows him to survive the attacks. While Kitai is on his way, there is evidence that the Ursa has indeed survived and is stalking him.
Kitai reaches the tail section of the downed ship and recovers the beacon, which doesn’t work due to ionization in the atmosphere at his location. So he reasons that he must find higher ground, and that is at the peak of an active volcano.
As Kitai reaches the peak, he remembers the words his father told him and a tragedy that happened to his sister at the hands of an Ursa and discovers his Ghosting abilities. He defeats the Ursa and sets off the beacon. Cypher and Kitai are rescued and the movie ends with a touching scene with father and son reaching an understanding.
There’s really nothing new in this film. It is an age old story about a father and son at odds, and a kid facing seemingly impossible odds, and using his wits to save the day. But it is the way it is told that makes it great. I have always felt that Will Smith is an underrated actor, and his son has been panned for his earlier acting attempts, but they both show great acting chops in the film thanks to the directing of Shyamalan.
For me, the most impressive part of this film is the scenery. The vistas are beautiful.
So, as I said, there is nothing new here, it is just a fun film to see for pure entertainment.
By the way, reading the prequel book DID help me get an understanding of many parts of the film, including what an Ursa is, the nature of the weapon Kitai uses, what the Raige family represents, and so on. I recommend reading the book before seeing the film, if you have the time. If not, at least see my post on the book (follow the link above).
Well, there it is…