After Earth the movie is set in the far off future when the planet is no longer mankind's home. The new colonies are protected by the rangers. Kitai Raige (Jaden Smith) ain't a ranger yet, but his dad is. Military honcho, Cypher (Will Smith) is the best "ghost" out there. The flick's big huge, gray skinned monsters—Ursas—are blind, but they can smell fear. Ghosting is the ability to control your fear so that no baddies can track you. Are these the things that scared us off the third rock from the sun?
After their ship crashes lands on an unknown planet, Cypher and Kitai are the sole survivors. The story, written by Will Smith, centers on a son who can't avoid hearing his father in his head, even when pops is holed up in a crashed spacecraft. It's up to Kitai to save both of them by retrieving an emergency beacon from the tail end of the ship that broke off in the crash. If not, they'll be marooned on a planet with beasties, animated plant life and maybe, a giant Ursa.
Got all that? One more thing, this film is definitely Jaden's. Will is in it, but pretty much only as tech support for his son. Here are five things you need to know before setting down on the Earth of the future:
1. Will Smith Is Best GPS Voice Ever: Critically injured with two broken legs, Cypher (Will) guides his son to the tail wreckage electronically. Anyone who's ever been lost and needed directions will recognize the somber, strong tone that says, "Five meters, ahead then make a left," or "Report: status update" or "Run now, there's a giant Usra coming for you." Can Siri do that? In the future this comes standard with spacesuits.
2. Able-Bodied Smart Suits: The costumes by Amy Westcott (Black Swan) avoid the shabby, post-apocalyptic couture that reeks of movies with long-winded voice-over that begins "After the fall…" Cypher and Kitai's clothes are remarkably formfitting, filled with holographic screens, flying squirrel wings and the ability to camouflage into variety of earth tones.
3. Reach the Ship's Tail With Only Two Oxygen Pellets: Gamers know the value of resource management, so although the narrative is pretty tight with action and suspense that only serves the plot, the huge forest landscape and snowy volcano climax would make for an awesome next gen game on the Xbox One.
4. Not a Twist in Sight: While there are really only three films for which M. Night Shyamalan supplied big surprise endings: Sixth Sense, Unbreakable and The Village, moviegoers have come to think of him as the director whose flicks always have a twist. Signs? Debatable. After Earth offers a much more straightforward plot: Kitai walks, runs, swims and flies on his quest. Shyamalan's direction is confident. His use of colors particularly, the green and brown terrains, evokes a planet that forgot man ever resided there.
5. Jaden Has Arrived: Though his acting has been inconsistent in previous efforts (The Karate Kid remake), the 14-year-old delivers his best performance yet with plenty of (tolerable) angst on display.