With After Earth, filmmaker M. Night Shyamalan tries to continue his bounce back from the disappoint of his last few films, such as Lady in the Water, The Happening and The Last Airbender. Shyamalan made a positive step forward with Devil, which saw him break from his pattern of total creative control by handing a story from his “Night Chronicles” to a different writer and director, resulting in a fairly well-received film.
However, After Earth sees Shyamalan back at the helm and taking on the sort of high-profile blockbuster material he tackled with Airbender (to disastrous results). Of course, Earth is already getting a boost from the family-brand star power of Will and Jaden Smith – not to mention, the intrigue of seeing the Smiths (and Shyamalan) working in the sci-fi genre.
Right off the bat, this After Earth teaser presents a picture of the future that is somewhat similar to the trailer for Oblivion, the new sci-fi film from Tom Cruise and TRON Legacy director Joseph Kosinski. The mix of natural and technological elements and color palettes is immediately noticeable in both films, yet equally enticing to the eye in either case. Shyamalan’s film will also likely draw comparisons to the distant future segment of Cloud Atlas, what with the similarities in costume and tech design and the sort of dialect spoken by the characters (Will Smith’s futuristic southern drawl compared to Halle Berry’s future-street-slang delivery in Cloud Atlas).
The Future Earth of ‘Cloud Atlas’
After Earth manages stand out from other recent future-Earth sci-fi films in the sense of wonder that is being offered. This trailer almost paints the film as a sci-fi version of the The Road, with a father teaching his son core values about what kind of man to become, against the backdrop of a harsh, threatening environment. There is a question (judging from the footage) of how much screen time Will actually has in the film; it seems like this will be Jaden’s show to carry, and that the rest of the cast will appear either in flashback or through other extraneous methods (video chats, etc.).
The young Smith proved in The Karate Kid (love or hate that remake and its upcoming sequel) that he definitely has his dad’s star potential. This film, however, will test that potential on a much more mature and challenging level than physicality and/or minor dramatic emoting. Can we watch this kid onscreen for hours and still be intrigued and/or moved by him? Perhaps.
For Shyamalan’s part: so far it seems that he has a mind and eye for sci-fi, and has constructed some pretty great sequences in this film. The opening shot of Will’s character, “Cypher Raige,” getting sucked away as the hull blew definitely got a jolt out of me, and the vision of Earth – and all those aforementioned threats waiting there – definitely have me intrigued to see more.