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After Earth

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One thousand years ago, Earth was rocked by a series of disasters which rendered it uninhabitable and forced the human race to evacuate to a new home on the planet Nova Prime.

Years later, young Kitai Raige (Jaden Smith) is training to become a ranger in the United Ranger Corps, an elite squad of law enforcement officers formed in the early days of Earth’s evacuation and Nova Prime’s main peace-keeping authority. Kitai hopes to follow in the footsteps of his estranged father, Cypher Raige (Will Smith), a legendary Prime Commander, but his inability to control his emotions keeps him from succeeding.

Hoping to rebuild their fractured relationship, Cypher’s wife Faia (Sophie Okonedo) suggests the pair take a journey together to reconnect, but their plans dramatically change when their ship is damaged in an asteroid field and crash-lands on one of the most dangerous planets in the solar system – Earth. With Cypher critically injured, it is up to Kitai to make the perilous journey across Earth’s surface to retrieve the ship’s rescue beacon before time and supplies run out.

Directed by M. Night Shyamalan (Signs and The Sixth Sense), After Earth is a futuristic sci-fi film which has potential but often misses its mark. The audience is given the impression there is an elaborate backstory behind Earth’s demise and humanity’s ensuing conflict with the alien antagonists the Ursa, but neither is explored in great detail.

The key characters are emotionally complex and a great deal of screen time is devoted to exploring the events that led to their damaged relationship. Cypher is a seemingly detached man hardened by years of war, yet he also struggles with feelings of guilt following the death of his daughter Senshi (Zoe Kravitz) years earlier. In contrast, Kitai is a head-strong youth who makes reckless, often dangerous, decisions. Real-life father and son Will and Jaden expertly capture the emotional turmoil of their characters, although there times when the elder Smith seemed to struggle with his character’s detached persona. Despite her limited screen time, Kravitz shines as Senshi, whose story unfolds through a series of flashbacks.

The film’s eye-catching special effects bring the long-abandoned Earth to life, creating a complex world full of frightening and familiar creatures and dangerously unstable weather patterns. Beautiful rugged mountains and endless green fields provide a stunning backdrop for this futuristic story, and Kitai must battle both the elements and his own fears in order to save his ailing father.

After viewing the trailer, I went into this film expecting a high degree of action and, although there are some stunning combat sequences, overall I was disappointed. After Earth’s storyline focusses primarily on Cypher and Kitai’s emotional experiences and it is less an action movie and more a feel-good tale about a father reconnecting with his son and a young boy’s emotional journey into manhood.

After Earth is in cinemas now.

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