Director M. Night Shyamalan’s After Earth is less the sci-fi action story it purports to be, and more a meditation on the prickly nature of the father-son relationship.
After Earth is set far into the future, a thousand years after earth has become uninhabitable. The planet to which humans had been evacuated relies on the services of the United Ranger Corps, keepers of intergalactic peace. Cypher (Will Smith), a commanding general in the corps whose overwhelming devotion to rules has robbed him of feeling, has just returned to home base. The big news is his teen son Kitai (Jaden Smith) has failed to qualify as a ranger because of inadequacy in the field, a shortcoming which will, of course, be surmounted before the movie ends.
What incites Kitai’s ultimately redemptive behavior is the breaking apart of their space vessel which crashes onto earth – Dad had decided to take the kid on an important mission – and the pair are the only survivors. The badly injured Cypher sends his son on what is essentially a hero’s journey on a hostile planet to retrieve the beacon whose signal will bring needed assistance.
From here on in, it’s the kid on foot, torn between carrying out his Saturnine father’s orders in the absence of any respect from the old man, and rebelling in Uranian fashion to prove his worth and accomplish the mission that will save both their lives. To complicate matters, Kitai is haunted by an event that occurred when he was a child that resulted in the loss of a loved one, simply because he had to obey orders.
After Earth – whose motto, through Cypher, is “Fear is not real” – presents its lead characters as evocations of mythical Saturn/Cronus who fearlessly castrated his father. Later on, though, out of fear, he ate his own children so they wouldn’t overpower him. Kitai gets more screen time, but it’s Cypher’s lesson to learn.
Astrology Film Rating: ♅♄ (Uranus, Saturn)