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Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||M. Night Shyamalan|
|Story by||Will Smith|
|Music by||James Newton Howard|
|Edited by||Steven Rosenblum|
|Distributed by||Columbia Pictures|
|Running time||100 minutes|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||M. Night Shyamalan|
|Story by||Will Smith|
|Music by||James Newton Howard|
|Edited by||Steven Rosenblum|
|Distributed by||Columbia Pictures|
|Running time||100 minutes|
It is the second film (the first being The Pursuit of Happyness) that stars real-life father and son Will and Jaden Smith; with Will Smith also producing via his company Overbrook Entertainment and the distribution by Columbia Pictures.
The film was released in IMAX on May 31, 2013. It received negative reviews from critics, citing the acting performances and lack of originality. Despite being a notable summer flop in North America, the film unexpectedly performed well overseas, becoming a commercial success.
In the future, an environmental cataclysm forces the human race to abandon Earth and settle on a new world, Nova Prime.
One thousand years later, the United Ranger Corps, a peacekeeping military commanded by General Cypher Raige, comes into conflict with alien creatures who intend to conquer Nova Prime. Their primary weapons are the Ursas: large, blind predatory multi-limbed creatures that hunt by sensing pheromones the human body secretes when scared (they literally smell fear). The Rangers struggle against the Ursas until the impassive Cypher learns how to completely suppress his fear, in effect becoming invisible to the Ursa—a technique called "ghosting." After teaching this act to the other Rangers, he leads the Ranger Corps to eventual victory.
Meanwhile, Cypher's son Kitai blames himself for the death of his older sister Senshi at the hands of an Ursa attack some years ago when he was a young child. The father and son have an estranged relationship with Cypher being away on missions. Kitai, younger and smaller than most cadets, trains to become a staunch and respected Ranger like his father. Despite his physical capabilities, his application is rejected due to his emotional behavior, and he has to break the news to Cypher, who's seemingly disappointed in him. Kitai's mother Faia convinces her husband to connect more with their son, and Cypher decides to take Kitai on his last voyage before retirement.
During space flight, their ship is caught by an asteroid shower, forcing them to transport through a wormhole to safety and crash-land on the now-quarantined Earth. Inside the torn fuselage of the ship, only Kitai (strapped to a walled row of seats) and Cypher (with both legs broken) have survived. They find the main distress signal beacon is damaged. Cypher instructs Kitai to locate the tail section of the ship, which broke off on entry to the atmosphere, since inside it is another distress beacon, which they can use to signal the Rangers for a rescue; if he fails, the pair will face a most certain death.
Cypher gives Kitai his double-bladed cutlass, a wrist communicator and six capsules of a fluid that enhances oxygen intake so he can breathe in Earth's low-oxygen atmosphere. Cypher warns him to avoid the plants and animals that have grown more deadly since humankind's departure, and to be careful of violent weather thermal shifts. Kitai leaves the ship to find the tail section with Cypher guiding him through the communicator and several camera drones. Cypher's leg is losing arterial blood and he attempts to make a temporary shunt to avoid bleeding out.
Shortly after he leaves his father, Kitai is surrounded by giant baboons. His father tells him not to move. Against his father's orders and out of fear, Kitai hits the leader with a stone causing the baboons to give chase. Kitai manages to escape the large mammals by swimming across a river to safety, but he is bitten by a poisonous leech while in the water. Kitai administers an antidote but not before the toxins take effect and his nervous system shuts down. When Kitai awakens, he narrowly escapes a thermal shift. Upon asking him how many breathing capsules he has left, Kitai lies to Cypher, not telling him that two of the capsules were damaged in his escape. That night Cypher tells his son the story of when he was first attacked by an Ursa. The creature tried to drown them both as Cypher fought back. He realizes that although danger itself is real, fear is a mere illusion created by the mind, and thus he learned to "ghost" himself from the Ursas.
The following day, Kitai reaches a waterfall at the top of a high cliff; he must descend to and cross the river below. Cypher once again asks him how many breathing capsules he has left. By monitoring Kitai's condition from the ship 24/7, Cypher sees his son's heart-rate increase when asked about the capsules. Kitai shows him, via the communicator, the two unbroken capsules. Cypher calculates that the only way for Kitai to continue on with just two capsules would be for him to skydive to the bottom of the waterfall with his built-in flying suit, since taking a ground route would require more oxygen.
However, Cypher will not allow Kitai to perform the skydive and repeatedly orders him to abort the mission. Believing his father still sees him as a failure, Kitai becomes angry and tells Cypher he is to blame for Senshi's death because he was absent on the day of the attack. Upset at Cypher and determined to complete the mission, Kitai leaps from the top of the waterfall's cliff to skydive to the crash site. He is quickly captured by a giant eagle, and his communicator is damaged.
Kitai wakes in the nest of the eagle, possibly having been mistaken as one her own chicks, and soon finds himself in another situation: The nest is under attack by large saber-toothed cats. Kitai and the eagle fend off the hunters, luring one of the giant cats into falling through a weak portion of the nest. Kitai escapes by climbing down the nest, where he sees that despite the efforts of both him and the eagle the chicks have all been killed.
Spending the night in a cavern with a small molten magma river for heat, Kitai plots his course and calculates how many more kilometers he has to travel in order to reach the tail-end of the ship, taking into consideration how many capsules he has left. He reaches a river and builds a raft to continue along it, the flow taking him along to his destination. Worn and exhausted from his encounters, Kitai falls asleep on the raft, and dreams of his dead sister, Senshi. She reassures him that Cypher's bitterness is just his own anger for not saving her. Senshi urges Kitai to awaken, and when he refuses, her form suddenly shifts to an Ursa-mutilated version of herself; finally awaking him the moment another thermal shift is beginning. Slowly freezing to death from the change of temperature, Kitai collapses, seemingly succumbing to the cold.
Just before he passes out, he is seen being dragged by something unknown. Kitai awakens at dawn and crawls out from a nest of branches. He notices that the mother eagle has returned and built an enclosure around him, and had lain on top of it, to keep him warm during the night. He thanks the bird before realizing it has sacrificed itself to provide body heat and did not survive the night.
Running on his last breathing capsule, which is beginning to wear off, Kitai finally reaches the tail section and retrieves the emergency beacon, along with another communicator, another Cutlass, and more capsules. Because of electrical interference caused by an ionic layer in the atmosphere above Kitai, the communicator allows Cypher to see and hear Kitai, but not for Kitai to hear him. While exploring the wreck of the tail section, Kitai discovers that the Ursa has escaped. Kitai tries to fire the emergency beacon, but the electrical interference above him also blocks the beacon.
Kitai comes to realize this, and heads to a nearby volcano to gain height from which to fire the beacon. On the way, he finds members of the ship's crew hanging dead from trees, killed and displayed in this manner by the Ursa in order to trigger fear pheromones in any attempted rescuers. The Ursa begins to track Kitai, who reaches the volcano, where he is injured when the monster attacks. Remembering Cypher's words, to focus on the moment rather than the outcome, and Senshi's words of encouragement from his dream, Kitai is able to control his fear and "ghost" himself from the Ursa long enough to fight back. Kitai uses the Cutlass to repeatedly impale the creature to death before it could throw them both from the mountaintop. He then fires the beacon as Cypher loses consciousness and appears to succumb to his injuries.
A rescue team arrives and recovers them both. Kitai enters the medical chamber to see his father still alive while a soldier is watching the footage of Kitai defeating the Ursa. Cypher and Kitai reconcile with a salute and an emotional embrace. Kitai decides not to become a Ranger, and tells his father that he wants to work with his mother instead. Cypher agrees to join them and allows himself to laugh as the ship leaves Earth and heads back home to Nova Prime.
Will Smith conceived this story when he was watching the television show called I Shouldn't Be Alive with his brother-in-law Caleeb Pinkett. It was originally not a science fiction story but about a father and son crashing their car in the mountains or some remote region, with the son having to go out and get rescue for his father. Smith then decided to change the setting to 1000 years in the future, which imposed a higher budget. The film was also intended to be the first in a trilogy. Smith had his production company Overbrook contact Gary Whitta (who was then known for his script for The Book of Eli) with a simple log line for a film: a father and son crash landed on Earth 1000 years after it had been abandoned by humankind. Impressed with his idea and excited about the opportunity to work with him, Whitta fleshed out Smith's idea and pitched it to him, subsequently becoming the first employee on the project.
A month after the release of The Last Airbender, Smith contacted M. Night Shyamalan on August 6 to wish him "Happy Birthday" and to persuade him to direct his film with his son Jaden as the star. Smith and Shyamalan had planned to work on a film before but it never worked out. Impressed with the entire script, Shyamalan officially made this project—then entitled One Thousand A. E.—his next directorial effort on October 20, and quietly shelved his own secret untitled project with Bruce Willis, Bradley Cooper, and Gwyneth Paltrow loosely attached. There was another starring role for an adult male, but sources indicated that Smith would not be taking it on. Sony Pictures Entertainment has a first-look deal with Overbrook, so it was expected to be the studio home for A. E. Shyamalan later suggested the film would feature other members of the Smith family, and that it would not be in 3D but he had "an idea for something kind of technically interesting".
In December 2011, Columbia Pictures, a subsidiary of Sony, signed Will and Jaden Smith to star in the film with Shyamalan directing. Shyamalan, who co-wrote the screenplay with Gary Whitta, produced the film with Overbrook's James Lassiter, Smith, Ken Stovitz, and Jada Pinkett Smith. Doug Belgrad, president of Columbia Pictures, made the announcement and said, "Night is an outstanding filmmaker who has a tremendous vision for this science-fiction adventure story and we couldn't be more excited to be working again with Jaden after our experiences on The Pursuit of Happyness and The Karate Kid," and added "We're thrilled to have the two of them together on this project." Shyamalan also added, "The chance to make a scary, science-fiction film starring Jaden and Will is my dream project." Will Smith's decision to take on the starring adult male role required him to step aside in producing and starring in the Hurricane Katrina drama The American Can, and offered the lead role to Denzel Washington instead. The shooting of the movie was also pushed back from September 2011 to January 2012.
On July 25, 2011, Smith traveled to Costa Rica accompanied by an entourage of about 20 people, including Shyamalan, to scout for locations to shoot the film. They visited sites like the Arenal Volcano, hot springs and a lake, and some beaches.
In September, Columbia committed to a June 7, 2013 release date. Shyamalan also scouted locations in Philadelphia. 50% of the filming was to take place at the new Sun Center Studios in Delaware County (Chester Township). Other locations would be in Costa Rica, Utah and Northern California. Shyamalan also visited Valley Forge Military Academy, known for being the filming location of Taps, for research of the film, then entitled After Earth, as Jaden Smith would be playing a military cadet of the future.
The screenplay by Whitta and Shyamalan was later polished by Stephen Gaghan and Mark Boal. Jonathan Young, PhD, from the Joseph Campbell Archives, polished the mythic journey structure. Principal photography for After Earth began in February 2012. Much of the filming took place in Costa Rica, Humboldt County, and Aston.
After Earth became the first film from Sony to be both shot and presented in the emerging 4K digital format. It was primarily shot with Sony's CineAlta F65 camera, which was shipped in January 2012. However, a skydiving sequence required a smaller sized Canon Cinema EOS C500 4K camera mounted on the helmet of a professional skydriver. The cinematographer Peter Suschitzky who picked Sony F65 digital camera for the movie over other digital and film cameras, argued that benefits of film are lost when shown in theaters with digital projectors, as many are today.
On April 19, 2013, Shyamalan announced that the release date had been moved a week earlier to May 31, 2013 in North America and Korea, which put it against Now You See Me and The Purge, scheduled to open in the United States in the same week. A few days later, the U.S. release of The Purge was rescheduled for June 7, 2013, taking over the slot vacated by After Earth.
On May 3, it was revealed that Korean-American singer Jay Park would be participating on the official soundtrack of the film in Korea, with a song titled "I Like 2 Party". On May 5, a 30-second snippet of the song was released with a trailer.
The estimated worldwide marketing budget for After Earth was approximately $100 million in addition to the $135 million to produce the film. Initial marketing began online with an internet marketing campaign on Facebook and Google+, including a teaser trailer. Alongside the Facebook marketing is a Web 2.0 site that lets people "scroll" through different images and paragraphs in a complex dynamic way. An image of Jaden's character in costume was released online on February 15, 2012. Later in the year, a theatrical teaser was released alongside a trailer for the competing Joseph Kosinski film Oblivion. On March 12, a modified version of After Earth's theatrical teaser was released as the official trailer. The official trailer was broadcast as a TV Spot during late May 2013. The trailer featured the menu music of the video game Deus Ex: Human Revolution, composed by Michael McCann.
In a stark contrast to his previous films, Shyamalan's name was notably absent from trailers, TV commercials, and marketing signage. Instead, Sony Pictures opted to feature Will and Jaden Smith prominently in the marketing campaign. Sony's worldwide marketing and distribution chairman, Jeff Blake, said that "Night is, without a doubt, a world-class filmmaker who we were thrilled to team up with on this project," but "Together, we decided to focus our campaign on both the action and Will and Jaden given that 'After Earth' is an adventure story of a father and son." Alex Suskind of Moviefone pointed out to Shyamalan that After Earth was not being marketed on the strength of his name unlike his previous projects, to which he responded, "There's such a specific expectation that comes with a name. It's nice to have people watch the movie and then have them talk about the storyteller; it's a healthy balance."
On April 24, XPRIZE, Sony and Overbook launched the XPRIZE After Earth Challenge, a robotics competition to promote the May 31 release of After Earth. Dr. Peter H. Diamandis, chairman and CEO of XPRIZE said "After Earth is not only a spectacular science fiction adventure but it also underscores the importance of protecting our planet, something we value deeply at XPRIZE. We are pleased to partner with the visionary team at Overbrook to present a complimentarily themed educational competition focusing on the sustainability of the Earth." Eligible teams (2–5 students between the ages of 13 and 17 with 1 adult captain) were able to register for the two-stage competition by visiting www.XPRIZEAfterEarth.com until June 7, 2013. In the first stage, teams create a 2–3 minute video essay that answers targeted questions and describes their thinking on the importance of space exploration, and the relationship between sustainability and survival. Ten teams selected for phase 2 of the contest are then given a Lego Mindstorms robotic kit and a Sony Handycam HDR-PJ230 camcorder to design and build a playfield for their robot to complete a series mission tasks in one or more of four thematic areas: (1) Natural resources, (2) Renewable energy, (3) Agriculture, and (4) Shelter/Protection. The winning team will be announced on August 9, 2013 and featured on the U.S. Blu-ray Disc of After Earth, and all members of that team will receive a signed Blu-ray and other prizes.
The film premiered on May 29 at Ziegfeld Theatre in New York City, with a wide variety of celebrities attending including Bruce Willis, 50 Cent, Spike Lee, and Justin Bieber. Canadian comedian Russell Peters who made fun of Shyamalan when accepting the Razzie Award on his behalf for The Last Airbender also attended and even posed with Shyamalan.
Sony Electronics hosted an exclusive 4K screening of After Earth at the Paramount Studios Theater on Friday May 31 during the 2013 Cine Gear Expo in Hollywood. The event was held for registered Cine Gear Expo attendees and Sony guests from 6:30-9:30 pm followed by a panel discussion with the filmmakers and production team. After guests filled the 500-plus-seat theater, a second screening was held on Saturday June 1 to accommodate additional guests from 7:30 pm to 9:30 pm.
On June 6, the European Space Agency (ESA) partnered with Sony Pictures International to support the release of the film, stating that it shares common themes in the film of concern for Earth's future and educating the next generation. ESA and Sony are holding the After Earth competition to win the opportunity to go to Bordeaux, France and have a 'space experience' in weightlessness on a 'parabolic' flight on Novespace's ZERO-G aircraft. The winner will receive paid travel expenses to and from Bordeaux and one night's accommodation for two people, and will only be eligible to participate in the reduced gravity aircraft on October 25 following a medical exam.
|This article is in a list format that may be better presented using prose. (February 2014)|
Several books were released as supplemental tie-ins for the film.
|No.||Title||Author||Illustrator||Format||Publisher||Release Date||Serial Number|
|1||After Earth: The official novel of the epic film After Earth||Peter David||Paperback (416 pages)||Del Rey||May 28, 2013||ISBN 978-0345543202|
|Contains an expanded story of the film and supplemental stories|
|2||After Earth: Innocence||Michael Jan Friedman; Robert Greenberger||Benito Lobel||Comic book (36 pages)||Del Rey||November 14, 2012||ISBN 978-0345537256|
|A prequel comic book to After Earth.|
|3||After Earth: United Ranger Corps Survival Manual||Robert Greenberger||Hardcover (144 pages)||Insight Editions LLC||May 21, 2013||ISBN 978-1608872350|
|An illustrated manual that describes the After Earth universe from the history of the United Ranger Corps, to humanity's exodus from Earth, and the ongoing battle against the Skrel. Contains the secrets of ghosting, the mastery of the cutlass, a schematic of the Ranger base, a complete guide to the highly evolved animals of Earth, and even a handwritten journal entry from Cypher Raige.|
|4||After Earth: Kitai's Journal||Christine Peymani||Jason A. Katzenstein||Paperback (144 pages)||HarperCollins||May 21, 2013||ISBN 978-0062268570|
|A book with black-and-white illustrations for younger readers.|
During its opening weekend, After Earth took in $27.5 million in box office receipts in North America and $2.5M in South Korea. Sony Pictures projected a launch of around $38 million, but the actual number was 17% lower than the lowest pre-release expectation of $33 million. It finished in third place behind Fast & Furious 6, an action film, and Now You See Me, a caper film. Taking into account the popularity of principal actor Will Smith, the disappointing finish led The Wall Street Journal to call it a "flop". Ray Subers of Box Office Mojo noted the $27 million weekend placed it between two sci-fi flops of 2012 films with 200 million-plus budgets, Battleship ($25.5 million) and John Carter ($30.2 million), and also drew half of the co-stars' previous openings, Will Smith's Men in Black 3 ($54.6 million) and Jaden Smith's The Karate Kid ($55.7 million). Scott Mendelson from Forbes argued that Sony made a mistake of hiding M. Night Shyamalan as they promoted the film because for better or worse, the general public knows who he is and "His name on the marquee reflects that you’re not going to get a conventional genre film, that there may be something else up its sleeve."
Sony Pictures spokesman Steve Elzer said a weekend take of about $30 million in the United States and Canada would be a solid number for a movie that is not a branded sequel. Sony distribution chief Rory Bruer said "Certainly we would have liked to have done more, but this was always going to be a worldwide play." The Hollywood Reporter reported Sony insiders estimate a potential loss at about $20 million if the film does not gross high overseas, though estimates of top executives at several rival studios are much higher. On Jimmy Kimmel Live!, Will Smith admitted he was also disappointed with the box office performance and joked "Here's how I think about it Jimmy, let's be honest. Three is the new one. You know how many ones it takes to make a three?" and "It's been almost, like, two decades since I had a movie that wasn’t number one! ... That's over now, buddy! Thanks!"
On the worldwide release the following week, After Earth took in an estimated $45.5 million in 60 overseas markets, narrowly beating Fast & Furious 6 estimates of $45.3 million for the No. 1 spot at the international box office. Including the film's launch in South Korea, After Earth made an estimated total of $48.6 million at the international box office, bringing its worldwide gross to an estimated $95,192,000. Sources for Sony Pictures International Releasing said the overall launch was bigger than debuts in the same territories of Oblivion ($45.1 million), The Last Airbender ($42.7 million) and Jaden Smith vehicle The Karate Kid ($32.3 million). Sony distribution chief Rory Bruer said that Sony was happy with the overseas opening and expects much of the film's ticket sales to come from international markets and "It definitely was the exciting start we were looking for internationally."
After Earth was panned by most critics and is considered one of the worst movies to be released in 2013. Rotten Tomatoes gives the film a score of 11% based on 180 reviews, with the site's consensus: "After Earth is a dull, ploddingly paced exercise in sentimental sci-fi – and the latest setback for director M. Night Shyamalan's once-promising career." Metacritic gives it a score of 33/100 based on 41 reviews, indicating "generally unfavorable reviews". The film earned a B grade from audiences surveyed by CinemaScore on opening day. Under CinemaScore, a C grade is the equivalent of a failing grade, and a B grade signals general satisfaction.
Joe Morgenstern, film critic for The Wall Street Journal, opened his review by asking: "Is After Earth the worst movie ever made?" His answer was "Maybe not; there's always Battlefield Earth to remind us how low the bar can go." Like Morgenstern, Manohla Dargis of The New York Times made note of the film's use of central themes in Scientology before concluding the film was nothing more than a "big-screen vanity project". Los Angeles Times reviewer Betsy Sharkey wondered how the elder Smith could have gone from the charismatic performance in the serious film The Pursuit of Happyness, also co-starring his son, to the performance in After Earth. She also saw compounding problems in the creative process leading to a lack of subtlety and nuance: "The script has no nuance, none. And when Shyamalan moves into the director's chair, the script problems are magnified." Both Dustin Putman and Scott Foundas of Variety opined that the film was further proof that Shyamalan had become a "director-for-hire", with "his disinterest palpable from first frame to last". Peter Bradshaw of The Guardian gave the film one star out of five, calling it "another uncompromisingly terrible film ... featuring a triple-whammy of abysmal acting, directing and story" and saying that Jaden Smith "plays the role throughout with a face like a smacked bum" and "Kitai [Jaden Smith's character] must be like his dad: show no fear. Or any emotion. Or any acting talent of any sort."
Matt Zoller Seitz of RogerEbert.com awarded the film 3.5 stars out of 4 and commented that the movie is "a moral tale disguised as a sci-fi blockbuster. It's no classic, but it's a special movie: spectacular and wise." Jim Vejvoda of IGN awarded the film a 6.7 out of 10 and commented, "M. Night Shyamalan isn't quite back in top form here, but After Earth is certainly the best movie he's made in years." Charlie Jane Anders of Io9 commented that "Having suffered through Last Airbender, I can attest that this film is no Last Airbender... After Earth stays grounded, and manages to tell a pretty decent story." John Hayward of Breitbart.com said the movie is not nearly as bad as its box-office thud and scathing reviews would suggest, Shyamalan does a "solid job in the director's chair", and Jaden Smith is "really a decent actor."
The special effects received a mixed response. Rene Rodriguez of The Miami Herald said that "the CGI creatures in the film look as fake as the monkeys in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull" and Rebecca Murray of About.com said that the effects "look as though they've been created by someone who just got accepted to film school". Charlie McCollum of the San Jose Mercury News called them "surprisingly unconvincing, a step or two above the effects in those deliberately cheese ball sci-fi flicks the Syfy channel shows on Saturday night." Michael O’Sullivan of The Washington Post called the production design "blandly generic" and the special effects, props and costumes "cheap and slapdash-looking". However, Austin Kennedy of Film Geek Central said the special effects are "top-notch", John Depko and Susanne Perez of Daily Pilot said it is "impressive", Nathan Duke of Patch Media said it is "impressive enough", and Peter Feldman of The Citizen said it is "solid".
American astronaut Buzz Aldrin said the movie is "quite action packed" and a "touching father/son story" but is not realistic because "there was a lot of noise. In space, you don't get that much noise," a quote that is highly cited in the news and misconstrued as him nitpicking or panning the film. Aldrin was impressed by the set design stating that "the scenes of the cities were really remarkable" but differed significantly from his experience on the moon, which he described as "'magnificent desolation' in contrast to the magnificent experience that humanity could move itself ahead to get to the moon."
Ryan Nakashima of Associated Press was generally impressed with the film's 4K resolution picture quality, though the visual-effects shots that comprised about a third of the movie were done in 2K resolution to save on cost and time. Nakashima commented "I could see details I've never noticed before – the actors' tiny skin imperfections, or Smith's salt-and-pepper whiskers. In a distant shot of Smith's son Jaden running down a riverbed, I was struck by how many small rocks were defined clearly from such a distance. Yet other shots that included computer-generated cityscapes or otherworldly creatures looked less sharp." The cinematographer Peter Suschitzky was apologetic about that, saying "The movie is only half in true 4K. I'm sad about that. It still looks good."
Scott Wilkinson of AVS was similarly impressed by the visual effects (though he did not enjoy the movie itself): "Even sitting too far away, the movie itself looked gorgeous—sharp as a tack with beautiful colors. The smallest details, such as Jaden Smith's character in the far distance, somehow looked clearer than I would have expected under normal circumstances; I got the distinct impression that the image could have been blown up by quite a bit and no detail would have been lost. The CGI animals did look a bit artificial, but that didn't bother me very much at all."
Some critics were struck by what they saw as parallels in the movie's plot, dialogue and imagery with the Scientology teachings of L. Ron Hubbard particularly those in Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health and Dianetics: The Original Thesis. Similarly, Peter Travers of Rolling Stone compared the film to the Scientology-themed flop Battlefield Earth, describing the film as "an unholy mess of platitudes and posturing" that wastes the talents and charm of Will Smith. Pointing out Smith's alleged ties to Scientology, including his funding of New Village Leadership Academy, a school that uses Study Tech as its teaching method, Matt Patches of Vulture declared the movie probably the clearest evidence of Smith's investment in Scientology, and detailed how he saw the film paralleling its teachings. The Hollywood Reporter published a guest-column review written by former Scientology member Marc Headley which pointed out similar parallels. The Sun noted an observation made by a former Scientologist that the fictional Rangers Corps is similar to the church's Sea Org branch, which has its own cadet branch.
David S. Touretzky, a research professor at Carnegie Mellon and a well-known expert on and critic of Scientology dismissed these perceived parallels, saying "I don't see any Scientology content at all in this movie". He told Rich Juzwiak of Gawker, "The themes of the movie appear to be standard adventure fare: physical courage, coming of age, father/son relationships, battling danger to prove oneself and earn a father's respect. These are not Scientology themes. There is no mention of evil psychiatrists, mind control, engrams, etc." Touretzky also addressed multiple points made by the Scientology hypothesis including the film's marketing materials prominently featuring a volcano: "The original version of Dianetics did not have any pictures on the cover. After Hubbard dreamed up OT III around 1967, someone got the idea of putting a volcano on the cover of Dianetics to 'restimulate the engrams' of us nonbelievers and influence us to buy the book. But most Scientologists don't know anything about OT III or why there is a volcano on the cover of some versions of Dianetics."
A parody website cheerupwillsmith.com has gained some attention in the media, which was created for the purpose of cheering up Will Smith with the perceived failure of After Earth. Flyers were also posted in East Village, Manhattan requesting Scientology members to see After Earth a minimum of three times and then upload a positive video for Will Smith on that website. The site has a video mockumentary of two Sea Org members, along their way to see After Earth, recorded video praises for Will Smith from strangers and cajoled them into signing a billion-year contract with the Church of Scientology. When they delivered the signatures to a local branch of the church near Times Square, a church representative told them they were impersonating the church and threatened to call the police if they do not leave. The video and the site was created by Jason Selvig and Davram Stiefler of the comedy duo The Good Liars who had previously pretended to be Time Warner Cable representatives asking people how they can make service worse for customers.
The Church of Scientology International branded the Scientology claims as "silly nonsense" and a myth launched by a handful of self-promoters. The church's director of public affairs, Karin Pouw, stated to TheImproper magazine that "The film and its story line contain themes common to many of the world's philosophies, not unique to Scientology." While Pouw did not dispute the similarities, she countered that overcoming fear has been a universal theme in stories for thousands of years as well central to countless film plots. She noted the same logic would seemingly make Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace a Scientology-themed movie, which includes the dialogue, “Fear is the path to the Dark Side. Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, hate leads to suffering." Later, domain registrar and web-hosting company Go Daddy took down cheerupwillsmith.com citing "Copyright Infringement, Trademark Infringement, and False Identity", Joe Kloc of The Daily Dot presumes the complaints came from the Church of Scientology.
There was heavy criticism of Jaden Smith's role in the film. Christopher Orr of The Atlantic stated, "He is entirely lacking in the big-screen charisma that made his father one of Hollywood's major stars." Gary Wolcott of Tri-City Herald commented that "the 15-year old Jaden doesn't appear to demonstrate much talent and has zero charisma."
In response to the nepotism allegations, Gary Susman of Time magazine argued, "In Hollywood, such nepotism is no sin; in fact, it's often a selling point," and cited ten movies with father-child stars including Blown Away, Wall Street, Zoolander, and Lara Croft: Tomb Raider. HitFix also published an article which lists ten movies with similar family connections, including Knocked Up, This Is 40 and Rocky V. Abena Agyeman-Fisher of NewsOne.com suggested that the allegations were thinly-veiled racism and an example of a double standard being applied to black people, citing "the obvious favoritism" shown towards the Sheen family when Martin Sheen directed Cadence, which featured his son Charlie Sheen and himself, and also when his other son Emilio Estevez directed and acted in The Way with him. David S. Cohen of Variety pointed out that "putting family members into projects is hardly new, yet it rarely inspires such vituperation. Judd Apatow puts [his] wife Leslie Mann in[to] his pictures, for example, and nobody seems to mind."
|2013||MTV Movie Award||Summer's Biggest Teen Bad Ass Star||Jaden Smith||Nominated|
|World Soundtrack Award||Film Composer of the Year|
Also for The Bourne Legacy
|James Newton Howard||Nominated|
|2014||Golden Raspberry Award||Worst Picture||After Earth||Nominated|
|Worst Actor||Jaden Smith||Won|
|Worst Director||M. Night Shyamalan||Nominated|
|Worst Supporting Actor||Will Smith||Won|
|Worst Screenplay||M. Night Shyamalan and Gary Whitta (screenplay); Will Smith (story)||Nominated|
|Worst Screen Combo||Jaden Smith and Will Smith on planet nepotism||Won|