After Earth is a family affair, reuniting Will and Jaden Smith for the first time since 2006’s The Pursuit Of Happyness.
M Night Shyamalan’s sci-fi blockbuster is a perfect vehicle for Smith Snr to pass on the mantle, combining elements of I Am Legend and Independence Day with a deeply human story of a soldier struggling to connect with his child.
Set 1,000 years after cataclysmic events that almost snuffed out mankind, After Earth is a rites-of-passage story viewed largely through the eyes of a boy desperate to impress his idol.
In the distant future, Earth is a devastated wasteland, uninhabited by humans who have relocated to Nova Prime.
This new planet is home to an alien race called The Skrel, which views humans as vermin.
So The Skrel unleash The Ursa: hideously deformed creatures which prey on fear.
One man, General Cypher Raige (Will Smith) from the Ranger Corps, learns to overcome his fear through a phenomenon called “ghosting”, which allows him to walk among The Ursa undetected.
Cypher’s son Kitai (Jaden Smith) trains for the Corps in order to overcome his guilt about the death of his older sister (Zoe Isabella Kravitz).
However, Kitai is reckless, and his application is rejected, leading Cypher’s wife Faia (Sophie Okonedo) to instigate father-son bonding on her husband’s final mission.
An asteroid storm damages their spaceship, which crashes on Earth.
With his father critically ill, Kitai must stay cool to retrieve a rescue beacon and alert HQ to their predicament.
While there are tender moments in Shyamalan’s script, emotions are often overwhelmed by a blitzkrieg of special effects and action sequences. We can at least be thankful that the novelty of 3D is not employed here - Kitai’s predators look unrealistic enough in 2D.