After Earth (2013)


Introduction

After Earth is a 2013 American post-apocalyptic action film directed by M. Night Shyamalan, who co-wrote it with Gary Whitta, based on an original story idea by Will Smith.

It is the second film after The Pursuit of Happyness that stars real-life father and son Will and Jaden Smith; Will Smith also produced via his company Overbrook Entertainment, and the distribution was by Columbia Pictures.

The film takes place in the 31st century, when the Earth has long been abandoned and humans have been in conflict with a mysterious alien race. It tells the story of a high-ranking general in the peacekeeping organisation Ranger Corps, and his son, who, after an incident during a spaceflight, find themselves fighting for survival on a hostile planet (which is Earth itself).

Outline

In the future, an environmental cataclysm forces the human race to abandon Earth in search of a new habitable planet, eventually settling on the planet Nova Prime.

A thousand years later, The Ranger Corps, a peacekeeping organisation commanded by General Cypher Raige, comes into conflict with the S’krell, alien creatures who intended to conquer Nova Prime. Their secret weapons are the Ursas, large predatory creatures that hunt by “sensing” fear. The Rangers struggle against the Ursas until Cypher learns how to completely suppress his fear, a technique called “ghosting”. After teaching this technique to the other Rangers, he leads the Ranger Corps to victory. Meanwhile, Cypher’s son Kitai Raige blames himself for the death of his sister Senshi at the hands of an Ursa. Kitai trains to become a Ranger like Cypher, but his application is rejected due to his recklessness, and Cypher views him as a disappointment. Kitai’s mother Faia convinces Cypher to take Kitai on his last voyage before retirement.

During flight, however, their spaceship is caught by an asteroid shower, causing them to crash-land on the now-quarantined Earth. Both of Cypher’s legs are broken, and the main beacon for firing a distress signal is damaged. Cypher instructs Kitai to locate the tail section of the ship, which broke off on entry to the atmosphere. Inside, is the backup beacon, which they can use to signal Nova Prime. Cypher gives Kitai his weapon, a wrist communicator and six capsules of a fluid that enhances the oxygen intake so he can breathe in Earth’s low-oxygen atmosphere. Cypher warns him to avoid the highly evolved fauna and flora, and be careful of violent thermal shifts. Kitai leaves to find the tail section, with Cypher guiding him through the communicator.

Kitai is attacked by giant monkeys and, during his escape, is bitten by a venomous leech. Kitai administers the antidote, but two of his capsules are damaged and his nervous system shuts down. When Kitai awakens, he narrowly escapes a thermal shift. Kitai lies to Cypher, not informing him of the damaged capsules. That night, Kitai listens to Cypher tell him a story of when he was attacked by an Ursa, how he realiaed that fear is merely an illusion created by the mind’s thoughts of the future, and thus he first began to “ghost” himself from the Ursas, choosing to live rather than to let his enemies, both fear and the Ursas, decide his fate.

The following day, Kitai reaches a mountaintop and Cypher learns about the broken capsules. Knowing that the only way to make it with the two capsules would be to skydive, Cypher orders Kitai to abort the mission. Believing that his father still sees him as a disappointment, Kitai blames Senshi’s death on Cypher’s absence on the day of the attack. He skydives from the mountaintop, but is captured by a large bird of prey and his communicator is damaged. Kitai wakes in a nest of the bird, where he is surrounded by big cats. The bird attacks the big cats, and Kitai, after himself defending the chicks against the cats, escapes. He reaches a river, and builds a raft to continue along the river. Tired, Kitai falls asleep on the raft. He dreams of his sister, Senshi, who reassures him that Cypher’s bitterness is just his own emotions for not saving her. Senshi urges Kitai to wake up and when he does, he is surprised by another thermal shift and nearly freezes to death. Kitai is rescued when the bird, who had lost its brood when the cats attacked, sacrifices itself for him.

Kitai reaches the tail section and retrieves the emergency beacon along with another communicator, weapon, and more oxygen capsules. The communicator only allows Cypher to see and hear Kitai, but not for Kitai to hear him. Kitai learns that the ship’s Ursa escaped and killed the rest of the crew. The emergency beacon does not activate, and Cypher realises that the atmosphere is blocking the signal. Kitai heads to and climbs up a nearby volcano from which he can fire the beacon, and is injured when the Ursa attacks him. Kitai is able to control his fear and “ghost” himself from the Ursa enough to kill it. He then fires the beacon. A rescue team arrives, and the two travel back to Nova Prime.

Cast

  • Jaden Smith as Kitai Raige.
    • Sincere L. Bobb as 3-year-old Kitai.
    • Jaden Martin as 9-year-old Kitai.
  • Will Smith as Cypher Raige.
  • Sophie Okonedo as Faia Raige.
  • Billy Campbell as Mike.
  • Zoë Kravitz as Senshi Raige.
  • Tessa Allen as Isabella.
  • Glenn Morshower as Commander Velan.
  • Kristofer Hivju as Security chief.
  • Sacha Dhawan as Hesper Pilot.
  • Chris Geere as Hesper Navigator.
  • Diego Klattenhoff as Veteran Ranger.
  • David Denman as Private McQuarrie.
  • Lincoln Lewis as Bo (Running Cadet).
  • Shiva Prabhukumar as Training Cadet.
  • Isabelle Fuhrman as Rayna (uncredited).

Production

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 production 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 06 August 2010 to wish him a “Happy Birthday” on his 40th birthday and also to persuade him to direct his film along 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 02 October 2010, 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 up both Will and Jaden Smith to co-star in the film with Shyamalan directing. Shyamalan, who also co-wrote the screenplay with Gary Whitta, also additionally co-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 25 July 2011, Smith travelled 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 2012, Columbia committed to a 07 June 2013 release date. Shyamalan also scouted locations in Philadelphia. 50% of the filming was to take place at the new Sun Centre Studios in Delaware County (Chester Township). Other locations would be in Costa Rica, Utah and Northern California. Shyamalan also visited Valley Forge Military Academy, the filming location of Taps (1981), 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, a psychologist and screenwriter, 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 also 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 theatres with digital projectors, as many are today.

On 19 April 2013, Shyamalan then announced that the release date had been moved a week earlier to 31 May 2013 in North America and Korea, which put it against Now You See Me and The Purge, scheduled to open in the US in the same week. A few days later, the US release of The Purge was rescheduled for 07 June 2013, taking over the slot vacated by After Earth.

On 03 May 2013, 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”. Then on 05 May 2013, another 30-second snippet of the song was then released with another teaser and trailer.

Marketing

The estimated worldwide marketing budget for After Earth was approximately $100 million in addition to the $130 million budget 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 “Kitai” in costume was released online on 15 February 2012.

Later on in the same year, another theatrical teaser was released alongside a trailer for the competing Joseph Kosinski film Oblivion (2013). On 12 March 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.

Books

Several books were released as supplemental tie-ins for the film:

After Earth: Innocence by Michael Jan Friedman and Robert Greenberger, illustrated by Benito Lobel. Innocence is a prequel comic book to After Earth released by Del Rey Books on 14 November 2012.

After Earth: United Ranger Corps Survival Manual is an illustrated manual that describes the After Earth universe from the history of the United Ranger Corps written by Robert Greenberger. It was published through Insight Editions LLC and released on 21 May 2013. The book also follows humanity’s exodus from Earth, and the ongoing battle against the Skrel. It 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 a handwritten journal entry from Cypher Raige.

After Earth: A Perfect Beast (“The official prequel novel of the epic film After Earth”) by Michael Jan Friedman, Robert Greenberger, and Peter David is set nearly 600 years after humanity finds, and colonizes, the planet Nova Prime. The paperback book, published by Del Rey Books on 30 April 2013, is set about 300 years after the last Skrel attack and the Rangers are in danger of being disbanded. Then, the Skrel attack with a new weapon — a bioweapon. The book also contains supplemental stories set just over 400 years further into the future. Main focus is on the Raige family and their Ranger heritage.

After Earth: Kitai’s Journal written by Christine Peymani illustrated Jason A. Katzenstein is a paperback book with black-and-white illustrations for younger readers released by HarperCollins on 21 May 2013.

After Earth: The official novel of the epic film After Earth by Peter David was released in paperback by publishing company Del Rey Books on 28 May 2013. The book features an expanded story of the film as well as supplemental stories.

Release

Box Office

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”.

Will Smith’s Response

In an interview with Esquire, Smith called the film “the most painful failure” of his career and expressed regret at leading his son into the production. He also unfavourably compared the experience to Wild Wild West, which also underperformed expectations at the box office.

Cancelled Franchise

After Earth was intended to be the first instalment of a new franchise. Pitched to the studio by Will Smith, the intention was to launch a multimedia franchise titled 1000 AE. Plans were originally for After Earth to be followed by a sequel, a live action television series, an animated television series, webisodes, mobisodes, a video game, consumer products, theme-park attractions, documentaries, comics, an educational program collaboration in partnership with NASA, cologne and perfume lines, and a social media platform. Though Smith wanted AE to be an immersive experience for the audience, the movie ultimately was poorly received and lost money at the box office. All plans for a continuation were abandoned.

Trivia

  • The film was released in IMAX on 31 May 2013.
  • Upon release, After Earth was panned by film critics; its acting was criticised as melodramatic, and the writing and storytelling were also singled out for mainstream criticism.
  • This film and Shyamalan’s previous film The Last Airbender are most commonly considered to be the lowest point of his directorial career, which had been in progressive decline after he had directed a series of critically panned films.

Production & Filming Details

  • Director(s): M. Night Shyamalan.
  • Producer(s): Caleeb Pinkett, Jada Pinkett Smith, Will Smith, James Lassiter, an M. Night Shyamalan.
  • Writer(s): Will Smith.
  • Music: James Newton Howard.
  • Cinematography: Peter Suschitzky.
  • Editor(s): Steven Rosenblum.
  • Production: Columbia Pictures, Overbrook Entertainment, Blinding Edge Pictures, and Relativity Media.
  • Distributor(s): Sony Pictures Releasing.
  • Release Date: 01 May 2013 (Tokyo) and 31 May 2013 (US).
  • Running Time: 100 minutes.
  • Rating: PG-13.
  • Country: US.
  • Language: English.

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