"This is a Class 1 quarantined planet. The threats we will be facing are real. Everything in this planet is evolved to kill humans. Every single decision we make will be life or death."
— Cypher Raige
After Earth is a science-fiction film starring Will Smith and his son Jaden Smith, the second movie to star both Smiths after The Pursuit of Happyness. It was released on May 31, 2013.Father and son, Cypher and Kitai Raige, are the sole survivors of a spaceship that crashed on a Death World, Earth. Now they must survive long enough to activate the distress beacon in the wreckage of their ship.The original story idea comes from Smith himself, though he hired a screenwriter to develop the idea more thoroughly. The film's director, M. Night Shyamalan, also made a few passes at it, although his involvement is so downplayed that it isn't mentioned in any of the trailers. It was ravaged by critics and wound up as one of Will Smith's worst-performing movies at the box office.
This film provides examples of:
A Father to His Men: General Cypher Raige is respected and looked up to by his fellow rangers, including one who was apparently saved by him from an Ursa.
Abusive Parents: The dinner table scene goes a bit too far with Cypher's aloofness to his son, making him seem like this instead, especially when you learn the reason for it is that he resents Kitai leaving his sister to be killed by an Ursa, when he would have undoubtedly just been killed himself if he'd stayed.
After the End: The setting of the film is set a thousand years after humans almost destroyed Earth by environmental mismanagement and were forced to emigrate to another planet, where they encountered a hostile alien species with which they entered into a prolonged war. Exactly what happened is explained in supplemental material.
Anti-True Sight: The alien monsters can detect humans by smelling the pheromones released by fear, Ghosting is a technique in which the subject feels no fear and becomes invisible to the monster.
Artistic License - Biology: Evolution does not work that fast. Biological changes on the scale depicted take millions, not thousands of years, and most plants and animals would have gone extinct trying to adapt to temperatures that fall far below freezing each night. In the time it would take for animals to change that much, humans would have changed significantly as well. Also, why would the animals continue evolving abilities to efficiently kill humans if humans don't even live on Earth any more?
Artistic License - Physics: A little thing called the greenhouse effect renders wild temperature swings like those seen in the movie impossible. Besides which, if such temperature swings were possible, then the trek to the tail would be impossible on account of the massive superstorms rendering the path impassable.
Body Horror: Kitai is bitten by a leech-like creature that causes a gruesome infection in his hand. Also, the way the Ursa sets up traps to frighten its human prey certainly count. It impales them on tree branches.
Breath Weapon: The Ursa can launch an acid-like projectile from their mouths.
Chameleon Camouflage: The Ursa can go invisible, and decloak when they strike, presumably to get a better bead on their now-spooked target.
Convection Schmonvection: Kitai takes refuge in a cave with a ledge overlooking an active lava flow and is no worse for wear, and even lights a campfire to make it cozier. Later on, after nearly freezing to death in the wilderness, he runs and jumps up the side of an active volcano, coming within feet of large cracks that glow with the heat of the lava.
Cool Big Sis: Kitai's big sis, Ranger Senshi. She was killed by an Ursa protecting him as a child.
Death World: Earth has become one, with the planet's ecosystems being dangerous to the now offworld-living humans. (However, only one of the animals that attacked Kitai — the leech — did so without provocation. He threw a rock at the baboon, challenged the cat, and the eagle... had its own reasons.)
Do Not Try This at Home: Do not attempt to be outside in an ash cloud, especially without a breathing apparatus. Volcanic ash particles turn to cement when they are inhaled, causing rapid suffocation.
Double Meaning: "Where is my son?" from a father who is disappointed his son failed to become a ranger. "I've lost contact with our son." Cypher brought Kitai on the mission to establish contact with his son.
Dream Sequence: Kitai goes to sleep on a raft floating down a river. It is immediately clear that he is dreaming, as his sister is there.
Earth That Was: Earth as a planet is fine, it's just that it isn't inhabited by humans anymore.
Eyeless Face: The Ursa, completely blind monsters that have been genetically engineered to hunt humans by the smell of the pheromones released when a human becomes frightened.
Finagle's Law: Cypher estimates that the chances of the Ursa surviving is the least likely. Guess what actually happens.
Foreshadowing: Kitai tells his father he is reading Moby Dick, a novel about a physically disabled captain pursuing a monster. Guess what happens to the commander of the ship?
Generation Xerox: After the death of his Ranger sister, Kitai wants to become a Ranger (and possibly a Ghost too) so that his father has someone to be proud of.
Green Aesop: Apparently humans screwed Earth up so badly that it was uninhabitable. However, when Kitai sees Earth, it's a world of stunning vistas and incredible wildlife—within just a thousand years, nature has reclaimed the world and cleaned it up rather nicely. So along with an environmental message, the film also lets us know that nature's tougher than we suspect. That said, the wildlife is much bolder than while humans lived there. They're not actually "evolved to kill humans", but they're perfectly capable of killing them anyway.
Happy Flashback: Both Cypher and Kitai have a couple of flashbacks to happier times with their family.
Heroic Sacrifice: The giant bird that took Kitai to its nest earlier in the film saves him after he fails to reach a hot spot. Most likely because of his attempts to save its chicks from the cats earlier. It dies in the process of keeping him warm.
Hollywood Tactics: The strange tactics implied to be in use (such as favouring mêlée weapons over ranged ones) are justified since the film is set in a human culture that's trying to avoid ultra-high-tech dominance, preferring organically-dominant technology with as little high-tech as they want to risk. This allows for stylized action sequences involving the use of swords/spears, martial arts, and agile chase scenes.
How We Got Here: The opening shot shows Kitai awakening after the ship's crash. Then the movie cuts back to three days earlier, explaining how he ended up there.
I'm Not Afraid Of You: Because they track down prey using fear pheromones, if the target is unafraid, the Ursa is blind to them. Suppressing all fear for this purpose is known as "ghosting".
The Ursa takes bodies of people it has killed and impales them on tree branches, letting survivors know it's around to get them good and scared.
At the climax of the movie, after Kitai learns how to "ghost" like his father, he stabs the Ursa multiple times.
Informed Ability: For a world where "everything has evolved to kill humans", there is remarkably little that's actually hostile. Apart from the Ursa, and the wildlife doesn't seem any more dangerous than what we have today.
Living Weapon: The Ursa, a species genetically engineered by the unnamed aliens antagonizing humanity to hunt humans by smell. They look like six-legged things as large as elephants with smooth skin where their eyes should be.
Mama Bear: Do not come between the giant eagle and her offspring. She also becomes protective of Kitai after she loses all her chicks, watching over him from above and saving him from freezing to death.
Mission Control: Cypher spends most of the film confined to the wreckage of the fore of the crashed spaceship, where he takes pains to always maintain the cool, detached façade of a military commander.
Mook Horror Show: The Ursa kills about twenty baboons for no apparent reason, leaving their carcasses in a heap.
Morph Weapon: The Cutlass; its unique design extends its sharp bladed ends in a variety of shapes which can be chosen by the holder, each blade shape seemingly fitting a different style of attack.
No Escape but Down: Kitai has to jump off a cliff in order to safe himself from a tiger-like beast.
Panthera Awesome: Some sort of big cats attack the eagle nest. They don't go after Kitai, though; they're more interested in the helpless baby birds. They only attack Kitai when he decides to defend the eaglets.
Redshirt Army: Most of the crew of the transport ship is just there to be killed by either the crash or the Ursa.
Retirony: The mission that led to Cypher and his son crash-landing on Earth was supposed to be Cypher's last voyage before retirement. Subverted, as he is severely wounded but survives.
Rule of Drama: The only reason there is so much soul-searching and bickering about the past when the main characters should instead be focused on survival is because it's dramatic.
When not being attacked by the extremely dangerous fauna, the landscapes of Earth are absolutely breathtaking.
Nova Prime is richly designed, particularly after building the human settlements.
Space Amish: The background material states that a new religion was founded which opposes industrialization. The Rangers seem to have a particular aversion to projectile weapons — the only weapon they are shown using are their shape-shifting "Cutlass" melee weapons.
Subverted with regards to the giant bird. After Kitai attempts to protect the bird's chicks, it follows him, and ultimately sacrifices itself to keep him warm after he passes out from the freezing temperatures.
The Ursa impales some of the crew on the ship to cause fear in Kitai so it can sense where he is and chase after him during the lengthy climax.
Tranquil Fury: What General Cypher and later Kitai display when taking on the Ursa. They are both eerily calm while there are giant monsters thrashing around them, and in the former's case, people being killed.
Very Loosely Based on a True Story: Smith was reportedly inspired by an episode of the Reality Television/documentary show I Shouldn't Be Alive. The episode in question featured a father-and-son duo who crashed their car in a remote area, with the son having to go for help alone.
Troubled Backstory Flashback: The film often cuts to scenes taking place in the past, all involving Ranger Senshi, Kitai's deceased elder sister.
Voice with an Internet Connection: Cypher is injured in the crash, requiring Kitai to venture out alone with a two-way communicator that lets his father see everything that's going on and remain in constant contact with Kitai.
What the Hell Is That Accent?: All the humans speak in a strange quasi-Boston affected accent that's supposed to be some sort of "future English."