The Film Formula: After Earth

The Film Formula: After Earth

We discover the different elements behind the post-apocalyptic survival film starring Will and Jaden Smith

The Film Formula is our new series aimed at boiling down big releases to their most basic elements. This time round, it’s After Earth

Coming so soon after Tom Cruise-starrer Oblivion, it's hard not to tar After Earth with the same brush. Both come bursting with nifty CGI-aided technology; both feature isolated, jumpsuited protagonists making their way across post-apocalyptic Earth, radio-linked to a supporting cast member; both feature an A-list male star who we've seen fulfil this type of role a dozen times before. After Earth doesn't seem to have any of the 'flea-bitten human survivor tribes' element that Oblivion lifted so cleanly from the Mad Max series, but then it does have...

... squads of aggressive baboons which, in a post-apocalyptic environment, just screams Planet of the Apes. Fair enough, it wasn't revealed that the titular Planet was actually Earth until the very end (that movie's too old and well-known to suffer spoiler effects, right?), but when Smith Sr says to Smith Jr, 'Everything on this planet has evolved to kill humans,' we can help but trace that evolutionary link back to our nearest, hairiest relatives.

That said, if you're tracing back that far, you might as well keep going til you hit dinosaurs. Yep, there's a smidgen of Jurassic Park going on here as well, with the stunning natural vistas underscored by a sense of threat from the local untamed fauna. Think it's a bit far-fetched? Skip the trailer forward to around 2:08. That's a prehistoric sabre-toothed tiger if ever we saw one. Plus, do you remember JP's human element, with Sam Neill having to use his paleontologist expertise to help shepherd the clueless kids through the jungle? That's exactly what's going on here...

... Well, maybe not exactly - with all the post-apocalyptia and a tone that veers closer to sombre than awe-struck, you'd have to mix a bit of The Road's father/son grittiness in to get the right flavour. Viggo Mortensen does all he can for his only child in that grief-stricken wasteland, and Smith Sr certainly seems to share that motivation...

... much as he did in I Am Legend. His family had already bitten the dust by the time we meet him prowling a deserted New York, but their memory is what drives him on his quest for a cure against vampirification. The comparison with Legend don't stop there, either - Smith's dearly departed daughter in that film was played by one Willow Smith, aka Jaden's younger sister. The Smith family's post-apocalyptic parent/child adventure continues.

(Jurassic Park / The Road) x Oblivion + Planet of the Apes = I Am Legend2 (aka After Earth)

After Earth Official Trailer #1 (2013) - Will Smith Movie HD

After Earth

  • 2 stars
  • 2013
  • US
  • 1h 40min
  • 12A
  • Directed by: M. Night Shyamalan
  • Cast: Will Smith, Jaden Smith, Isabelle Fuhrman

Director Shyamalan follows a disastrous run (The Happening, The Last Airbender) with this sci-fi drama featuring father and son Will and Jaden Smith crashing back to Earth in the next millennium.