A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that After Earth -- which stars Will Smith and his son Jaden and was directed by M. Night Shyamalan -- is a scary monster movie with a few dead bodies and some blood. The alien monster is grotesque, overpowering, and able to trick humans into feeling fear, and viewers see a few of his human victims impaled on tree branches. No main characters die, but a majestic eagle who saves a boy's life sacrifices its own to do so, and viewers see animal carcasses. Punctuating the exciting and violent sci-fi action are laughs and scenes of strong family warmth and bonding, strong role models, and positive life lessons learned.
What's the story?
A thousand years in the future, Kitai (Jaden Smith) and his father, Cypher (Will Smith), are the only survivors when their spaceship crash lands on uninhabited Earth. Cypher is left unable to walk, and so he must use remote technology to guide Kitai on his journey to find the distress beacon that can save their lives. Once communications are cut off, Kitai must make his way alone through dangerous territory. Throughout their ordeal, both father and son are strengthened by warm family memories of mother Faia (Sophie Okonedo) and sister Senshi (Zoe Kravitz). Even though physically absent, their strong bonds clearly help keep Kitai going until he's finally able to face his fears and defeat the alien monster tracking him along the way.
Is it any good?
AFTER EARTH presents a future with a lot of cool technology and eye candy. And director M. Night Shyamalan deftly weaves excellent special effects action and excitement with the development of the father-son relationship. As Cypher, Will Smith convincingly portrays the stern, strict military man, often away from home on long tours of duty and unable to show much emotion to others. Jaden Smith, as Katai, has a few weak points in his performance (why was he asked to use that accent in the first place?), but he capably carries the bulk of the action. Predictably, the father and son are ultimately able to bond and demonstrate their emotions to one another, but watching them get there in front of the sci-fi action backdrop sure is a lot of fun.
There's a lot to admire here, especially the strong family bonds and positive role modeling of all the main characters, even though the Will Smith formula feels familiar. The heartbreaking deaths of some animals and the super-scary alien monster add emotional depth and thrills, but the action is punctuated with genuine laughs and family warmth, which takes the edge off. Overall, this is a solid sci-fi action movie with strong positive messages about family that teens and possibly older tweens can enjoy with their parents.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about movies set in the future. What makes them so appealing? Which are your favorites?
Was the violence and blood shown in After Earth necessary to tell the story? What other ways filmmakers can create excitement=?
How does Kitai overcome his fear? Is there something you're afraid of that keeps you from realizing your potential? Teens: Have your parents given you words of wisdom that you rely on in tough times?
Compare Earth today, with all its majestic beauty and dangers, to the planet that the Raige family lives on. The future world looks pretty sweet and has lots of cool tech. Is there anything on today's Earth worth trying to save?
- In theaters: May 31, 2013
- On DVD or streaming: October 8, 2013
- Cast: Jaden Smith, Will Smith, Zoe Kravitz
- Director: M. Night Shyamalan
- Studio: Columbia Pictures
- Genre: Action/Adventure
- Topics: Adventures, Brothers and sisters, Great boy role models, Space and aliens
- Run time: 100 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: sci-fi action violence and some disturbing images
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.