Because the film was not shown to journalists until Wednesday night, specific information about its plot and its prospects have been elusive.
What's clear is that despite advertising suggesting the contrary, the film's real star is the actor's teenage son, Jaden. But there are other questions.
Here's a primer on six issues the movie raises.
Does it really feel like the story is about Scientology?
Some Internet banter has noted the similarities between the movie’s plot, dialogue and imagery with the teachings of L. Ron Hubbard’s Scientology. At one point in the movie, Will Smith’s character says, “Fear is not real. It is a product of thoughts you create.” Human characters in “After Earth” are detected by alien creatures by the fear they exhibit, and can survive only by relaxing. Some of that plot mirrors Hubbard’s teachings, which focus on overcoming fear. In his book “Dianetics: The Original Thesis,” Hubbard writes, “A Clear is relaxed in a fully conscious state, untroubled by aberrated fears.” An iconic image in “Dianetics” is an erupting volcano, which also plays a prominent part in the conclusion of “After Earth.” Said Rolling Stone critic Peter Travers: “
How much is Will Smith in the movie?
The movie’s trailer suggests that Will Smith and his 14-year-old son, Jaden, share equal screen time. That’s not actually the case. The film’s action is precipitated by the crash of a spaceship on Earth, a millennium after the planet became uninhabitable. Cypher Raige (Will Smith) and Kitai Raige (
Will audiences recognize it as an M. Night Shyamalan film?
There are no major plot twists, as there was in Shyamalan’s “The Sixth Sense,” and because the film stars a 14-year-old, the acting isn’t likely to attract comparisons to the filmmaker’s best-known works. Although the director’s films sometimes feature sci-fi twists (“The
Will it lose to the second weekend of "Fast & Furious 6" at the box office?
My colleague Amy Kaufman, who’s usually infallible at these sorts of calls, says that’s almost a certainty. Though some box-office prognosticators say “After Earth” should win the weekend, the odds favor
Sony and Smith's production company, Overbrook Entertainment, would certainly hope to have that option, and there is a listing for "After Earth 2" on IMDB.com. Even though the film's ending sets up a possible follow-up, if the movie tanks at the box office, a sequel would be a long shot at best. Unless Jaden Smith can't get hired anywhere else.
What's with Will and Jaden Smith's accents?
We have no idea.