Will Smith’s ‘After Earth’ is coming out Friday, May 31, and it will be interesting to see if it’s commercially successful. The plot of AE revolves around a father and son who become stranded on Earth 1,000 years into the future, after climate change has essentially “evicted” humanity from the planet. Yawn. Complicating matters is that M. Night Shyamalan is the director (‘Unbreakable’ is still an underrated movie), and Jaden Smith — who simply does not have his father’s charm — stars opposite his father.
With that said, no matter how ‘After Earth’ does at the box office, it should be said that on many levels Will Smith “gets” life on Earth.
“I don’t want to be an icon. I want to be an idea. I want to represent an idea. I want to represent possibilities. I want to represent magic. You’re in a universe and two plus two equals four. Two plus two only equals four if you accept that two plus two equals four. Two plus two is going to be what I want it to be. There’s a redemptive power that making a choice has rather than feeling that you’re an effect of all the things that are happening. Make a choice. Just decide what it’s going to be, who you’re going to be, and how you’re going to do it. Just decide, and from that point the universe is going to get out of your way. It’s water. It wants to move and go around stuff. So for me, I want to represent possibilities. I want to represent that you really can make what you want. … I believe that I can create what I want to create. It’s hard to put into words. … I feel very strongly that we are who we want to be,” (Will Smith, 2009).
Scary unintentional Orwellian references aside, Smith is on to something when he asserts that we are who we want to be. It’s a message that you can get by paying a lot of money to listen to Tony Robbins deliver in person, or it’s a message that will cost you the price of admission when you see Zack Snyder’s “Man of Steel” later this summer:
Tony Robbins: If you want to know the difference in people’s lives it all comes down to: “What are the things that are ‘musts’ for you vs. ‘shoulds’? So let me tell you this: In order to have an extraordinary life you got to have an extraordinary psychology, right? An extraordinary psychology means you need to live in an extraordinary state. To be in an extraordinary state you’ve got to condition your nervous system, you body, physiology and focus to be at their best. … You can do that, but why doesn’t everybody? It’s not because you can’t. We all have the ability. It’s because of our standards.
Pa Kent (Teaser Trailer 2): You’re not just anyone. One day you’re going to have to make a choice. You have to decide what kind of man you want to grow up to be. Whoever that man is — good character or bad — he’s going to change the world.
Anyone who takes 30 seconds to ask themselves “Do I want to be a ‘good’ person or a ‘bad’ person?” and “Do I want to be a successful person or a walking disaster?” can rattle off a list of traits that, if followed, will set them on the path to becoming the person they want to be.
Like a ship in the ocean, if the mariner has a sturdy boat, a course mapped out, some inner fortitude and a compass that works, he’s going to get to his destination. Winds and rains and other calamities might push him off course here and there, but the captain with his mind made up will cut through the water to where he wants to go on a long enough timeline. Life is the same way, and Will Smith’s depiction of the universe as water is dangerously accurate.
If you’re looking for inspirational quotes from Will Smith, head on over to YouTube. There’s quite a few of them. If you watch them without wondering to what extent he believes in Xenu it will be well worth your time.
In regards to whether or not ‘After Earth’ is worth seeing opening weekend (or any weekend for that matter), the jury is still out. It’s a bad sign when only days before a movie opens there are still zero reviews on Rotten Tomatoes…
I leave you with a quote from the Smith family’s interview with ComingSoon.net:
“At the core of it you have a father and son story that’s centered on an idea about fear. I just love the tagline “the danger is real, but fear is a choice”; it’s a really poignant concept to me. … [In regards to the father/son dynamic, there] are great similarities between Jaden and Will and Cypher and Kitai. My character is this great general and his son is a young cadet coming up in the military world in the shadow of his father, so we have an opportunity to really discuss the “Cypher and Kitai” issues in their in relationship while secretly truly dealing with some issues that “Jaden and Will” were bumping into,” (Will Smith on ‘After Earth’).
Once again, Smith shows that he is a man of ideas. Bravo. Earth needs more men and women of ideas — but the question in this case becomes less about the idea of fear and more about whether or not ‘After Earth’ is really just a multi-million dollar vehicle from which a family of entertainers can untangle their psychological silly string and still manage to make a profit.
My guess is that ‘After Earth’ will under perform because nobody wants to see a muted Will Smith playing a supporting role to a teenage kid who lacks the chops (at least at this point in his career) to sustain a summer blockbuster.