A crash landing leaves teenager Kitai Raige (Jaden Smith) and his legendary father Cypher (Will Smith) stranded on Earth, 1,000 years after cataclysmic events forced humanity’s escape, in Columbia Pictures’ new, futuristic action-adventure “After Earth.”
With Cypher critically injured, Kitai must embark on a perilous journey to signal for help, facing uncharted terrain, evolved animal species that now rule the planet, and an unstoppable alien creature that escaped during the crash. Father and son must learn to work together and trust one another if they want any chance of returning home.
The origins of the project began with an ordinary evening at home. After making “The Karate Kid,” as 14-year-old actor Jaden Smith and his parents were considering the teen’s next project, it was important to both father and son Will and Jaden to work together again. “Jaden and I were sitting around one night, watching TV and talking about how we’d liked working together on `Pursuit of Happyness,’ and that we might want to do that again,” says Will Smith.
“As we’re talking about looking for that story, with the news on in the background, Jaden says, ‘Maybe I’m your son, I’m in trouble, and you have to come home from war.’ That turned into an idea of a father and son who go off on a bonding trip to Alaska, and they have to get through the wilderness. It was just fun, an interesting conversation until we juxtaposed the idea of setting the story a thousand years in the future – and then the whole concept of `After Earth’ started to explode in our minds.”
Will Smith would write the story for the film, but that was just the beginning – the filmmakers envisioned a very rich universe encompassing various arenas outside of the film itself. In fact, they would create 1,000 years of back story – resulting in a 300-page bible covering the history of mankind from the decision to leave Earth up to the events in the film, prepared by Eisner Award-winning comic writer Peter David, Michael Jan Friedman, and Robert Greenberger.
The bible would serve as a resource for all kinds of ancillary materials in the “After Earth” franchise. “The thing that struck me about it was not just how detailed it was, but how oddly prescient,” says producer Caleeb Pinkett. “Peter drew up the history of an entire universe, which was impressive enough, but then in our world, things started happening that mirrored his universe. Like that Russian meteor a few months ago – Peter had described a remarkably similar event. I think that shows a verisimilitude to Peter’s approach that grounds the universe of After Earth – even though we enter a realm of sci-fi.”
“This world is so thoroughly thought out,” says Will Smith. “The history for these characters was laid out beyond anything I’ve ever seen before. Just as an example, for me, playing Cypher – a general with the Rangers – it was fantastic to know that my character’s grandmother was head of the Rangers, and it was during her tenure that she united the government under the Rangers. What that meant was that her son, my character’s father, never got a chance to head the Rangers until he was almost 50 years old – he missed his prime. That’s the kind of history Peter explored – while details like that aren’t a part of this movie, they help us with our characters and to understand this world as a distinct place, and give us a rich environment.”
Opening across the Philippines on June 5, “After Earth” is distributed by Columbia Pictures, local office of Sony Pictures Releasing International.