Jaden Smith in 'After Earth' (Photo: Columbia Pictures)
There's nothing like a little crisis intimacy to bring a father and son closer together -- the kind that involves dodging angry animals, dealing with sudden extreme temperature changes and living in a future where everyone uses the damn metric system.
Unlike the spectacle-heavy but narratively vague teaser released in December, the second trailer for "After Earth" presents this sci-fi survival tale as the movie of choice for Father's Day weekend as it sets up the relationship between a young ranger in training (Jaden Smith) and his commanding officer/dear old dad (Jaden's real-life father Will), one that's not so much estranged as it is non-existent -- apparently, the elder Smith's character didn't even know he had a kid until shortly before the disaster that will bring them closer together.
A bunch of space rocks cause their ship to crash-land on a future Earth, from which humanity has long since abandoned due to every living thing on the planet adapting to kill what were probably environment-destroying homo sapiens (remember the murderous trees in "The Happening"? Now imagine them with claws and teeth). Their shattered vessel has an emergency beacon that's unfortunately a good 100 meters (sigh) from where the rest of the ship landed, so father and son must now traverse the most hostile environment in the entire universe to get back home (wherever that is in this future world).
Watch the theatrical trailer for 'After Earth':.
Jaden Smith, thankfully, gives that "cool face" he puts on at every red carpet event he attends a much-needed break, trading his trademark semi-stoned look for expressions that actually convey concern, determination and passion. Meanwhile, middle age seems to be agreeing with the elder Smith, who now has a melancholy gravitas (first glimpsed in 2007's "I Am Legend") that definitely becomes him -- he makes lazy pop philosophies like "Danger is very real, but fear is a choice" sound like true words to live by.
The trailer makes no mention that this is an M. Night Shyamalan movie. Night's name used to sell a movie, back when he was the guy who so cleverly fooled the world with the game-changing supernatural thriller, "The Sixth Sense"; now, after "The Village" (which is actually pretty good), "Lady in the Water" (which is okay), "The Happening" (which is, yeah, pretty awful) and "The Last Airbender" (which is ... didn't see it), his name inspires mocking laughter whenever it comes up. Thusly, "After Earth" is being marketing as a sci-fi extravaganza made by some anonymous taskmaster and strictly as a showcase for the Smith Men.
However, no matter how the marketing team tries to present it, "After Earth" probably doesn't stand a chance at grabbing big box office dollars against the likes of such summer heavyweights as "Iron Man 3," "Star Trek Into Darkness," "Man of Steel" and even "Fast & Furious 6." But Will and Jaden proved to be a good team in "The Pursuit of Happyness," which makes this at least a curiosity piece -- maybe they'll indeed end up being the duo that brings M. Night back into the good graces of the moviegoing public.
"After Earth" opens June 7.
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