I’ve decided to think of Tom Cruise and Will Smith as friendly cinematic rivals, in the same vein as Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone were back in the day (and with The Last Stand and Bullet to the Head coming out early next year, that old rivalry looks to start up all over again). So we’ve got two trailers for mega-budget sci-fi movies, both set in the aftermath of the end of the world, and both headlined by one of the biggest movie stars alive: Oblivion with Cruise, and After Earth with Smith. The big difference, of course, is that Smith has brought his son along for the ride.
A father-and-son pair of astronauts (Will & Jaden) crash lands their ship on an exotic planet teeming with hostile wildlife. Jaden goes out to explore while Will drives the narrative with his voiceover, warning his son about the horrendous dangers they face on this strange planet, where “everything has evolved to kill humans.” And the big twist? This planet is earth, evacuated 1,000 years ago (presumably we humans took all the buildings and roads and sewers with us on our way out).
After Earth is the anticipated new project from director M. Night Shyamalan, a man in serious need of a career recovery after squandering the last of his goodwill with The Last Airbender which he wrote, produced, and directed. His plan here involves being more collaborative; he’s working from a script he didn’t write (by Stephen Gaghan), while letting Smith serve as producer while Shyamalan keeps his now-toxic name off the promotional material as much as possible. The trailer has a rather somber tone, guided by Will’s voiceover (although about halfway into the trailer, about when he gets into “fear is not real,” he stops sounding like himself.) There’s lots of epic effects on display, some of it with CGI herds of animals, and some of it with the holographic tech and survival gear. They try for a money shot with Jaden’s flying squirrel suit, which I thought looked cool. It is curious though that Jaden has no lines in the trailer beyond a curt “no sir” near the end, even though he’s the one driving much of the action. Are they still worried about his acting, even after The Karate Kid showed he can handle himself?
After Earth releases June 7, 2013 from Columbia Pictures.