The story for "After Earth" takes place a thousand years after humans were virtually forced to leave the planet. Because of catastrophic events (i.e. nuclear war, global warming, pollution) people needed to leave before the human race became extinct. The story is told through a "voice over" and becomes a blatant convicting message to the audience. This could be the film's first mistake.
Cypher Raige (Will Smith) is a father-figure, yet, his role in the military has kept him away from home. His son, Kitai, (Jaden Smith) believes he can win his father's attention by excelling in the military. This is a normal circumstance. However, Cypher's demeanor is so cold and calculated, the audience may wonder why his son wants to start a relationship with him at this point in his life.
Jaden Smith does not shy away from the moment. The character he plays does shy away. Kitai did not seem ready to hold that amount of screen time on his own. It may have been better to pair Cypher and Kitai together while navigating the new dangers of Earth. Towards the end of the story, Jaden and Kitai's personality seemed to meet. But the story was already over.
Katai's mother, Faia (Sophie Okonedo) and his sister, Senshi (Zoe Isabella Kravitz) add the loving, caring aspect of the film that seems to be lacking. Unfortunately, their screen time is too limited to add the needed balance to the story.
The special effects throughout the film are decent. The concepts are amazing. As told in the story, the animals have evolved to fit into a more volatile environment. There is a scene or two where the effects need a definite upgrade. Overall, the audience gets the ideas being portrayed.
Ultimately, the centerpiece of the story feels a bit "off." The message trying to be conveyed is admirable. In order to defeat the villain of the story, an individual has to completely free of fear. Without fear, the villain cannot sense or see the person.
The flaw in this message is that fear is completely normal. Bravery is not the absence of fear. It is simply not allowing that fear to stop you from pursuing your goal. It is okay, and it is expected, that a person is afraid in certain situations. Still, an individual chooses not to let this fear keep them from their goals and dreams.