The latest Will & Jaden Smith film After Earth is receiving middling to low reviews from film critics across the country. While the film suffers from Jaden Smith’s terrible acting, the sci-fi future world M. Night Shyamalan created is the film’s greatest asset. But it turns out After Earth was not originally conceived as a science fiction film.
In an interview with Blastr, screenwriter Gary Whitta (The Book of Eli) talked about his first meetings with Will Smith, who has a story credit on After Earth. Will Smith wanted the film to be a survival story between a father and son, but then the story was expanded with science fiction in mind. Whitta explained:
Will always wanted to tell a kind of father and son bonding story. In fact, it wasn’t a science fiction movie originally to begin with. It was set modern day, and Will and Jaden were military father and son who were on a trip to Alaska. Just swap out ‘stranded on an abandoned planet with aggressive monkey creatures‘ with ‘stranded in the wilderness without cell-phone coverage and a hungry pack of wolves.’
Once the film changed from a wintery Alaskan backdrop (honestly the movie would’ve been like Joe Carnahan’s The Grey) to a distant future Earth, Will Smith surrounded the film with what civilization would be like if there were no longer countries and regions because all of humanity lives on a new planet called Nova Prime. For Will Smith, this included a different accent and dialect. Whitta continued:
What the makeup of this society would look like. Will and Jaden are speaking in kind of polyglot accent. They worked with a dialect coach to come up with an original accent, because the idea of the characters speaking with an American accent or a British accent one thousand years in the future, after you’ve left Earth would seem kind of preposterous.
There’s actually different versions of the accent based on your position in society. So there is people lower down in the social order have kind of a working-class, a more guttural version of the accent.
At its core, After Earth is a father-and-son survival story, but its lack of emotion and human connection hinders the film’s overall success. It will be interesting to see how After Earth performs at the box office this weekend with a terrible critical response. Although the film is drastically mediocre, it’s a step up from M. Night Shyamalan’s last outing with The Last Airbender.