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M. Night Shyamalan has spent the last few years crafting a shoddy adaptation of highly successful children’s show and generating the idea for a movie about a seriously terrible elevator ride. In 2013, though, he’ll jump back into the proper science fiction game directing Will and Jaden Smith in After Earth.
We know that the Smiths star as a father and son who crash and become stranded on Earth 1000 years after it has been abandoned by humans and that it should begin filming soon. Sophie Okonedo (Hotel Rwanda, Doctor Who), Zoe Kravitz (X-Men: First Class), and Isabelle Furhman (Clove in the upcoming Hunger Games movie) all are or have been in talks to join the cast, but that’s about as much concrete information as we have so far. Shyamalan is marching forward on pre-production, though, and posted a couple of images from the pre-production process on his official website.
According to Shymalan’s caption, the first picture is of “Dean, an amazing illustrator” working on concept art for an early scene in the film. The concept art is just far enough from the photo-taker as to keep it fairly vague, but you still get a fairly decent look at it.
At first glance, it seemed to be an illustration of a boat passing by a bridge or harbor skyline, done in cool and steely blues. When you look more closely at it, though, it looks more like an icy outpost – perhaps smokestacks or missile silos. We know that After Earth is set 1000 years after humans had to abandon an inhabitable Earth and that what Dean is working on comes early in the film, so it could either be the new human colony or part of the backstory to why the planet was abandoned.
The second photo isn’t of actual concept art for After Earth, but of the inspiration board up in their art department office. The wall-length inspiration board is filled with images Shyamalan says he’s been collecting for the past year. Such inspiration boards and collections of images are often used in film pre-production as part of deciding on and building the aesthetics and visual feel of a film.
It doesn’t give us hard information about After Earth, although we can make some inferences from repeated themes. There is a lot of landscape photography, particularly of the breathtakingly lonely and/or silhouetted variety.
M. Night also posted some photos from location scouting for the film that fit this theme. There are also a lot of images that play with shadows, both in those landscape images and what seem to be Caravaggio paintings or something similar on the far left. As befitting a movie set primarily on an abandoned planet, it seems the art department is focusing on the moody and desolate for After Earth‘s visual tone.
More specific to After Earth‘s plot are the category placards on the inspiration board. Many of them are difficult to make out and some of those you can are straightforward and/or unhelpful (“General”, something about a “shuttle”, “Cargo Hold”). Others, though, are intriguingly cryptic. “Raige Old Apartment” and “Kitai Struggling” probably refer to character names and “Humbolt” could be a place or a person’s name, but we can’t know for sure. I’m also really curious about the placard cut off in the upper right corner of the photo – it looks like it says something about “California” and has a picture of a cow. We’re not sure how that fits into the “decimated and dangerous planet” scenario, but I’m starting to get excited about finding out.