The new trailer for 'After Earth' showcases the kind of things that tend to get butts into theater seats. It has a franchise-ready science fiction world. It has a surplus of action. It has menacing CGI creatures inhabiting a seemingly epic world. It has Will Smith. It doesn't mention the fact that M. Night Shyamalan is the director.
After going through the trailer frame by frame, we came away with a handful of questions, observations and predictions. Well, five of them to be exact.
This is No Will Smith Vehicle...
Will Smith may be the biggest movie star in the world and one of the few people capable of opening a movie on his name alone, but he's not the real star of 'After Earth.' In fact, the trailer suggests that Smith will spend much of the film hanging back at the crashed spacecraft (injured, perhaps?) while his son (both in character and in real life) takes the spotlight. So this is not a Will Smith movie, but rather a Jaden Smith movie dressed up to look like a Will Smith movie so everyone will come see it. If Jaden has half of the leading man charisma that his father brings to the table, that'll be just fine.
The Redemption of M. Night Shyamalan?
You wouldn't know it from this trailer, but 'After Earth' was directed by M. Night Shyamalan, a man who went from being a modern master to a punching bag seemingly overnight. You can't make 'The Last Airbender' and 'The Happening' and 'Lady in the Water' and not start to look like a walking joke, after all. The trailer chooses to concentrate on its stars and its epic scope, doing everything in its power to not let unsuspecting audiences know who was sitting behind the camera on this one. To be fair, we're pretty sure Shyamalan himself understands how important this film is to his career -- if he screws up one more time, he'll never make a blockbuster again. The fact that 'After Earth' is his first project that he didn't write and that this looks nothing like anything he's made before bodes well. Could this be a return to form?
Dangerous Animals Are Really Cool, Guys
If there's one thing 'After Earth' seems to have in spades...it's people with the last name Smith. If there are two things that it seems to have in spades, it's large, angry and very hungry creatures that intend great harm for young Jaden Smith. The trailer showcases everything from a sabertooth tigers to an army of apes and none of them look particularly friendly. Say what you want about 'After Earth,' but there's no denying the fact that the hostil ecosystem on display in the trailer is pretty impressive. In fact...
The sheer number of dangerous animals and environments and other ecological specifics in the trailer suggest that 'After Earth' is a project that was conceived and developed in the wake of James Cameron's 'Avatar.' After all, that film was essentially an action packed nature special on a fictional alien planet and it broke box office records around the world. There have been shockingly few 'Avatar' rip-offs in recent years, but it would be foolish to say that Pandora's DNA isn't evident in this wild and dangerous Earth. And let's face it: if the people behind 'After Earth' want to be compared to a movie, they're probably happy to be compared to the highest grossing movie of all time.
The Question May Not Be "Where Are We?"
This is just spitballing on our part, but if you're spoiler averse in any way, go ahead and turn back...
All of the 'After Earth' marketing has made a huge deal about how the human race was forced to abandon Earth a thousand years ago and that the entire planet has evolved to be openly hostile to humans. In fact, it's being sold as a futuristic, post-apocalyptic epic in the same vein as 'Oblivion.' But what if it's not? What if the reason the creatures trying to devour the Smith family look prehistoric is because they're actually...wait for it...in the past? What if 'After Earth' actually takes place thousands of years ago and deals with humans retaking the planet and planting the seeds that would become us? It would be quite a twist...but hey, this is a M. Night Shyamalan movie.