In the future, an environmental cataclysm forces the human race to abandon Earth and settle on a new world, Nova Prime.
One thousand years later, The United Ranger Corps, a peacekeeping military commanded by General Cypher Raige (Will Smith), comes into conflict with alien creatures who intend to conquer Nova Prime. Their primary weapons are the Ursas: large, blind predatory multi-limbed creatures that hunt by actually “smelling” fear (pheromones). The Rangers struggle against the Ursas until the impassive Cypher learns how to completely suppress his fear, in effect becoming invisible to the Ursa – a technique called “ghosting.” After teaching this act to the other Rangers, he leads the Ranger Corps to eventual victory.
Meanwhile, Cypher’s son Kitai (Jaden Smith) blames himself for the death of his older sister Senshi at the hands of an Ursa attack some years ago when he was a young child. The two have an estranged relationship with Cypher being away on missions. Kitai, younger and smaller than most cadets, trains to become a staunch and respected Ranger like his father. Despite his physical capabilities, his application is rejected due to his emotional behavior, and he has to break the news to Cypher, who’s seemingly disappointed in him. Kitai’s mother Faia (Sophie Okenedo) convinces her husband to connect more with their son, and Cypher decides to take Kitai on his last voyage before retirement.
During space flight, their ship is caught by an asteroid shower, forcing them to transport through a wormhole to safety and crash-land on the now-quarantined Earth. Inside the torn fuselage of the ship, only Kitai (strapped to a walled row of seats) and Cypher (with both legs broken) have survived. They find the main distress signal beacon is damaged. Cypher instructs Kitai to locate the tail section of the ship, which broke off on entry to the atmosphere, since inside it is the backup beacon, which they can use to signal the Rangers for a rescue; if he fails, the pair will face a most certain death. Cypher gives Kitai his double bladed Cutlass, a wrist communicator, and six capsules of a fluid that enhances oxygen intake so he can breathe in Earth’s low-oxygen atmosphere.
Cypher warns him to avoid the fauna and flora which has grown more deadly since mankind’s departure, and be careful of violent weather thermal shifts. Kitai leaves the ship to find the tail section, with Cypher guiding him through the communicator and a number of camera drones. Cypher’s leg is losing arterial blood and he attempts to make a temporary ‘shunt’ to avoid bleeding out.
In the first few hours of his journey, Kitai is soon surrounded by giant baboons. His father tells him not to move. Against his father’s orders and out of fear, Kitai hits the leader with a stone, causing the baboons to give chase. Kitai manages to escape the large mammals, swimming across a river to safety, but the youth is bitten by a poisonous leech while in the water. Kitai administers an antidote, but not before the toxins take effect and his nervous system shuts down.
“After Earth” is the second film (the first being “The Pursuit of Happyness”) that stars real-life father and son Will and Jaden Smith.
Although the father-son appeal was a major selling point, the movie flopped at the box office.
While most critics and movie goers gave it a low score, die-hard fans of Will Smith were glad to see another movie involving father and son.