One of the most talked about movie of the summer may turn out to be the most unexpected. I am talking about Will Smith’s After Earth. The first news to come out of this film was the early prediction that this movie will the first box office causality of summer as the weak $1 Million Thursday opening was a scare to “After Earth” promoters. Second, was the unusually harsh criticism of the movie and Will Smith’s son Jaden Smith with the Wall Street Journal saying it is among the world movies ever made (ouch?!?). Even astronaught Buzz Aldrin jumped in by faulting the movie for not being realistic. I haven’t seen so much overkill criticism in a movie and yet this article is being written on the first full day of release.
Most surprisingly is the film’s tie to Scientology principles being talked about among critics. Some call it propaganda because it highlights religious themes held by Scientology. Would that then make “Life of Pi” propaganda for Hinduism or “For Greater Glory” propaganda for Evangelicals? Others claimed that Twilight contained quiet references to Mormon themes. Will Smith has been a financial supporter of Scientology and it is no surprise if he would create a film that shares his own values. The Christian movie review site, Plugged In online does not fault the film for any negative spiritual references.
One reviewer wrote about After Earth and its connection to Scientology. You can judge for yourself — Scientology overreach of critics overkill of Scientology?
This struck me as Scientology 101. Cypher spends most of the movie guiding his son through the dangerous environments of evolved Earth, coaching him to drop his emotions and believe in his self. Fear is imaginary, a construct of the mind that can be abolished if you believe in your own abilities. To me, After Earth is all about cleansing the body’s “thetan,” or soul. If Kitai can leave behind the physical dangers of the world and invest in self-determinism, he’ll be triumphant. He’ll be a hero because he’s entitled to be one.
Scientology is all about personal survival — the the “first dynamic”— and that’s the key to Katai’s mission. Washing away the past, any bad decision he’s made, in order to come out on top. It’s the way his father has lived and it’s basically gone unpunished, even when he has massive mistakes on his record to show for it. Unlike many Hollywood science fiction movie’s, After Earth has an emphasis on self that I don’t believe is coincidence.
The auditing process also comes up. Kitai is stricken with memories of an ill-fated day back home, where he witnessed a love one perish at the hands of an alien invader. He was only a kid, but it kills him inside. This works like Scientology’s engrams, albeit a bit more overt. Through flashbacks, M. Night Shyamalan tortures his lead character with memories. The only way to make it to the end of his mission is to wash them away. So Cypher is giving Kitai his free stress test, one-on-one sessions between father and son that teach the emotionally involved child to put aside his feelings in favor of making the world a better place. The only thing missing is a 31st century E-meter.
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