Manoj Night Shyamalan has done it again, this time in great style and pace with Will Smith. The dashing darling of millions Will Smith has also played his part perfectly by writing the original story and materializing the leading character of a space ship general in many years in the future. Jaden Smith the chip of the old block has wonderfully performed his junior role as an emerging teen hero in Hollywood. After works like The Sixth Sense and The Village M N Shyamalan has grippingly captivated the movie goers all around the world in a futuristic space thriller with keen and contemporary socio-political themes.
His latest film After Earth starring Will Smith and son Jaden Smith in the lead hit the movies in India on June 7, 2013 and is running to young, informed and dynamic audiences all over the globe especially in India and Kerala in particular. I watched the film in great enthusiastic mood in Kottayam where women and children also stepped in to appreciate their favorite actor and his first partnership with an Indian director. The film was pleasing and satisfying for them as I heard their complements at the end of the show. The killing of the monster by the son and the American paternalism in the father figure disturbed me as an ardent critic of violence and patronage. But in the final scene the father and son wants to join their mother in creative and constructive research and conservation; that is really cool.
Human greed and resultant environmental catastrophe on earth make it hostile to the humans and the mother planet expels its destructive children in a destructive move to save the planet. The space age sci-fi movie has ecological and ethical concerns on human future and the sustenance of life and the planet at large at its base. Casting of people of color in most of the character roles is another democratic and subversive move by Shyamalan the ingenious director who has lived in the American society and experienced its social cleavages for decades now. The father-son duo are black, the mother and women characters are mostly African and Sino Americans representing remarkable cultural and ethnic mixture and multicultural futures of our cosmopolitan world.
The visuals are remarkable and engrossing with excellent shots and framing with added special effects and animation. The significance and cultural difference of the film is its human angle even amidst futuristic action and visual wonders. The strong relationships and organic human bond of the leading characters and their ethical and emotional concerns for the other, whether it is a family member, a fellow or a bird are really exceptional and mark the difference in the film’s love-ethics, egalitarian philosophy and democratic cultural politics. By asserting human agency and organic ethics amidst the ecological and natural crisis Will Smith and Shyamalan have once again declared their new democratic cultural politics of difference that is critical of the white mainstream hegemonic culture and the recovery of the new radical visual culture of conservation and compassion that emanates from Africa and Asia respectively.
This multicultural collaboration by an African American actor-writer and an Indian director-scenarist is a true cosmopolitan, polyphonic and contemporary work in world cinema that appeals to the whole world, especially the people outside the west in Africa, Asia and Australia. The people in the third world are facing the calamities of the greed of the first world and the imperial nationalities of Europe and the neo imperial corporate and white supremacists of the United States. By embracing the ethical and aesthetic philosophy and praxis of conservation and compassion these young futures of world cinema and our planet at large have recovered and reasserted the enlightened way of life that the light of Asia has kindled almost 2600 years ago for the whole of humanity. We in Kerala having more than 1000 years of Buddhism in our cultural history are looking forward for more such emancipating and ethical collaborations between the subaltern and organic intellectuals and artists from India and the west.