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ON FAITH & MEDIA View Comments

After Earth

By
John Mulderig
Source: Catholic News Service


Jaden Smith and Will Smith star in a scene from the movie "After Earth."
You can't go home again. So, at least, the title of a 1940 novel by Thomas Wolfe admonishes us. That's a bit of advice the characters in the grueling sci-fi adventure "After Earth" (Columbia) -- not to mention the real-life folks behind this plodding project -- would have done well to heed.

Set 1,000 years after humans have been forced to evacuate their environmentally despoiled home planet -- get the message? -- director and co-writer (with Gary Whitta) M. Night Shyamalan's coming-of-age drama finds its two leads inadvertently revisiting this crazy old world by way of a crash landing during an intergalactic military mission.

Needless to say they don't exactly get a warm welcome.

While the absence of homo sapiens has permitted nature to return to a flourishing state, it's now full of people-averse predators. That's bad news for Gen. Cypher Raige (Will Smith) and, even more so, as things develop, for his teen son, Kitai -- played by Smith's real-life son, Jaden.

What with their downed spacecraft scattered all over the once-again-wild landscape -- gosh darn those destructive meteor showers! -- and the rest of its crew dead, and Dad temporarily disabled ... well, the only way out of this pickle is for Kitai to embark on a maturity-earning quest to retrieve the signal beam that represents the surviving duo's only hope of rescue.

It's not a journey on which most viewers will enjoy accompanying him. Think lions and tigers and bears sounded bad? How about poisonous leeches, a polluted atmosphere requiring inhaler hits every few hours and a ticked-off raptor with the approximate wingspan of a 707? As for a purely fictional breed of snarling monsters that prey on human fear -- called the Ursa -- the less said about them the better.

The filial relationship at the heart of the proceedings -- Cypher allowed Kitai to tag along on the expedition in the first place so the two could bond -- is ultimately characterized by self-sacrificing love. This, despite the emotional conflict resulting from a family tragedy we glimpse in flashbacks.

But the warrior code by which Cypher lives -- and which he strives to instill in Kitai -- seems to have more in common with Zen Buddhism than with the values promoted in Scripture.

Thus Cypher repeatedly insists that Kitai become intensely focused on, aware of, and at one with his surroundings. And the only way to overcome those pesky Ursa is to "ghost," that is, to render yourself entirely free of fear.

The script's glib portrayal of the bonds uniting veterans, moreover, will strike at least some moviegoers as either jingoistic or exploitative.

The film contains much action violence, some of it bloody, gory medical images, a stifled crude term and a few mildly crass expressions. The Catholic News Service classification is A-III -- adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13 -- parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.

*****
John Mulderig is on the staff of Catholic News Service.





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Martyrdom of John the Baptist: The drunken oath of a king with a shallow sense of honor, a seductive dance and the hateful heart of a queen combined to bring about the martyrdom of John the Baptist. The greatest of prophets suffered the fate of so many Old Testament prophets before him: rejection and martyrdom. The “voice crying in the desert” did not hesitate to accuse the guilty, did not hesitate to speak the truth. But why? What possesses a man that he would give up his very life? 
<p>This great religious reformer was sent by God to prepare the people for the Messiah. His vocation was one of selfless giving. The only power that he claimed was the Spirit of Yahweh. “I am baptizing you with water, for repentance, but the one who is coming after me is mightier than I. I am not worthy to carry his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire” (Matthew 3:11). Scripture tells us that many people followed John looking to him for hope, perhaps in anticipation of some great messianic power. John never allowed himself the false honor of receiving these people for his own glory. He knew his calling was one of preparation. When the time came, he led his disciples to Jesus: “The next day John was there again with two of his disciples, and as he watched Jesus walk by, he said, ‘Behold, the Lamb of God.’ The two disciples heard what he said and followed Jesus” (John 1:35-37). It is John the Baptist who has pointed the way to Christ. John’s life and death were a giving over of self for God and other people. His simple style of life was one of complete detachment from earthly possessions. His heart was centered on God and the call that he heard from the Spirit of God speaking to his heart. Confident of God’s grace, he had the courage to speak words of condemnation or repentance, of salvation.</p> American Catholic Blog Just as my children become members of my family when I bring them into the world, so too our baptism incorporates us into the family of the Church. This supernatural membership prevents us from being orphans who have to fend for themselves in the spiritual wilderness.

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