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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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Monica: The circumstances of St. Monica’s life could have made her a nagging wife, a bitter daughter-in-law and a despairing parent, yet she did not give way to any of these temptations. Although she was a Christian, her parents gave her in marriage to a pagan, Patricius, who lived in her hometown of Tagaste in North Africa. Patricius had some redeeming features, but he had a violent temper and was licentious. Monica also had to bear with a cantankerous mother-in-law who lived in her home. Patricius criticized his wife because of her charity and piety, but always respected her. Monica’s prayers and example finally won her husband and mother-in-law to Christianity. Her husband died in 371, one year after his baptism. 
<p>Monica had at least three children who survived infancy. The oldest, Augustine (August 28) , is the most famous. At the time of his father’s death, Augustine was 17 and a rhetoric student in Carthage. Monica was distressed to learn that her son had accepted the Manichean heresy (all flesh is evil)  and was living an immoral life. For a while, she refused to let him eat or sleep in her house. Then one night she had a vision that assured her Augustine would return to the faith. From that time on, she stayed close to her son, praying and fasting for him. In fact, she often stayed much closer than Augustine wanted. </p><p>When he was 29, Augustine decided to go to Rome to teach rhetoric. Monica was determined to go along. One night he told his mother that he was going to the dock to say goodbye to a friend. Instead, he set sail for Rome. Monica was heartbroken when she learned of Augustine’s trick, but she still followed him. She arrived in Rome only to find that he had left for Milan. Although travel was difficult, Monica pursued him to Milan. </p><p>In Milan, Augustine came under the influence of the bishop, St. Ambrose, who also became Monica’s spiritual director. She accepted his advice in everything and had the humility to give up some practices that had become second nature to her (see Quote, below). Monica became a leader of the devout women in Milan as she had been in Tagaste. </p><p>She continued her prayers for Augustine during his years of instruction. At Easter, 387, St. Ambrose baptized Augustine and several of his friends. Soon after, his party left for Africa. Although no one else was aware of it, Monica knew her life was near the end. She told Augustine, “Son, nothing in this world now affords me delight. I do not know what there is now left for me to do or why I am still here, all my hopes in this world being now fulfilled.” She became ill shortly after and suffered severely for nine days before her death. </p><p>Almost all we know about St. Monica is in the writings of St. Augustine, especially his <i>Confessions</i>.</p> American Catholic Blog Heavenly Father, I am sure there are frequently tiny miracles where you protect us and are present to us although you always remain anonymous. Help me appreciate how carefully you watch over me and my loved ones all day long, and be sensitive enough to stay close to you. I ask this in Jesus's name. Amen.

 
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