After Earth is the new sci-fi film from director M. Night Shyamalan; though, you wouldn’t know it from the trailer, which fails to mention his name anywhere (how times have changed for the Oscar-nominee once dubbed “The Next Spielberg”).

The film doesn’t open until next summer, but Columbia Pictures is using the trailer to kickoff viral marketing and promotion. That means launching an official site for After Earth, which includes a tweaked synopsis, character details and the promise of an interactive campaign (tying into the project’s supplementary material).

Here is the revised synopsis for After Earth (formerly, One Thousand A.E.):

A crash landing leaves teenager Kitai Raige (Jaden Smith) and his legendary father Cypher (Will Smith) stranded on Earth, 1,000 years after cataclysmic events forced humanity’s escape. With Cypher critically injured, Kitai must embark on a perilous journey to signal for help, facing uncharted terrain, evolved animal species that now rule the planet, and an unstoppable alien creature that escaped during the crash. Father and son must learn to work together and trust one another if they want any chance of returning home.

Note that the previous After Earth synopsis did not include any mention of “an unstoppable alien creature that escaped during the crash”; nor is there any direct reference to that plot point in the trailer. Instead, that preview offers a sample of the father-son core of the story, while teasing the hostile and unfamiliar world that Earth has evolved into since humanity abandoned it. I would go so far as to argue that it’s one of the better trailers released this holiday season, as it illustrates why moviegoers should be interested – rather than relying on secrecy and ambiguity as hype (see: the Star Trek Into Darkness teaser and Man of Steel trailer).

Moreover, there’s the promise of more secrets waiting to be unveiled (as indicated by the above synopsis); the Oblivion trailer was successful for similar reasons, with both relying on the promise of a creative vision – without having built-in brand property expectations to fall back upon.

On that note: the official After Earth website includes new tidbits about J. Smith’s protagonist, ranging from his age and weight to his skills and personal philosophy (“They don’t give statues for being scared”). There’s also a reference to his sister (Zoë Kravitz, X-Men: First Class) being deceased, suggesting the character could be appearing through flashbacks – possibly, with Kitai suffering survivor’s guilt or regret about being unable to save her – or won’t have much screen time, beyond a reference or two.

Lastly, by clicking on the “Project Next Generation” link on the official site, you can sign up for Facebook updates (re: viral marketing) that offers more insight into the film’s backstory. Indeed, that mythology is explored in upcoming After Earth tie-in prequel comic books, novels and novellas that better recount intimate details of humankind’s exodus from ruined Earth (all that and more was discussed at the film’s Comic-Con panel).

After Earth opens in theaters on June 7th, 2013, with Shyamalan directing from an original script draft written by Gary Whitta (The Book of Eli) and subsequent revisions by Shyamalan and Oscar-winner Stephen Gaghan.

Does it sounds like a return-to-form for Shyamalan? Let us know in the comments.

Source: Columbia Pictures