After Earth is a futuristic sci-fi tale that brings together father-son powerhouse Will and Jade Smith, filmmaker M. Night Shyamalan, and screenwriter Gary Whitta (Book of Eli). The film was represented during a panel at Comic-Con 2012. An After Earth viral teaser clip and official site was released in conjunction with the event.
The After Earth clip recaps events that took place a millennium prior to the film. It begins with the discovery of a crashed alien vessel in 1908 (obviously, the story takes place in an alternate reality), and reveals the history of the Polish Raige clan - whose descendants include Cypher Raige (Will Smith) and his son Kitai (Jaden Smith), in the 31st century.
Said viral clip concludes with a brief examination of the "cataclysmic events" that forced humanity to abandon Earth around the year 2050 (referenced in the official After Earth synopsis). The subsequent backstory was the topic of discussion at the film's Comic-Con panel. It is being covered in prequel literature form, including a prequel novel and "Bible" that will chronicle the history of After Earth's faux-reality, going all the way back to a billion years B.C.
Comic book artist Beni R. Lobel (a contributor to the G.I. Joe and Fringe comics) is working on supplementary material for After Earth, in collaboration with writers such as Robert Greenberger, Michael Friedman, and Eisner-winner Peter David. At the Comic-Con panel, David talked about the team's desire to flesh out a "full, complete, coherent universe" for Shyamalan's film. Hence, the development of a "secret history" to inform the movie (which is still primarily standalone).
The prequel comic "After Earth: Innocence" focuses on the first hostile encounter between humanity and aliens known as Screll, after the former begins to colonize the planet Nova Prime (with landscapes represented by footage of Utah). There's also a novel in the works, that focuses on the conflict between the different races, after the Screll utilize new weaponry in their battle against humans. Both works are due to be released before After Earth's theatrical premiere next summer.
Such plot material will explain how Cypher earned his legacy as a capable general, but will not figure directly into the After Earth proceedings (nor will the Screll make an appearance). Moreover, at the Comic-Con panel, Whitta said he feels the movie truly "lives" in the moments that focus on the difficult relationship between Cypher and Kitai. The screenwriter did, however, offer assurances that there will be lots of spectacle, action, and digital wizardry to go along with the father-son storyline.
There was no full-fledged After Earth footage shown at Comic-Con, but attendees were treated to behind-the-scenes material. That included interviews with Will Smith and footage of Jaden Smith doing marital arts weapon training (for his role). Furthermore, the crowd was treated to a slideshow with production stills from the film, showcasing the wild jungle setting of an abandoned earth (and 2001-esque, futuristic white architecture from human civilization on Nova Prime).
Additional details were teased, such as the hostile nature of Earth in the film - a world populated by creatures genetically-designed to kill humans, where water is so acidic it can melt a metallic canteen (and you can go blind by just touching the wrong kind of tree). There were also glimpses of the costumes and outfits featured in After Earth, some composed of "smart fabric" that has multiple uses and can change shape with ease.
For an up close and personal look at a Battle Suit from After Earth, check out this photo taken at the 2012 Comic-Con Exhibit Hall:
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After Earth opens in U.S. theaters on June 7th, 2013.
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