The pieces are quickly falling into place for writer/director M. Night Shyamalan's next project, a futuristic sci-fi tale that was previously going under the title One Thousand A.E., but is now (according to the filmmaker) simply called After Earth.
Principal photography on After Earth is slated to begin by February 2012, with Jaden and Will Smith headlining the flick. Oscar-winner Stephen Gaghan is reportedly in the process of putting the finishing touches on the film's script, which was originally drafted by Gary Whitta - the writer responsible for The Book of Eli and the earliest version of the screenplay for director Jaume Collet-Serra's upcoming Akira adaptation. Shymalan also took a stab at the After Earth script, prior to Gaghan.
Heat Vision says that two actresses are currently in talks to join the After Earth cast - namely, Zoë Kravitz and Sophie Okonedo. Kravitz (daughter of actor/musician Lenny) recently portrayed Angel Salvadore in X-Men: First Class and completed a recurring role as Pearl on Showtime's Californication in early 2011.
Okonedo, by comparison, is an Oscar-nominated actress for her role in Hotel Rwanda, has starred in noteworthy indie flicks like Dirty Pretty Things, and previously appeared in several decorated British TV mini-series. However, more people in the States might recognize her as Liz Ten from the fifth series of the new Doctor Who; she also provided the vocals for Alison Cheney in the 2003 mini-series Doctor Who: Scream of the Shalka. If none of that rings a bell, those (few) of you who saw the Æon Flux live-action movie may remember Okonedo for her turn as Sithandra.
That actress pair is up to co-star in After Earth as (respectively) the daughter and wife of Will Smith's character, who is described as being a "hero" whose legacy hangs over the head of his less-acomplished son (Jaden Smith). When the father-son duo crash-land on a long-abandoned post-apocalyptic planet Earth and the former is left badly injured, the latter must rise to the occasion and brave the hostile, unfamiliar terrain, in the hopes of finding help for his ailing parent.
Early indications are that Jaden and Will Smith may be onscreen together for a smaller chunk of time than they were in their previous joint starring effort, The Pursuit of Happyness. If nothing else, it sounds as though the film could (at times) play out as a sci-fi variation on Cast Away, starring Jaden Smith instead of Tom Hanks.
Many moviegoers have abandoned their faith in Shyamalan's filmmaking abilities by now, but After Earth sounds like the sort of project that's well-suited to his talents. It reads as being a visually-striking and atmospheric tale that would benefit from Shyamalan's trademark quiet, slow-paced storytelling approach; not to mention, there's an interesting deeper layer of meaning to the story, especially since Will Smith is portraying the fawned-over father figure who is literally forced out of the spotlight, allowing his (real-life) son to demonstrate his own worth (re: acting prowess).
That's not to say After Earth is guaranteed to be a return-to-form for Shyamalan, but there is arguably a good deal of potential for just that - especially given some of the high-caliber talent that he is creatively collaborating with, this time around.
After Earth is slated for theatrical release in the U.S. on June 7th, 2013.