Is Fear A Choice? An After Earth Movie Review
Is fear a choice?
(This is a post co-authored by the Engineer along with Granola Mom.)
We (meaning The Wife and I) recently had the opportunity to see a special screening of After Earth, the new film by M. Night Shaymalan… and starring Will Smith and his son, Jaden Smith.
(Jodi’s note: Thank you Grace Hill Media for one again treating us to a free date. And thank you MIL for supporting my giddy excitement to go out with my amazing Engineer last minute. You did a good job raising him!)
Normally Not A Sci-Fi Fan
Normally Sci-Fi movies don’t rank at the top of my list. They tend to be heavy on the special effects and weird costumes and a bit lacking in the acting and story line.
But I like going on dates with my wife, especially when I get to flash a piece of paper that says, “We’re with the media.”
After Earth is MORE than JUST a Sci-Fi Movie
While this had many of the classic elements of a sci-fi movie, it also dealt with some heavy themes such as fear, courage, and responsibility that made it worth the hustle of leaving our house quickly and now recommending it to you and your older children. You can read a summary of the movie on the official After Earth site.
Themes in After Earth: Fatherhood and Fear
The first theme that jumped out was the relationship between a father and a son — that at times resonates with what we see in so many earthly father/son relationships (a disappointed father and a son trying to prove his worth based on his actions). For this reason, our family carves out time to build our relationship through ceremonies and quality time.
At other times, the relationship mimicked our relationship with our heavenly father. Cypher (actor Will Smith) plays the father who is a decorated war hero and high ranking military commander.
Due to an injury (during a spaceship crash, of course) Cypher is incapacitated and must guide his son, Kitai Raige (played by Jaden Smith) on a dangerous journey to save both of their lives.
Cypher can see everything his son sees and more through a state of the art surveillance system and other high tech gadgets that monitor everything down to his son’s heartbeat. The son’s choices so often replicate our own reactions to situations where we are forced to choose between doing things our way or depending on a Father that we can sometimes hear but never see as we navigate our own dangerous journey.
What is Fear?
The second, and perhaps heavier, theme that is woven through the story line is the concept of fear and our ability to choose whether we allow fear to dominate us or not. On this earth, fear can paralyze us, force us to make poor choices, and can skew our reality to the point of making us irrational.
In After Earth, fear means certain death when the hero is battling an alien monster that is physically blind and deaf but can “smell” fear from miles away like a blood hound can smell Beggin’ Strips.
As Cypher explains to his son his own struggle with overcoming his fears in a battle against his own fear smelling monster, he makes a poignant statement that becomes the backbone of the movie. He doesn’t sugar coat the dangers that his son faces on his journey but readily admits to the dangers and the very real threats that surround his son. He tells his son,
to make no mistake, danger is real. But fear is a choice.
Fear is a choice?
Is that true?
Why would anyone choose to fear?
Why would anyone choose to paralyze themselves and become irrational?
Fear Implies Control
The movie doesn’t take it this far but I speculate that we often choose fear because it allows us to believe in something physical and medicates us into thinking that we ourselves have some control over the situation. The alternative, to reject fear, requires that we surrender our control and place our faith in a God who we can sometimes hear but never see.
1 Timothy 1:7 says,
For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.
Its clear that God didn’t intend for us to fear. Fear must be something we choose rather than trusting in Him.
So who do you trust?
Your own fear smelling monster or a God that promises to never leave you or forsake you?