I used to be born in 1976 and outside of “Blaxploitation” movies, there were no Black action or science fiction celebrities. My favorite movies included “Tron, inch “Superman, ” “The Last Superstar Fighter, ” and “Dune. inch The heroes in those movies had super powers, super intelligence, and had to dig deep to overcome extra-ordinarily difficult situations, frequently at great personal cost. It really is worth noting here that the stars of these movies were all White males, and none of them looked like me personally. Hell, in most of the movies using a futuristic theme there was not even a Black person cast as an additional! As if, as Richard Pryor therefore eloquently put it, white people were not expecting us to be in the future.
It is no secret that many action, illusion and science fiction movies consist of ancient magical and mythological elements incorporated into the fabric of their stories; to see titans, gods, goddesses plus fairies as characters in present day cinema is a fairly commonplace incident – with one caveat, these types of characters almost never appear in movies created or directed by Blacks, or with an all Black cast.
When it comes to Black cinema we have few options for our movie going pleasure. We now have comedies, action comedies, the all important “Jesus Will Fix It” film and “Hot Ghetto Mess Dilemma, ” (usually not the good kind), and last but not least is the “Catharsis Drama” – movies about profound suffering and abuse and how the character types where able to somehow carry on after being both victimized and traumatized. Few Black writers explore the realm of science fiction, fantasy, or create movies with a marvelous or mythological theme.
To add levels of depth and subtle complexity to their stories, adept writers and directors are able to use the archetypical and symbolic elements of the heroes and heroines of ancient mythological stories plus folk and fairy tales. Often these elements are used so skillfully as to be hardly recognized by the majority of the movie going public, but to the trained eye, these elements are usually obvious.
It takes study of classical literature, world mythology and symbology in order to use the above mentioned story elements with any level of effectiveness.
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Study that many burgeoning African American film makers appear all too willing to ignore in their movie making process, as these elements are often sorely lacking in the plots and storylines of the majority of Black cinema.
The “After Earth” screenplay was authored by Gary Whitta and M. Night time Shyamalan, with the story by Will Smith, tells the type of story that will Black entertainment hasn’t seen other brands in a very, very long time.
Some critics dislike this movie because they know what Mr. Smith is trying to accomplish with this type of movie, and they don’t like it. While Smith’s traditional audience may be gradual to co-sign this movie for 2 reasons, one is they are not used to seeing African Americans play these types of functions, (although they will pay top dollar to view Tom Cruise, Brad Pitt and Keanu Reaves play these roles again and again, ) and two, they don’t really understand the themes portrayed in this movie due to the fact that as a culture, i was stripped of our initiatory practices plus our stories, and as a result we are used to seeing these types of roles played by White or Asian actors plus actresses.
By and large, the legends, folk traditions and traditions of Africans and other indigenous cultures, have been demonized through religion and western culture, therefore it seems we shun the marvelous and fantastical images of yourself as sorcerers, demigods and characters.
Why “After Earth” is Worth Watching
Below I will outline various aspects of the movie “After Earth” that make this movie worth seeing over and over again. Fathers, if you have been looking for a movie to take your sons to that will help you to begin a profound conversation about rites of passage and growing into a man, you check this out.
!!! SPOILER ALERT!!! – We will be discussing the story and plotline from this movie and by doing so areas of the actual story are going to be revealed. If you don’t want to spoil the movie before you have seen it, STOP NOW, after which come back after you’ve seen it to participate in this analysis.
Let’s take a begin by taking a look at the theme of initiation that runs throughout “After Earth”.
Initiation was important within indigenous tribes because it was a system by which the young boys and girls of the given culture or tribe were guided through in order to educate, get ready and move them through the stage of childhood into adulthood and all the particular attendant rites and responsibilities which usually adulthood entailed.
Initiation constantly begins with education and training, and in the movie we begin with the primary character training with his military school class. Readers will take note that junior military personnel in the military go through a process associated with initiation designed to strip them of their life as a civilian to remold them as a soldier, and create no mistake, this system of initiation was taken from the ancient native cultures of Africa and passed on through other cultures and societies throughout the world.
Training involves physical plus mental exercise and tests designed to give initiates/cadets control over their bodies, their particular emotions and their minds.
It is at this point in the movie that we find that young Kitai, while exhibiting amazing physical abilities is lacking in psychological and mental control, issues which usually he will be forced to deal with later on within the movie.
Below is an outline of initiatory steps as experienced by the ancients and portrayed in “After Earth”
Trek Through Nature within Solitude With a Mission to Complete
Start Versus Nature, Beasts, and Self (FEAR)
Initiate must face and overcome several trials in order to reach their goal (manhood)
Endurance (Breathing linked to inhalers)
Initiate must shield and ration limited amount of supplies, ie; food, water, medical
Handling confrontation with potential danger.
It is worth noting here that Kitai failed his first encounter with danger (the monkeys) spectacularly! His Father told him to take control of his Power and watch what he creates. Kitai could not control their fear and anxiety and thus created a scenario exactly where his life was in danger and forcing him to flee in the confrontation he created out of anxiety. In initiation, this is to be anticipated. The initiate must fail in order to understand what can result from recklessness plus unchecked fear.
This same situation played itself out in the superstar Wars: The Empire Strikes Back, when Luke was sent to the “Cave of Darkness” by Yoda. Luke took FEAR into the cave with him and was faced with it in the form of his Father, Darth Vader – though this Vader was purely a creation associated with Luke’s fearful thoughts.
More Steps on the Path
Facing medical emergency – poisoning by river leach plus self administration of anti-venom.
Making it through the elements – finding thermal high temperature vents and shelter to keep comfy during cold spells.
Defying Power or “The System” in order to do what is right.
Leap of Faith : Jumping off a cliff within the hopes that his brash take action will carry him to their goal.
Surviving a predator – The Raptor or Hawk symbolizing Heru*
Assisting Mother Nature to defend her children – fighting for the life of the baby hawks against the episodes of the feline predators.
Divine Help – Initiate is pushed to his physical limits and thus goes beyond and is able to make contact with the spirit world where he is able to make serenity with his dead sister and is provided the aid and the protection associated with his spirit totem, the hawk.
Initiate reaches physical goal yet must still go higher in order to reunite spiritually with his Father – Kitai finds the beacon however it will not send the signal. Out of frustration and anger he hears the spiritual tone of voice of his Father telling him to take a knee, (lower his physical nature so that he may listen to his higher “spirit” nature) : his father then tells your pet that he must go higher, to the best of a nearby mountain so that he is able to send their beacon signal (plea for assistance) into the heavens.
Start must face and overcome their fear here symbolized by the “Ursa” monster. Note here that “Ursa” is another name for a Bear which in some native tribes had to be faced and overcome by the young teenagers of the tribe in order for them to turn out to be men.
Initiate has to enter the Cave of Darkness/Fear. It is here the fact that monster reveals itself to the initiate and must be fought to the dying.
Initiate is hurled into the perdition and must experience death. This death is not a physical one usually, but represents the passing away of the childish nature of the boy and the birth of the man. Fear, question and disbelief dies here, as well as the man, the warrior is able to be born. Initiate is put in mortal danger in order to force a change associated with mind and heart.
Upon achieving the mountaintop, the initiate is able to completely conquer himself and as a result their own fear and is thus able to destroy the monster and send a beacon into the heavens to receive a rescue and a return to his heavenly home.
By completing his task, the initiate is able to return home and redeem (save) his Father who was symbolically dead and in the underworld or in a deep spirit sleep from which only the sons compromise could save him. **
The makers of “After Earth” furthermore make use of archetypes to help them tell their story. According to the Concise Encyclopedia an “archetype” is “Primordial image, character, or pattern of situations that recurs throughout literature and thought consistently enough to be regarded as universal. ” Literary critics followed the term from Carl Gustav Jung’s theory of the collective unconscious. Because archetypes originate in pre-logical thought, they are held to evoke startlingly similar feelings in reader and author. Examples of archetypal symbols include the snake, whale, eagle, and vulture. An archetypal theme is the passage from innocence to experience; archetypal characters include the blood brother, rebel, smart grandparent, and prostitute with a cardiovascular of gold. ”
Some of the archetypes that “After Earth” makes use of consist of, the “Father, ” wise plus valiant, yet fundamentally separated from his son, due to some recognized weakness or character flaw within the Son. The Son has let his Father down in a profound way, which has caused emotional and physical detachment.
The archetype of the “Son/Sun” in movies has the son following in his Father’s footsteps, and trying to make his own mark. He or she loves his Father but can be resentful of him because he sees that he has fallen short of his Father’s expectations and/or achievements and he yearns to be like his Father as well as to surpass him, in order to gain his love and respect. It does not take Son’s job ultimately to get or save his Father, which makes him a suitable replacement for his Dad, and which earns him the proper to become a Father in his own correct.
The steps that the Father and Son archetype takes in the movie “After Earth” are listed below.
Son in search of Father
Son fails to achieve a good expected goal, and is judged simply by Father to be a failure. In Right after Earth this is unspoken, though in certain stories the Father tells the Son outright that he is a failure.
Father and Son embark on journey to attempt to mend the rift between them. (This is a mask for the beginning of the initiatory journey. )
Father and Kid encounter disaster, which only the 2 of them survive, leaving the Father seriously wounded and having to rely on the particular Son for salvation.
Father demands absolute obedience and adherence in order to his rules and commands when he does not fully trust the psychological and physical abilities of the Boy.
Son is sent out to face the weather and enemies alone, but with the particular “spiritual guidance” of the Father. In After Earth, the spiritual assistance of the Father is represented with the com-link that keeps them within voice communication, and the “All Seeing Eyes” or cameras that the Father deploys in order to observe his Boy’s progress and to watch out for danger.
Child VS Father – The Child begins to question his Father’s expert when his Father exhibits a lack of faith that the Son can achieve his goals. This is perhaps the MOST important part of the movie when Kitai chooses to outright disobey the direct order of his Father. The particular lesson is this: when authority can be wrong or becomes oppressive, it ought to be disobeyed by the hero in order for proper rights to be done.
Son Disobeys Dad and is Cutoff, Cast Out or Cast Down. Being cut off from communication with the Father is symbolic of being cast down from bliss, which was shown literally as Kitai took a leap off the top of a waterfall in disobedience to his Father’s order that he return home. This event caused his communication link to his Father to be broken, leaving the Son alone and without guidance at a critical stage of the mission/initiation.
Son Forced to Face Enemy (FEAR) Alone – In the movie fear is represented by the Ursa, which is a monster that tracks the enemies through pheromones released when its prey is afraid. This creature can literally smell your fear. It is only when the Kid has mastered himself that he can overcome the fear inside him, that the Ursa beast in the movie represents.
Son Redeems (SAVES) Father, Profits Home a Man, Understands and Gets Father.
The Heru Mythos
Every single hero story you have ever go through or saw played out on the particular silver screen is based on the mythos associated with Heru. Heru was an ancient African deity or Neter (force or aspect of nature) and the template for everyone good kings. You can read about his exploits in “The Passion of Osiris (Ausar)” and “A Tale of Two Brothers”. These stories come down to us from the land of ancient Kemet, now known as Egypt.
In the myth Heru’s Father Ausar (Osiris) is betrayed and murdered by his jealous brother Set. Ausar is resurrected because the spiritual ruler of the underworld or afterlife. As a ruler, he is constantly made to sit on a throne plus cast his judgment on anyone who has recently passed on. [This is shown symbolically as Kitai’s Father Cipher was stuck in the chair inside the ship and using the ships camera’s (spiritual eyes) and the comm. Link (spiritual communication) to watch over and provide guidance to Kitai]
The throne motif is important as it has been foreshadowed in After Earth with the soldier in the wheelchair, who contacted the General and his Son. Upon approaching the General, the soldier declared the General had saved his life and asked to be “stood upward, ” or in Biblical conditions, “made upright”, by his friends so that he could make a proper praise to his hero (savior). This theme would play itself away again as the General would associated with request “stand me up”, so that he could salute his son -this particular movie sequence represents the particular son “redeeming” or “saving” their Father.
Getting back to the mythos associated with Heru… after his father Ausar (Osiris) is murdered and his brother takes over the kingdom of Kemet, it becomes the mission of Heru and is Mother Auset (Isis) to get Heru on the throne as the rightful ruler of the land. Heru needs to go through years of training under the auspices of his Mother Auset, Their Aunt Nebhet (Nephtys) and the diminutive Bes who is the Neter of child birth, happiness and war. It really is Bes who trains Heru to be a warrior. In the movie Star Wars Yoda played the part of the trainer (Bes) to Luke Skywalker (Heru).
The symbol of Heru was the Hawk. He was often depicted with wings and having the head or even mask of a hawk. In the film After Earth we see the romantic relationship of the Hero to the Hawk within the “Leap of Faith” sequence where the hawk chases Kitai down and then carries him off to her home to be food for her baby chicks. Kitai awakes while being nibbled on by the newborn chicks, yet finds that the hawk nest is definitely under attack by feline potential predators intent on eating the girls.
Kitai helps the hawk to protect the nest but fails to keep the predators from killing all of the infant birds.
The hawk mourns losing her baby chicks with a screech of rage and begins to follow Kitai in the air, which seems menacing in the beginning, but we find out later that the Hawk has bonded along with Kitai and she later drags your pet to safety and protects him from the cold by using her own body heat to keep him from abnormally cold. This is an obvious symbol of Kitai’s mythic relationship to Heru the particular Neter*** of the Sun and the Skies… the original sky – walker.