I had been born in 1976 and outside of “Blaxploitation” movies, there were no African American action or science fiction stars. My favorite movies included “Tron, inch “Superman, ” “The Last Star Fighter, ” and “Dune. ” The heroes in those films 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 Caucasian males, and none of them looked like me. Hell, in most of the movies having a futuristic theme there was not even the 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, imagination and science fiction movies contain ancient magical and mythological components incorporated into the fabric of their tales; to see titans, gods, goddesses and fairies as characters in present day cinema is a fairly commonplace incident – with one caveat, these types of characters almost never appear in movies written or directed by Blacks, or with an all Black cast.
With regards to Black cinema we have few choices for our movie going pleasure. We now have comedies, action comedies, the good “Jesus Will Fix It” movie and “Hot Ghetto Mess Drama, ” (usually not the good kind), and last but not least is the “Catharsis Drama” – movies about profound suffering and abuse and how the figures where able to somehow carry on right after being both victimized and traumatized. Few Black writers explore the particular realm of science fiction, wonderland, or create movies with a magical or mythological theme.
To add levels of depth and subtle complexity for their stories, adept writers and directors are able to use the archetypical and representational elements of the heroes and heroines of ancient mythological stories plus folk and fairy tales. Often these elements are used so masterfully as to be hardly recognized by most of the movie going public, but to the trained eye, these elements are usually obvious.
It takes study of traditional literature, world mythology and symbology in order to use the above mentioned story elements with any level of effectiveness. Study that many burgeoning African American film makers appear all too willing to ignore in their film 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 certainly Smith, tells the type of story that will Black entertainment hasn’t seen the likes of in a very, very long time.
Some critics dislike this movie because they know what Mister. Smith is trying to accomplish with this kind of movie, and they don’t like it. While Smith’s traditional audience may be slow to co-sign this movie for two reasons, one is they are not used to viewing African Americans play these types of roles, (although they will pay top dollar to watch Tom Cruise, Brad Pitt and Keanu Reaves play these roles again and again, ) and two, they don’t actually understand the themes portrayed in this movie due to the fact that as a culture, we were stripped of our initiatory practices and 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, and so it seems we shun the magical and fantastical images of ourselves as sorcerers, demigods and characters.
Why “After Earth” is Worth Watching
Below I will outline various components of the movie “After Earth” that make this particular movie worth seeing over and over again. Dads, if you have been looking for a movie to take your sons to that will help you to begin an outstanding conversation about rites of passing and growing into a man, you’ll want to 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. Should you do not 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 in indigenous tribes because it was a system by which the young boys and girls of a given culture or tribe were guided through in order to educate, prepare and move them through the stage of childhood into adulthood and all the attendant rites and responsibilities which usually adulthood entailed.
Initiation constantly begins with education and teaching, and in the movie we begin with the main character training with his military academy class. Readers will take note that cadets in the military go through a process of initiation designed to strip them of their life as a civilian to remold them as a soldier, and make no mistake, this system of initiation was taken from the ancient local cultures of Africa and passed on through other cultures and societies throughout the world.
Training involves physical plus mental exercise and tests made to give initiates/cadets control over their bodies, their own emotions and their minds.
It really is at this point in the movie that we discover that young Kitai, while exhibiting amazing physical abilities is lacking in emotional and mental control, issues which usually he will be forced to deal with later on in the movie.
Below is an outline associated with initiatory steps as experienced by the particular ancients and portrayed in “After Earth”
Trek Through Nature in Solitude With a Mission to Complete
Start Versus Nature, Beasts, and Personal (FEAR)
Initiate must face plus overcome several trials in order to reach their goal (manhood)
Endurance (Breathing linked to inhalers)
Initiate must protect and ration limited amount of products, ie; food, water, medical
Dealing with confrontation with potential danger.
It really is worth noting here that Kitai failed his first encounter with danger (the monkeys) spectacularly! His Father told him to take power over 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 plus forcing him to flee through the confrontation he created out of dread. In initiation, this is to be expected. The initiate must fail to be able to understand what can result from recklessness plus unchecked fear.
This same scenario played itself out in the movie Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back, when Luke was sent into the “Cave of Darkness” by Yoda. Luke took FEAR into the cave with him and was confronted by it in the form of his Father, Darth Vader – though this Vader was purely a creation of Luke’s fearful thoughts.
More Ways on the Path
Facing medical emergency – poisoning by river leach and self administration of anti-venom.
Enduring the elements – finding thermal high temperature vents and shelter to keep cozy during cold spells.
Defying Specialist or “The System” in order to do what is right.
Leap of Faith — Jumping off a cliff within the hopes that his brash action will carry him to his goal.
Surviving a predator – The Raptor or Hawk symbolizing Heru*
Assisting Mother Nature to defend the girl children – fighting for the lives of the baby hawks against the attacks of the feline predators.
Divine Help – Initiate is pushed to his physical limits and thus transcends and is able to make contact with the soul 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 but must still go higher in order to reconnect spiritually with his Father – Kitai finds the beacon however it will not send the signal. Out of anger and frustration he hears the spiritual tone of voice of his Father telling your pet to take a knee, (lower their physical nature so that he may pay attention to his higher “spirit” nature) — his father then tells him that he must go higher, to the top 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 his 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 confronted and overcome by the young teenagers of the tribe in order for them to become men.
Initiate has to enter the Cave of Darkness/Fear. It is here that the monster reveals itself to the start and must be fought to the demise.
Initiate is hurled into the tophet and must experience death. This particular death is not a physical one usually, but represents the passing away of the childish nature of the child 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 of mind and heart.
Upon reaching the mountaintop, the initiate is able to completely conquer himself and as a result their own fear and is thus able to eliminate the monster and send the beacon into the heavens to receive the rescue and a return to his divine home.
By completing his job, the initiate is able to return home and redeem (save) his Father who was symbolically dead and in the particular underworld or in a deep spirit sleep from which only the sons give up 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 conditions that recurs throughout literature and thought consistently enough to be regarded universal. ” Literary critics used the term from Carl Gustav Jung’s theory of the collective unconscious. Mainly because archetypes originate in pre-logical thought, they are held to evoke amazingly similar feelings in reader plus author. Examples of archetypal symbols are the snake, whale, eagle, and vulture. An archetypal theme is the passing from innocence to experience; archetypal character types include the blood brother, rebel, sensible grandparent, and prostitute with a coronary heart of gold. ”
Some of the archetypes that “After Earth” makes use of consist of, the “Father, ” wise and valiant, yet fundamentally separated through his son, due to some perceived weakness or character flaw inside the Son. The Son has allow his Father down in a profound way, which has caused emotional and physical detachment.
The archetype from the “Son/Sun” in movies has the son following in his Father’s footsteps, while at the same time trying to make his own mark. He or she loves his Father but is usually 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 and even to surpass him, in order to obtain his love and respect. It does not take Son’s job ultimately to redeem or save his Father, which makes him a suitable replacement for his Dad, and which earns him the right to become a Father in his own right.
The steps that the Father plus 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 by Father to be a failure. In After Earth this is unspoken, though in certain stories the Father tells the Boy 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 two of them survive, leaving the Father significantly wounded and having to rely on the particular Son for salvation.
Father needs absolute obedience and adherence in order to his rules and commands when he does not fully trust the mental and physical abilities of the Boy.
Son is sent out to face the weather and enemies alone, but with the “spiritual guidance” of the Father. In After Earth, the spiritual guidance of the Father is represented by the com-link that keeps them within voice communication, and the “All Viewing Eyes” or cameras that the Father deploys in order to observe his Son’s progress and to watch out for danger.
Son VS Father – The Kid begins to question his Father’s power when his Father exhibits an absence of faith that the Son can achieve his goals. This is perhaps the Most significant part of the movie when Kitai chooses to outright disobey the immediate order of his Father. The particular lesson is this: when authority is wrong or becomes oppressive, it ought to be disobeyed by the hero in order for proper rights to be done.
Son Disobeys Father and is Cutoff, Cast Out or even Cast Down. Being cut off through 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 minus guidance at a critical stage from the mission/initiation.
Son Forced to Face Foe (FEAR) Alone – In the movie fear is represented by the Ursa, which is a monster that tracks the enemies through pheromones released whenever its prey is afraid. This creature can literally smell your fear. It is only when the Son has mastered himself that he may overcome the fear inside him, which the Ursa beast in the movie symbolizes.
Son Redeems (SAVES) Father, Results Home a Man, Understands and Turns into Father.
The Heru Mythos
Every hero story you have ever study 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 all good kings. You can read about their exploits in “The Passion associated with Osiris (Ausar)” and “A Tale of Two Brothers”. These stories come down to us from the property 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 as 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 those who have 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 was foreshadowed in After Earth with the soldier in the wheelchair, who approached the General and his Son. Upon getting close to the General, the soldier declared the fact that General had saved his existence and asked to be “stood upward, ” or in Biblical terms, “made upright”, by his friends so that he could make a proper salute to his hero (savior). This theme would play itself out again as the General would make the request “stand me up”, to ensure that he could salute his son -this particular movie sequence represents the son “redeeming” or “saving” his Father.
Getting back to the mythos associated with Heru… after his father Ausar (Osiris) is murdered and his sibling takes over the kingdom of Kemet, it becomes the mission of Heru and is Mother Auset (Isis) to obtain Heru on the throne as the rightful ruler of the land. Heru has to go through years of training under the auspices of his Mother Auset, His 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.
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In the film After Earth we see the connection of the Hero to the Hawk in the “Leap of Faith” sequence where the hawk chases Kitai down and carries him off to her nest to be food for her baby girls. Kitai awakes while being nibbled on by the newborn chicks, but finds that the hawk nest is usually under attack by feline predators intent on eating the girls.
Kitai helps the hawk to protect the nest but fails to maintain the predators from killing all of the child birds.
The hawk mourns the loss of her baby chicks with a screech of rage and begins to follow Kitai in the air, which seems threatening in the beginning, but we find out afterwards that the Hawk has bonded with Kitai and she later drags your pet to safety and protects your pet from the cold by using her own body heat to keep him from very cold. This is an obvious symbol of Kitai’s mythic relationship to Heru the Neter*** of the Sun and the Atmosphere… the original sky – walker.