After Earth is heavy with Scientology themes, critics say, adding more ammunition against what is already the summer’s biggest box office flop.
The sci-fi film starring Will Smith and his son Jaden Smith was one of the biggest bombs in recent memory, pulling in only $27 million the first weekend. It was even beaten at the box office by Now You See Me, a movie about teleporting, bank-robbing magicians.
Critics say After Earth has another check against it — heavy themes in Scientology. The fringe religion popular with many celebrities (including Will Smith) is widely seen as a cult that’s heavy handed against its critics and even its members. But for the movie industry, the biggest concern is that Scientology is box-office poison.
After Earth is filed with Scientology references, critics say. The movie is about a father and son who crash on Earth 1,000 years after civilization collapsed, forcing humans to leave the planet. The main conflict is about the two conquering their fear, a message heavy in the Scientology text Dianetics.
Volcanoes also play a key image in the movie, and are also central to the teachings of Scientology.
As history has shown, Scientology and movies do not mix well. In the 1970s, Scientology founder and sci-fi writer L. Ron Hubbard wrote a screenplay called Revolt in the Stars about an alien dictator named Xenu, who sends people to Earth and tries to kill them. Xenu would later become a central belief in Scientology, and the screenplay would be turned into one of the biggest box office bombs of all time, Battlefield Earth.
Whether it has to do with Scientology or not, After Earth has gotten awful reviews. Critics pointed out that it seems to be a birthday present from Will Smith to his son, akin to the Rebecca Black’s vanity music video “Friday.”