After Earth's ideology, Assange on the new digital age, Voyager re-explored
- The new M. Night Shyamalan film and Smith dynasty vehicle After Earth underperformed at the box office last weekend, opening in third place. Neither the film or its box office numbers interest me, but elements of its inception and marketing are curious. Up until a few years ago Shyamalan's name featured prominently in promotional materials for films (most recently in 2010 for the Shyamalan-directed Last Airbender and the Shyamalan-produced Devil). Yet during the months of promotion for After Earth the director's name wasn't mentioned. In a piece on the Mother Jones site Asawin Suebsaeng refers to Shyamalan "he who must not be named", and asserts that the director's decline from "the next Hitchcock" to a "critical and pop-cultural punchline" made his association with the movie a liability for the studio.
Much in the same way that a marketing campaign will go out of its way not to use the word "gay" when promoting a film about two despondent gay cowboys, the marketing campaign for After Earth has gone out of its way not to mention the words "M. Night Shyamalan." That sort of tells you everything you need to know about how highly Sony thinks of the 42-year-old director and his current standing.
- Other commentators have focused what influence star Will Smith's affiliation with Scientology may have had on the film. (At the end of last year when trailers for After Earth and Oblivion were both playing before new releases I noted that not only the similarity between the film's post-apocalyptic-Earth plots, but also the fact that both movies starred prominent celebrity Scientologists.) The Hollywood Reporter ran an analysis of the film written by a former member of the church.
Will Smith’s character is pretty much devoid of all emotions for the entire movie. While this may be part of his character or something that was directed in the script, in Scientology, one goes through great amounts of training and counseling to control one’s emotions and “mis-emotion,” as described by Hubbard. Anyone who has done even the smallest amount of Scientology training will recall sitting and staring at a person for hours on end without being allowed to blink, smile or turn one’s head. Will Smith pretty much masters that for the entirety of this movie.
- Another piece at Vulture also finds evidence of Scientology ideology embedded in the film's themes and imagery.
Without being too obvious, Smith has delivered an incredibly mainstream platform for the Church's ideology. After Earth’s subtext makes every beat feel like a nod to the lessons of L. Ron Hubbard. Fleeing Earth to another planet only to return to home mirrors the idea of thetan resurrection. The ship Cypher and Kitai take on their mission isn't that far off from the Douglas DC-8–esque ship that took Xenu's kidnapped souls to earth. And the prominently advertised volcano that functions as a backdrop to a large After Earth set piece? Just look at the cover to Hubbard's book that started it all —Dianetics.
- This Gawker article contends that "After Earth is just a shitty movie, not Scientology propaganda".
If After Earth were intentional propaganda, it would be an even bigger failure than it already is – the path to self-enlightenment is reduced to an overlong, tedious quest to find shit. Who wants to join that club? For the strong-willed, fear may be a choice, but for everyone else this weekend, avoiding boredom is an even clearer choice.
- Perhaps The Onion's analysis has it, and audiences found the gimmick of Smith-and-son starring in a movie "more annoying than appealing".
Let’s just say, for argument’s sake, that I was an average, everyday American consumer. Would I enjoy seeing an incredibly rich and famous man use his money and power to make his children incredibly rich and famous? Would I enjoy seeing the face of a young teenager plastered on movie posters across the entire nation, not because of who he is, but because of who his father is? To be totally honest, I’m not so sure I would. In fact, it’s conceivable that I might find it unbelievably infuriating and downright unbearable.
- This past April Wikileaks published a transcript of a meeting held in June 2011 between Julian Assange and Google CEO Eric Schmidt. This week the New York Times published an editorial by Assange reviewing the recently published The New Digital Age by Schmidt and Jared Cohen.
This book is a balefully seminal work in which neither author has the language to see, much less to express, the titanic centralizing evil they are constructing. “What Lockheed Martin was to the 20th century,” they tell us, “technology and cybersecurity companies will be to the 21st.” Without even understanding how, they have updated and seamlessly implemented George Orwell’s prophecy. If you want a vision of the future, imagine Washington-backed Google Glasses strapped onto vacant human faces — forever.
- Lastly, I enjoyed this piece on Star Trek: Voyager by Brandon Nowalk at the A.V. Club.
“Caretaker” invokes ’90s environmentalism, a superpower’s role as world police, and two oppositional parties working together to run that superpower as best as they can, but it’s nothing so much as a reminder of Gene Roddenberry’s Prime Directive. Starfleet is expressly prohibited from interfering with the progress of pre-warp societies. The Caretaker’s species had no such guidelines and nearly wiped out a whole species. Now, Voyager has the task of upholding Alpha Quadrant standards in the absence of Alpha Quadrant hierarchy.