Is the Will Smith/M. Night Shyamalan epic just one big Scientology parable?
Though he's often been connected by various media reports with the religion started in the 1950s by sci-fi writer and philosopher L. Ron Hubbard, Will Smith has always denied being a member of the Church of Scientology. He has, however, publicly praised some of the philosophies of the controversial church, and that's led to further speculation that he might be a secret Scientologist after all. With that in mind, former Scientologist and author Marc Headley, who left the church in 2005 after what he terms a "desperate escape," went to see After Earth and wrote a review linking many of the film's ideas to Scientology's teachings.
So what links did Headley find? For one thing, he connects what seems to be the film's central philosophy and main tagline -- "Danger is real. Fear is a choice." -- to Hubbard's religion.
"L. Ron Hubbard’s teachings insist that emotions and fear are triggers and are part of the reactive mind," Headley wrote. "Through Scientology, one is supposed to 'rid oneself of your fears.'"
Headley also links Smith's character Cypher Raige's instruction to his son Kitai to "Be in the present moment" to Scientology.
"Through Scientology training, one learns how to be in 'present time,' or PT as it is commonly referred to by insiders," Headley wrote. "In order to operate as a higher being and be in control over one’s environment, it is considered key that a person exist in present time and not react to the past."
Headley also connects the presence of a volcano in pivotal scenes of the film to Scientology, drawing parallels to some of the religion's highest-level teachings.
"Then you have the intergalactic overlord Xenu who, in cahoots with the psychiatrists of the universe, imprisoned millions of souls, froze them and then dumped them into -- you guessed it -- Earth’s volcanoes. Of all the places in the galaxy! This is part of the upper-level teachings of Scientology that members only find out about after they’ve spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on Scientology counseling."
Of course, you could argue that Smith and Shyamalan simply thought the volcano was a cool set piece, and that many other sci-fi franchises -- Star Wars, for example -- have used ideas like purposely expelling fear and living in the moment. What do you think? Is After Earth really a direct link to Scientology, or are these similarities purely coincidental?