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Long Eastern and Short Western Tragic Movies

One of the archetypes “After Earth” uses is the “Father”, wise and brave, but fundamentally disconnected from his son due to a perceived weakness or character flaw in the Son. The Son has let down his Father in a profound manner, which has led to emotional and physical separation.

In movies, the archetype of the Son/Son is the son who follows in the footsteps of his Father while trying to make his mark. He is loyal to his Father, but he feels resentful towards him. He knows that he has not lived up to his Father’s expectations. He longs to be just like him and to even surpass him in order to win his respect and love. The Son is ultimately responsible for saving his Father and making him a good replacement. This earns him the right of becoming a father himself.

Below are the steps the Father and Son archetype take in “After Earth”.

In search of his Father, a son

Father declares Son a failure after he fails to reach his goal. This is not said in After Earth, but some stories tell the Son straight that he is excellent


Father and son embark on a journey to try to heal the rift between them. This is the mask that will be used to begin the initiatory journey.

Father and Son meet disaster which only one of them survives, leaving the Father with severe injuries and having to rely upon the Son for his salvation.

Father expects Son to obey his commands and rules. He doesn’t fully trust the Son’s mental and physical abilities.

Son is sent to confront the elements and foes alone, but with the spiritual guidance of the Father. After Earth is represented by the com link that keeps them in voice communications and the “All Seeing Eyes”, or cameras that the Father uses to monitor his Son’s progress, and to keep an eye out for danger.

Son VS Father – The Son starts to question his Father’s authority after his Father shows a lack faith that the Son can achieve his goals. Kitai’s decision to disobey his father’s orders is the most important scene in the movie. This is the lesson: When authority becomes oppressive or wrong, it must be disobeyed.

Son disobeys his Father and is cut off, cast out or cast down. The Father cut off from communication is symbolic of his being cast down from heaven. Kitai made a literal leap from the waterfall to disobey his Father’s orders that he return home. The Son was left alone and without direction at the crucial stage of his mission/initiation when his communication with his Father was cut off.

Son Forced to Face Enemy Alone (FEAR) – The Ursa is the monster that tracks its enemies using pheromones. This creature can smell fear. Only when the Son masters himself can he overcome his fear, as the Ursa beast depicts in the movie.

Son Redeems (SAVES), Father Returns Home a Man and Understands, and Becomes Father.

The Heru Mythos

Every story about a hero that you’ve ever seen on the silver screen was based on the mythos Heru. Heru was an African Neter (force or aspect) that was an ancient deity. He was the template for all good Kings. His exploits can be found in “The Passion of Osiris(Ausar)” or “A Tale of Two Brothers”. These stories are from Egypt, the land of ancient Kemet.

The myth tells that Heru’s father Ausar (Osiris), is betrayed by Set, his jealous brother. Ausar is resurrected and becomes the spiritual ruler of underworld or the afterlife. He is a ruler and can always sit on a throne to judge those who have just died. This is symbolically shown as Kitai’s Father Cipher was trapped inside the ship using the ships camera (spiritual eye) and the comm. Link (spiritual communications) is used to provide guidance and watch over Kitai.

It is significant because the soldier in a wheelchair approached the General and his son to see the throne motif. The soldier approached the General and declared that the General saved his life. He asked for his companions to “stand me up”, or in Biblical terms “made straight”, so that he could properly salute his hero (savior). The General would again repeat this theme, asking to be “stood up” so that he could salute him. This particular sequence in the movie represents his son “redeeming” and “saving” his father.

Let’s return to the mythos about Heru. His father Ausar (Osiris), is killed and his brother takes control of the kingdom of Kemet. It becomes the mission and responsibility of Heru and Mother Auset (Isis), to place Heru on the throne and make him the rightful ruler. Heru must undergo years of training, under the tutelage of his Aunt Nebhet (Nephtys), and the diminutive Bes, who is the Neter for child birth, happiness, and war. Bes is the one who trains Heru as a warrior. Yoda was the trainer in Star Wars (Bes) for Luke Skywalker (Heru).

The Hawk was Heru’s symbol. His symbol was the Hawk, often with wings and the mask or head of a hawk. After Earth shows the relationship of the Hero and the Hawk in the “Leap of Faith” sequence, where Kitai is chased down by the hawk who then takes him to her nest to feed her chicks. Kitai wakes up while being fed by the chicks. However, he discovers that the nest of hawks is under attack from feline predators who want to eat the chicks.

Kitai assists the hawk in protecting the nest, but does not stop predators from killing all the baby birds.

With a scream of anger, the hawk grieves the loss her baby chicks and follows Kitai in the air. It seems scary at first, but later we learn that the Hawk has bonded to Kitai. She later drags Kitai to safety and uses her own body heat as protection from the cold to keep him safe. This is Kitai’s mythic relationship with Heru the Neter***, the Sun and Sky…the original sky-walker.

After many contentious battles, adventures, Heru would, with the support of his Mother, go on to take the rulership of the Land of Kemet (Egypt), and thus redeem his Father Ausar.

It is important to know that Ausar (Osiris), and Heru (Horus), have been told many times around the globe. Although the names of characters and some of the circumstances may have changed, the core of the story has not. The Son has the responsibility to succeed his Father as the ruler of the land, or EARTH. However, he must prove himself worthy. You can see that After Earth is much more than what the casual observer might think.

The movie After Earth also features many mythological and archetypal symbols that I am unable to mention, such as the Mother being the “Queen” of Heaven or the Sister being the “Spiritual Guardian”, of her Brother. The movie has all the elements necessary to tell a great story, and After Earth is brimming with them. I look forward to seeing more of this kind of movie, not only from Will Smith and his crew, but also from other Black filmmakers.