Will Smith’s nepotism opus, After Earth, is a science fiction film in which: a father and son crash, the father is injured, and the son has to risk his life to find help. It’s not a novel concept, and it might have worked if it were set in a forest in modern times, as the original script planned. However, the senior Smith wanted to create a franchise for his son, so he had professional writers craft a setting based far in the future, around a group of human defenders called Rangers. These Rangers defend humanity against an alien force that attacks with monsters called “Ursa”’s. It’s, perhaps, the weakest and stupidest setting ever for a science fiction movie. Apparently, no one involved with the production of this film recognized the hilarity (plagiarism?) of Ranger Smith in the woods trying to outsmart an above average bear? There is also a little Daredevil rip off going on, only this time it’s the man without fear killing the blind.
While Wil Smith is serviceable as the Ranger Cypher, his son is essentially the character he played in The Karate Kid, only as a young soldier. Both father and son speak in some queer accent that only they affect. The plot has fewer twists than the shortest distance between two points. Not only is the story stultifyingly linear, but Wil Smith’s character presages every challenge his son will face like one of the 1970’s Superfriends. The effects are fine, but the action is boring, the characters are boring, the science is atrocious, and none of it can overcome the initial, idiotic premise.
Chapter 1: 00:01 – 2:15
The first scene is the Ranger Cypher Rage facing his son, Kitai as they both wear masks in a space ship. Suddenly, Cypher is thrown to the far end of the ship, and then Kitai is shown lying on his side in grass. Kitai starts a monologue in his head, which the viewer can hear, over scenes depicting the monologue. This monologue describe’s the film’s setting.
One thousand years ago, humans destroyed earth and the United Ranger Corp was created to lead the settlement and evacuation from Earth to humankind’s new home, Nova Prime. However, the humans weren’t alone. There was a race of aliens, known as The Aliens, which attacked humans by releasing “Ursa” which were bred to kill humans. The Ursa are blind but can sense humans by pheromones released by humans when they are scared. Cypher is the first ranger who is devoid of fear, thus invisible to the Ursa.
This is the shortest segment in Plot Pedant history but it’s packed with foolishness. Things start off fine with a common science fiction theme – the world has become uninhabitable due to humans and thus there is an exodus off world. Humankind finds a suitable world and heads off to it. So far, so good.
Then the humans meet “The Aliens”. These must be the only other life forms humans have encountered; else they’d have a name as a race and not be called “The Aliens” (unless these creatures refer to themselves as “The Aliens”). As such, this must be the only race of sentient creatures humans have ever encountered. This would rock the very foundations of religion and concepts of being a citizen of the universe. We’re not alone! The movie makes no mention of this, preferring to go directly to warfare. The reasons for warfare are ignored. It’s not said whether The Aliens were already on Nova Prime (making humans the aliens), or they also destroyed their planet and needed Nova Prime as well, or if they’re just jerks. None of this matters, though, because you never see The Aliens on screen and this is their only mention. Presumably, subsequent movies starring Jaden Smith would flesh this out, but since this movie is such an atrocity we’ll never know.
Regardless, The Aliens are quite stupid. They are confronted with an enemy that can travel between planets in big metal ships, but they decide to fight these enemies using animals with no distance attacks. These animals can’t even see. They rely on smell to find their prey. Little do The Aliens know that humans solved the conundrum of being attacked by bears right around the time they invented throwing. How are humans with rifles supposed to lose in a fight against a fucking bear? Maybe the bears have super tough hides that reflect lasers, stop bullets, and are plasma or fire resistant. Nope, Cypher Rage strolls up to one and just slices it open with a sword – without even bracing himself for the swing. He cuts it like a hot knife through drawn butter. I guess the Ursa can’t hear either.
What kind of hunting mechanism is smelling fear? Wouldn’t it be much easier for the Ursa to smell sweat, cologne, shampoo, soap, or any of the myriad stronger scents that humans emit? For this Ursa thing to track its prey, it has to first identify itself, then wait for the target to take fright, then wait for the pheromones to be released, then hope that the scared target doesn’t shoot it to death before it can orient on its target. What if the humans are downwind? What if they’re in suit of environmentally secure armor, or a vehicle? Hell, what If they just douse themselves in Hai Karate and drown out their pheromones? Or, what if the humans have distance weapons and aren’t scared because they know they’re going to blast this stupid Ursa before it’s in claw range? What if the humans are flying? Does the Ursa shake a fist in rage at the humans?
As poor an adversary as the Ursa are, they appear to be successful. Cut scenes show that the Ursa like to hang human corpses on trees, presumably to show their parents “yes, humans DO grow on trees.” Star-faring humans are inexplicably losing a fight to creatures they could defeat with Stone Age technology, until one guy isn’t afraid. What kind of bullshit is that? These star-faring humans are going to win a war against another interstellar capable race and the only battle being fought is hand-to-hand combat against their bears? This is like The Axis and Allies deciding World War II by a series of boxing matches.
Give The Aliens credit, though, for their biochemistry and genetics acumen. They were able to create a beast with the requisite physical ability to kill humans as well as to differentiate the fear pheromones they emit from all other smells in the environment. This is after being able to determine that humans, in fact emit these pheromones.
Chapter 2: 2:26-8:30
Cypher’s son, Kitai, is shown running with other Rangers, before breaking formation and running ahead of them. He is then being assessed and told that he does not perform well enough in the field to progress. Kitai asks the assessor to reconsider because Kitai’s father is returning that night and he wants to be selected as a Ranger by the time his father returns. The assessor demurs.
Cypher returns home, greets his wife, and eats with his family. Kitai tells Cypher he wasn’t advanced. At dinner, there is tension between Kitai and his father. After dinner Cypher tells his wife he is going to do one last training mission, and then retire. Cypher’s wife tells him that Kitai blames himself for what happened to their daughter and that Kitai doesn’t need a commanding officer, he needs a father. Cypher tells Kitai to pack his bags as he is coming with him to the training mission.
What we learn here is that Kitai is not ready to be a Ranger. He doesn’t perform well in the field, which seems important. Also, when told he wasn’t being advanced he proffers the powerful reason of “but I want to impress my dad”. That sort of cronyism and nepotism doesn’t fly in the United Ranger Corps, Kitai, that’s only in Hollywood casting!
The United Ranger Corps has some strange rules. Presumably, Kitai is merely a cadet or student of some sort, yet his father is allowed to yank him out of class and bring him on a training mission to which he was not previously assigned, and for which he is not deemed qualified. Is Kitai going to participate in this training, or just observe?
Also, Cypher says he’ll announce retirement. He’ll announce it? Does he play for the Nova Prime Wildcats? You’d think there would be something more bureaucratic to a military retirement than just holding a press conference. Doesn’t he have to do some paperwork, set up his retirement or pension, or at least notify someone in his chain of command?
Chapter 3: 8:31 – 13:05
While in the hangar preparing to leave, Cypher meets soldiers. One has lost a leg and tells Cypher how Cypher saved him and three others. The soldier’s friends help the man to stand and he salutes Cypher. Kitai is impressed.
On the ship, Kitai is sitting next to his father and he tells his father that he is reading Moby Dick. Cypher approves and tells him to get some sleep. While Cypher sleeps, Kitai walks around the ship and finds an area labeled “Authorized Personnel Only”. Kitai enters and finds a large spherical container, which he earlier saw being loaded onto the ship. He is confronted by a sergeant who tells him the area is for authorized personnel only, but other soldiers tell the sergeant to be careful since Kitai is the Prime Commander’s son.
The United Ranger Corps has mastered faster than light travel, but the best they can do for an injured soldier is to give him a hover chair. You’d think a prosthetic would be in order. Kitai is reading Moby Dick, can’t he recommend a wooden peg?
Who designed that stupid ship? It has an aerodynamic shape up front, good for atmospheric flight, but why does it have that long, unnecessary tail? Why are the passageways so short? Kitai is much shorter than everyone else on the vessel and he even he has to stoop.
The mission is to take the Ursa to some other planet and train not to be scared of it. This is a stupid fucking mission. First, if there is a planet that doesn’t have Ursa, why not just make a colony there? Obviously, The Aliens don’t care about that planet so why not use it? Second, couldn’t you train not to be afraid of Ursa back on Nova Prime? Do they need to use up the fuel and risk space travel for it? Third, why bother? Why not just work on marksmanship so that the Rangers can kill the Ursa, even if they’re afraid of it?
If guarding the Ursa is so important, why isn’t there a guard in front of the entrance? Also, why isn’t it in a locked compartment? Are there no doors on this ship? There’s just a soft, mesh wall. If that Ursa were to escape on the ship, and no one knew, what would happen? Would the Ursa just sit there in its cell waiting for someone to be afraid?
Chapter 4: 13:06 – 21:25
Cypher wakes and notices something wrong with the ship’s hull. He goes to look for Kitai, who is approaching the Ursa container. A Sergeant talks about fear responses while Kitai approaches the container. Kitai has flashbacks to his sister. The Ursa smells Kitai’s fear and the container shakes. Cypher arrives and tells Kitai to go back to his seat and tells the Rangers to go to “Red Con 1”.
Cypher goes to the bridge and asks about asteroid storms. He thinks one might be about to hit, but the pilots say that is a one in a million chance. An asteroid storm strikes anyway and the ship is surrounded by asteroids. To avoid being destroyed, they have to “travel” via wormhole to an unknown location.
The ship comes out of the wormhole but is damaged. The pilot looks for a place to land but the nearest planet is considered unfit for human habitation and quarantined. It is against the law to land there. Cypher wants to Travel again but the ship can’t take it, so they have to land on the planet.
Cypher goes to calm Kitai and as he is doing so, the ship breaks apart and Cypher is pulled down the hall. The ship splits and people are pulled out past Kitai. Kitai is safe in his seat, but passes out as the ship crashes.
How does the Sergeant not know who Kitai is? He’s the only child/cadet on the ship. Isn’t there a manifest or a training roster? Everyone else seems to know.
Whatever Red Con One is, it’s not very effective seeing as everyone dies. Also, Cypher only told 6 people to do it, as opposed to the entire ship. Isn’t there an intercom system? He suspects an asteroid storm, and just what the fuck is that? A storm implies that asteroids will suddenly appear and rain upon someone or something, rather than just fly about space until something interrupts their inertia. Amazingly, that is just what happens. Somehow the gravitons of the ship make the asteroids fly towards it. Yet, these asteroids fly past the ship, so they can’t be just attracted to the ship or its graviton wake, else they’d all clump together around those objects. Instead the asteroids race past the ship like they’re Kitai on a run with his fellow classmates. It’s that or, the pilot steers directly into the asteroids on purpose.
To make this even less believable, the pilots are helpless. Their commander asks about asteroids, and they have to look on the screen to find the nearest ones, even though the asteroid storm is visible to the naked eye. Their decision is to maintain course and hope. Why don’t they just fly around it? The asteroids are not going towards the ship, so if they skirted around the asteroid field, the asteroids would be pulled to the area behind the ship. Why would they plot a course that takes them so close to asteroids in the first place? Most of those asteroids are more massive than the ship itself, so the ship should be pulled towards them not the other way around. I can’t accept there is no way around – they’re in space. Space is empty, and you can go left, right, up or down to not hit asteroids. The pilots even say the asteroids are 2,000 kilometers starboard, not in front, so why not just head the other direction (port)?
The ship has to Travel via wormhole (not hyperspace?) to escape the asteroid field. If it can make its own wormholes to travel great distances, why not just travel to the training planet via wormhole? Why sit on that ship for seven hours and hazard asteroid storms?
Once the asteroids hit, no one informs the rest of the crew what’s happening. This seems like important information for the people on the ship to know. Instead, Cypher just goes to talk to his son. He doesn’t strap himself in, and then calm Kitai down while sitting next to him. In the future, all the airline warnings about putting on your mask before helping the person next to you have been forgotten. Instead of securing himself, Cypher has to stand in harm’s way. If he felt fear, he might have avoided being thrown about the ship because he’d be worried and would have fastened his seatbelt.
Chapter 5: 21:26 – 31:10
Kitai wakes amid the wreckage of the ship. He removes his mask but can’t breathe without it, so he puts it back on. A dead ranger’s body is blocking a seal so Kitai moves it and the ship’s atmosphere stabilizes. Kitai moves through the ship and finds the pilots dead. His father is unconscious at first, but comes to, and he and Kitai discuss the situation. The rear of the ship is gone, everyone else is dead, the emergency beacon is damaged, but there is another in the rear portion of the ship 100 kilometers away. Cypher’s legs are broken and Kitai has to retrieve the other beacon from the tail section.
Cypher gives Kitai fluid packs to help him breath in the atmosphere. Kitai’s suit will enable Cypher to talk to Kitai and see what Kitai sees, so Cypher can guide Kitai. Cypher gives Kitai his cutlass, which has a full 22 configurations. Cypher tells Kitai the planet they’re on is a class one quarantine planet – everything on the planet has evolved to kill humans. Cypher tells Kitai they are on Earth. Kitai has a flashback of an Ursa killing his sister.
Cypher tells Kitai there are three possibilities with the Ursa. It died in the crash, it is injured but contained, or it is uninjured and free. Kitai hugs Cypher, and then exits the ship.
Again, the United Ranger Corps has worse technology than we do in current day. The starship, which is able to instantaneously travel enormous distances, does not have a built in emergency beacon. It only has two hand held beacons. What is the protocol for being disabled in space? Does someone have to grab one of these beacons, climb outside onto the hull of the ship, and then trigger it? I don’t see any windows on that vessel. This would be like a military jet crashing and the pilot having to rely on flares. At least there are two of these beacons.
The liquid packs are nice, but why bother? Why not just take one of those spiffy masks that they used on the ship? Those things aren’t connected to oxygen tanks or anything so they aren’t going to run out. Just strap one on and maybe take a few spares. Also, a gun would be helpful. Instead, Cypher gives Kitai a “cutlass” which is a baton that can create any of 22 blades. This defies all physics as there is no way to create the mass for these blades. It is literally creating mass in a specific form, which is attached to the handle and is as hard as metal. If the mass for the blades is the black stuff inside the baton, what keeps it from spilling out? What frame or mold is being used to make the specific blades? Is it like a Swiss army knife with a screw driver, a shovel, and maybe a cork screw? What advantage is gained from having 22 similar blades? What would be better is if they threw in some propulsion system that could propel these blades at the target. Couldn’t they make a foot attachment and strap one on the poor Ranger from the beginning of the movie?
Honestly, they really don’t have guns? Did the Rangers forget about them? There are people at the beginning of the movie with rifles! They couldn’t figure out that using some of the technology to send large ships into space could be used to send teeny, tiny little ships into an enemy?
Why does the “life suit” not have a helmet for situations where the atmosphere is suboptimal?
Cypher lists only three possibilities for the Ursa, but here are two more, just based on his initial assessment. The Ursa could be healthy and contained, or it could be free but injured. Also, well edited film here where Cypher calls the Ursa a “he” but the Sergeant in charge of securing it called it “she”. The pronouns imply that the Ursa reproduce sexually. How do they find each other?
Has mankind lost all knowledge regarding Charles Darwin’s work? Humans destroyed and abandoned the Earth 1,000 years ago. Why would anything on the planet evolve to kill humans? That’s not how evolution works. The creatures on that planet would evolve to kill each other. A human would be a predator for which the creatures are entirely unprepared. Whoever wrote that line should win a Darwin Award.
Finally, there are no signs of a ship crashing on that planet. There should be burns, and broken trees or rocks. That looks like the ship has been on Earth for hundreds of years, with vegetation still growing around it.
Chapter 6: 24:05 – 29:40
Kitai starts walking. He hikes to the top of a mountain and sees the surrounding area laid out before him. There are buffalo roaming and birds flying. Cypher releases probes with the Ursa as the primary target. Cypher tells Kitai that the planet’s climate fluctuates and the planet freezes over at night, except for hot spots. Kitai has to reach the hot spots each night. Cypher diagnoses his leg and sees it’s broken and he needs an arterial shunt. He takes pain killers.
Cypher has a flashback to his daughter contacting him while he’s out working. She tells him that a boy gave her a book, Moby Dick. Cypher’s probes continue to look for the Ursa, but can’t find it.
Kitai is walking through woods when his suit turns black, signifying that something is approaching him. Cypher tells him as much and a large ape-like creature appears near Kitai. Cypher tells Kitai to be calm, but Kitai hits the ape with a rock. More apes appear and they throw rocks back at Kitai. Kitai runs and Cypher directs him to a river. Kitai makes it to the river and the apes stop right on the shore, refusing to enter the water. Kitai makes it to the other side of the river, but keeps running until Cypher can calm him.
So, if Cypher has probes, why not send them out before his son? If the planet freezes over every night, why is it covered by lush, green grass and deciduous forest? For that matter, why are there birds flying around? Where do they hide when it’s cold? What about those cold weather apes? The creatures on Earth haven’t evolved to kill humans, they’ve all become extremophiles. That, or they all swarm to the hot spots in the evenings. Also, humans and apes are pretty close in terms of genotype and phenotype. I guess the evolution of killing goes up to the genus level.
The flashback scene is meaningless, let’s skip it.
Kitai’s suit tracks motion and it notifies its wearer by turning black. You’d think it would have some other, more obvious way to alert the wearer. What if that person isn’t looking at his/her sleeves? The suit can pick up one ape in the woods at 50 meters, but all those insects and birds that were flying around Kitai didn’t trigger it? The suit stays black until Cypher convinces Kitai he’s alone, not once he is no longer pursued. The suit also seemed to miss about 20 other apes moving in on Kitai. I guess all the other apes were already there, keeping perfectly still and waiting for the designated target ape to arrive and be stoned.
The dialogue in this portion of the film is tremendous:
Kitai – “My suit’s turned black. I like it, but I think it’s something bad.” “I like it.”? Was that necessary? Kitai is concerned about how cool he looks?
Then Cypher gives him this mumbo jumbo, bullshit advice:
“Recognize your power; this will be your creation.” What kind of Scientology nonsense is that?
Kitai throws rocks at the apes, showing that at least one Ranger understands missile and distance weapons. If only the Ranger Corps could create some sort of machine that would propel objects at targets, there might not be as many of them dying from Ursa.
Kitai is 100km from the tail section of the plane. That’s roughly 62 miles. A decent walking pace is about 4mph or 6.3 Km/h. That would mean Kitai has approximately 15 hours of walking to do. He could manage that in a day, being the fit Ranger Cadet who bested his father’s time in the cave run. Hell, he sprints 250 meters through the woods, outrunning the arboreal, brachiating apes, in about 30 seconds.
The Rangers have flying probes. I wonder why these probes aren’t armed. That seems like a pretty good way to kill Ursa, with a machine that knows no fear and that flies above the Ursa. Even if the drone doesn’t have missiles or small arms, at least they could throw one of those 22 cutlass configurations and have it ram the pointy end into the Ursa. Who the fuck is in charge of their weapons research, The Aliens?
Chapter 7: 41:21 – 52:55
Kitai’s suit detects a toxin. Kitai sees that he has a leech on his hand. Cypher tells Kitai to get his med kit and administer the anti-toxin. Kitai panics but is able to inject himself with the anti-toxin. Unfortunately the parasite that bit him has a paralyzing portion of its venom so Kitai is immobilized while waiting for the anti-toxin to take effect.
Kitai is recovering from the toxin as the temperature starts to drop. Kitai wakes and has to run to the hot spot, 10km away. Cypher does some self-surgery and has another flashback of talking to his daughter via video on her nineteenth birthday.
Kitai reaches the hotspot and has to take another breathing liquid capsule. Two of them broke while he was running, and after taking one he only has two left. Kitai lies to Cypher about how many he has left.
During the night, Kitai asks his father how he first “ghosted”. Cypher tells of how he was running alone, an Ursa appeared, attacked him, stabbed him in the shoulder, then tried to drown him. While underwater, Cypher sees his blood mix with sunlight, thinks it’s pretty, and decides he doesn’t want the pincer in his shoulder anymore. He pulls out the pincer, and the Ursa can no longer find him. Cypher then has an epiphany that:
“Fear is not real. The only place that fear can exist is in our thoughts of the future. It is a product of our imagination, causing us to fear things that do not, at present, and may not ever, exist. That is near insanity, Kitai. Do not misunderstand me; danger is very real. But fear is a choice. We are all telling ourselves a story, and that day mine changed.”
I’ll get to the fear quote, but let’s clean up some events that precede it.
1. Not only does the life suit not have a helmet, it doesn’t have gloves either!
2. Either the med kit has an anti-toxin that works on ALL toxins, or it happened to contain an anti-toxin for the venom of the common Earth river leech.
3. If the leech is a parasite, why would it have a paralytic in its venom? That’ what carnivores have. A parasite would want the host to keep operating like nothing is wrong so it could continue feeding off of it.
4. If the planet freezes over at night, why is it raining?
5. We have already established Cypher is an absent father. Do we need more flashbacks?
6. Wouldn’t Kitai, a Ranger cadet, already know the story of the first “ghost”? Wouldn’t everyone? It would be very helpful if the entire human population of Nova Prime wasn’t afraid, so why keep that knowledge a secret?
7. I guess the animals DON’T all go to the hotspot, as Kitai has it all to himself.
On to the fear story. Pincers pinch, they don’t stab. It’s right in the name – pincers from the French “pince” which DOES NOT mean “to stab”. Cypher realizes the Ursa can’t see him and it’s because he’s not afraid. That’s bullshit. For starters, even if Cypher suddenly decided not to be afraid, his body is still going to be producing the pheromones. The fear response in humans is a form of arousal and it continues after the removal of the fear stimulus. Even if his body immediately stopped emitting pheromones, they are still on his skin. I’m not sure about how well the Ursa can smell in water, but if it’s anything like a real bear the sense of smell would be useless. So, the Ursa might have lost track of Cypher because his pheromones are now being immediately washed away.
More importantly, it was TOUCHING him. I assume the Ursa has some tactile sensations informing it that the thing it was trying to drown may now be invisible, but something is pulling its pincer out of another something. Is the Ursa somehow unaware of object permanence?
I also wonder if this is the first time humans realized that Ursa track them via fear pheromones. It would stand to reason, as presumably Cypher is the first human to not fear Ursa. If not, how did they deduce that before Cypher becomes Daredevil?
Finally, we arrive at Cypher’s speech on fear. Saying that fear is not real is the same as saying that happiness, anger, or any human emotion is not real. Perhaps Cypher feels this way, that nothing intangible is real and all human emotions are just a story we tell ourselves. You’d think he’d express this concept more frequently and it would create severe problems for his interactions with other humans. I can’t imagine his wife would enjoy him telling her “love doesn’t exist” on their anniversary. The fact that humans don’t, and apparently never had, emotions also would eliminate a major difference between humans and artificial intelligences. As philosopher John Haugeland said “computers don’t give a damn.” But according to Cypher, neither to humans, unless they tell themselves a story in which they do.
Of course, contrary to what Cypher says, fear does exist. The effects of fear have been widely studied and proven. Cypher even admits that humans emit fear pheromones. There is an unconscious physiological reaction to fear, as The Aliens and the sergeant guarding the Ursa well know. Fear is an evolutionarily beneficial aspect of most every thinking creature, helping them avoid danger and survive. It is not insane. Rather, it is entirely sane and healthy. A person without fear, who walked out into traffic, drank poison, or stabbed him/herself with any of the 22 cutlass configurations, with no fear of the consequences would be considered insane.
Anticipating events in the future, whether or not they occur is also a very human thing to do. If you anticipate harm coming to you, the normal reaction is to avoid those events. Sure, the bad things that might happen haven’t happen yet so they are in the future. The idea, however, is to avoid those bad things. Cypher is saying that he avoids harm, or unnecessarily dangerous situations for reasons other than fear. Of course, how would he know this unless he previously felt fear, but no longer does? If he felt fear in the past, wouldn’t that imply it exists, if only within his experienced affect? Does he no longer experience the physiological “fight or flight” reaction?
Cypher himself states that danger is real. How would he know? Is he basing this on past events that were dangerous to him or other people, and assuming that similar events will occur, even though they do not, at present, and may not ever exist? What emotion is acceptable to experience when considering that danger exists in the future? Does he think he’s in danger because he is currently bleeding to death, or does he ignore that because he has not, at present, and may not ever, bleed to death? His philosophy regarding fear seems to be to just live in the present, and ignore the future because it is inscrutable, unknowable, and hasn’t happened yet. By this reasoning, one should never fear death because as long as you’re able to worry about death, it’s in the future and therefore might not ever happen. We are all our own, living Schrödinger’s cat!
Finally, you cannot stop being afraid of everything. Fear is hard wired into the human body. If it weren’t, THERE WOULDN’T BE FEAR PHEREMONES! What can be done is conditioning to not fear certain things, or more specifically not to view them as threats. For Ranger cadets, this would ideally be accomplished by learning that the Ursa is not threatening. The Ranger Corps clearly does not teach this, given Kitai’s abject terror at just being near one. The other way to counter fear, and this is the most common, is to act as if you aren’t afraid, or to not allow fear to interfere with your actions. This is standing up to the bully, or speaking in public. You can learn to see something as not a threat, or you can overcome your fear, but you can’t just decide not to be afraid.
Or, maybe Cypher is a sociopath.
Chapter 8: 52:56 – 59:05
The next day, Kitai is running through the forest. Cypher tells him he is 14km from the falls, which is the midway point. Kitai comes upon a pile of body parts of the apes he saw earlier. Cypher, whose condition is worsening, tells Kitai to get to the falls ASAP. Cypher examines the image of the dead apes and the computer says it is a possible match for an Ursa attack. Kitai makes it to the falls.
Cypher asks Kitai for an inventory check and Kitai admits he only has 2 vials of breathing fluid left. The computer tells Cypher that it will take Kitai 3 vials of breathing fluid to walk down past the falls, and only 2 to sky jump. Cypher tells Kitai to abort the mission. Kitai has a flashback of his sister telling him to stay in a bubble, and then being killed by an Ursa.
Kitai tells Cypher he can make it, and complains about being given an order to turn around. Kitai then asks Cypher what he thinks he should have done when his sister died. Kitai blames Cypher for not being around enough and not being there when his sister died. He yells that he is not a coward, and then jumps over the falls.
If Cypher and his computer know that the falls are the halfway point, why does he have to compute the time to the tail section again? By the time Kitai arrives at the predetermined halfway point, the time it should take him to reach the ship has somehow doubled not halved. How did that happen? When Kitai sees the bodies of the apes, and Cypher tells him to hustle to the falls, why does Kitai run in the opposite direction he was heading? Wasn’t he already headed towards the falls? I can only assume he decided to circle around. Also, what safety does Cypher think the falls will provide? As soon as Kitai reaches them, Cypher deems them too dangerous to jump off of for a sky jump. Does he expect that Kitai would be able to out climb an Ursa or whatever killed those apes?
The flashback scene is illuminating. We see that being inside an airtight bubble saves you against the Ursa smelling. That begs the question of why humans don’t make something that would absorb the pheromones, like a wet suit with its own air supply. We also see that not only do humans emit pheromones, but so do cutlasses. The blind Ursa attacking Kitai’s sister is able to dodge the blade coming at it. This is not explained and it’s a real problem with making a blind hunter – defending against attacks. In the beginning of the movie, Cypher strolls up to an Ursa and kills it with the Ursa offering no defense. Also, how does the Ursa not bump into the walls like some feral Mr. Magoo?
The flashback also shows that the Raiges live in a very secluded area, as no one comes to help the young woman whose house is being invaded. That, or the Ursa had already killed all of the Raiges’ neighbors.
There are some comical stand-alone scenes. Kitai is running along the longest tree trunk in history, says he hears water, then a few steps later is between two little streams that are flowing off a cliff. No shit he heard water, he’s surrounded by it. Where did that long trunk come from, when no other tree in the area is near that length? How did Kitai not hear water sooner, since there are at least 3 tributaries flowing over the cliff, including a much larger one a few hundred feet away from him? Why is the tree trunk on which he’s standing narrower as it goes away from the falls? Did it grow in midair, and then fall back to earth, towards the cliff?
Why would Cypher abort the mission? Is he afraid that Cypher won’t make it? It was important enough to send the kid out; it should still have the same level of importance, waterfall or not. Kitai not being able to make it with a Sky jump is just a story Cypher is telling himself. Any negative result of a sky jump hasn’t, and may not ever, happen.
How long ago did Kitai’s sister die? He looks awfully young in that flashback. Is he just now dealing with feelings from that day?
Kitai’s suit is black again. It seems to escape Kitai and Cypher’s notice in lieu of psychological trauma.
Chapter 9: 59:06 – 1:03:06
Kitai jumps over the cliff, extends wings for his suit, and starts gliding. Seconds after he does, a large bird starts chasing him. Kitai is able to avoid it initially, but it catches him.
Kitai wakes while being pecked by a baby bird in a large spherical nest. He grabs his cutlass, and looks for a way out. As he exits, he sees cat-like creatures. They are climbing up towards the nest. As the creatures near, the bird appears to try and chase them away. One starts to break through and grabs one of the chicks. Kitai yells at it, and it attacks Kitai, who is able to trick it into falling out of the nest. Another faces off against Kitai but the bird pulls it out. A final one falls through the floor of the nest when Kitai tricks it into a soft spot.
Kitai climbs down from the nest and sees that all the chicks are dead while the mother bird mourns. Cypher sees an image on his screen of other Rangers stuck on trees, and the computer says an Ursa has been detected.
While Kitai is gliding, physics hilarity ensues.
First, the bird catches up to him even though they are on the same trajectory. For that to happen, the bird would need either some form of propulsion other than gravity, or less drag. Since Kitai has a smaller profile against the wind resistance, he would be falling faster since he would have less drag. This is compounded when Kitai purposely dives, going into a very aerodynamic, straight line form, while the bird keeps its wings out. The bird would have much more drag and thus would fall behind. It’s not even flapping its wings, and yet it slowly catches up.
Second, Kitai has nothing to protect his eyes. They would be watering and make it impossible to see anything. He also turns his head a few times which would really hurt and do damage to his neck, considering the speed at which he’s flying.
Third, he flies through a waterfall, but doesn’t lose any altitude. Somehow the water falling on him doesn’t push him down at all.
Fourth, after the waterfall, the bird that couldn’t quite catch up to Kitai earlier is now ahead of/below him. It flies upward to catch him, and yet Kitai is not injured by this sudden stoppage of momentum. Apparently, the smart fabric can prevent internal injuries.
So, if the bird didn’t kill and eat Kitai, then why did it bother to catch him and bring him back to the nest? Was just for fun? Was it bored of the doldrums of guarding its chicks and decided to find a playmate for them? Why aren’t the chicks trying to eat Kitai?
Cypher’s probes find the images of the other rangers. Did they die in the crash and then end up being hung on the tree by the Ursa? If so, how did it see them since they presumably weren’t afraid after dying? Did they survive the crash? If so, why haven’t they contacted the front of the ship? Also, if they were alive, they should have the emergency beacon with them, unless they didn’t care about making it home. They should also have more breathing tubes for Kitai, if Cypher is so concerned about the breathing situation.
That brings up four additional questions:
1. How is the Ursa breathing?
2. How is it surviving the nightly freezes?
3. How does the water not freeze at night?
4. Why did it kill the apes?
Chapter 10: 1:03:07 – 1:13:19
Kitai continues to travel towards the tail section seeing pigs, a snake, and a mouse-like creature. He takes refuge in a cave, making a fire and drawing a map on the wall so he knows where to go.
Cypher records a message for his wife saying he has lost contact with their son.
Kitai exits the cave and sees the bird circling overhead. Kitai takes his last breathing fluid. He makes a raft and floats down river. He falls asleep and dreams of his sister talking to him. She tells him to wake and when he does, his raft has set ashore and the nightly freeze is coming.
Kitai walks a bit, but collapses when it is too cold for him. Something drags him away and places him into a hole in the ground. When Kitai wakes, he crawls out. He had been put into a hole with leaves and sticks on top of him. The bird had been lying on top of the hole, but it is now dead. Kitai walks on.
How was the map that Kitai drew supposed to help? It looks like a time line, or just a line graph. There’s no scale, no distances, or anything helpful. Also, who put the horse drawings on the wall? Humans haven’t been there for a thousand years so those things are remarkably well preserved.
The scene with Kitai and his sister is useless.
The onset of the frost is impressive. Cypher said it happens at night, but everything starts to freeze in broad daylight. Not only that, but the freeze happens in a wave, like a cold front is moving through, or chasing Kitai. It freezes over the water in seconds – mere seconds! The nice, green, soft stemmed plants just turn white. They must have evolved to not need warmth, much like any fish that might be in the water. The cold finally catches up to Kitai and he is saved by the bird.
How was the bird physically able to dig a hole? How did it know to dig a hole? Did it dig the hole in preparation and just happened to be near where Kitai collapsed? Did it dig a bunch of holes throughout the area just in case? If it dug the hole after Kitai collapsed, why not just dig it right there and save the time it spend dragging him? Why does the bird die? Did it die from the cold? This bird has been living in a high altitude surrounded by a shitty nest, presumably at night as well as the day and hasn’t frozen yet. Does it normally dig a hole at night and abandon its nest? If so, why abandon the nest?
Why does it care that Kitai is freezing? Has it formed some attachment to him? The viewer is still wondering why it picked him up and dropped him in its nest in the first place, and now it’s keeping an eye on him for what reason? Why not take it back to its nest, like it did the first time? Why go with a random hole after he collapses? Why not scoop him up BEFORE his life is in jeopardy? Birds are stupid.
Chapter 11: 1:13:20 – 1:20:07
Kitai is out of breathing fluid and he struggles to breathe as he walks. He is breathing with difficulty when he comes across a piece of wreckage from his ship. He climbs a tree and sees the crashed ship. Kitai barely makes it to the ship in time, and gathers more breathing fluid. Kitai finds another cutlass and communicator, and sees the broken Ursa container. He also finds the emergency beacon, but it doesn’t work.
Kitai contacts Cypher, who can hear him, even though Kitai can’t hear Cypher. Kitai is frustrated about the beacon not working. Cypher says it is because the ionic layer above Kitai’s position is creating electrical interference. Kitai has to move to a mountain and fire the beacon from the peak. Even though Kitai can’t hear his father, he figures this out and heads towards the mountain.
It’s understandable that the one piece of the ship landed in that grassy meadow without setting everything on fire. However, how does the rest of that ship crash without leaving a mark on the terrain? It’s just nestled in that lea as if the foliage grew up around it. Where are the burn marks from the heat of reentry? Where are the broken trees or the deep furrow in the earth created when this enormous metal thing hit the ground and the friction caused it to stop? If it came straight down, perpendicular to Earth’s surface, why isn’t there a crater, and why would the ship still be intact? Why is the ship white now, when it was shiny silver when it took off?
Why aren’t there any guns on that ship? It’s a military vessel, on a mission to have cadets train with a murderous beast. You’d think they’d bring along some distance weapons just in case. Nope, the Cutlasses are stored neatly and safely in their own tubes, but those rifles we see at the beginning of the movie are nowhere to be seen. Are the rangers supposed to be Samurai, clinging to their ancestral weapons in the face of superior firepower? Doesn’t that cutlass even have a bow and arrow configuration? What about a sling?
Regarding the cutlass, why doesn’t that handle have better grip? It’s just a cylinder with no crossbar or haft. This is technology that Iron-age humans figured out. You don’t want your hand to slip off the handle and onto the blade. And to harp on this, why isn’t it a gun?
How does Cypher know there is electrical interference due to the ionic layer in the atmosphere? He doesn’t run a scan or anything. He just knew in advance but decided to keep that information to himself. Maybe he suspected it but since Kitai hadn’t tried the beacon, the interference hadn’t, at present, and may not have ever, existed. Regardless, what a shitty emergency beacon that is. It’s designed to shoot a message into and through the enormous vastness of space, but won’t fire because of the electrical interference. The arm band communicator can send a signal 100km, though. This arm band is sending the signal 100km, through trees, rocks, electrical interference, and past the curvature of the Earth, but the emergency beacon is stymied by an ionic cloud.
Also if it’s a layer of the atmosphere, why is it just sitting above the crashed ship? This is semantics, but that’s not a layer, that’s a spot. A layer in the atmosphere would be expansive. What Kitai has to avoid is the little ionic storm cloud hovering over his head like a perpetually unlucky person.
Chapter 12: 1:20:08 – 1:23:46
As Kitai heads towards the mountain/volcano, he encounters a Ranger impaled in a tree. Cypher says it is a pheromone trigger, set by the Ursa, to scare so that it can track its target. As Kitai walks, Cypher’s computer detects the Ursa and sees it is heading towards Kitai. Kitai runs up the volcano and Cypher sees that it has magma and a subterranean water system.
Kitai notices his suit is black and starts to worry again. He checks the beacon, but it still doesn’t work. He runs along the volcano, finds a cave, and enters. Kitai walks among the crystals in the cave, and the Ursa attacks from above. It chases Kitai, spitting acid at him and burning his shoulder. Kitai falls into a hole and Cypher can no longer see Kitai’s signal.
What sort of geological structure is Kitai climbing? It has hot magma spewing out, there is smoke coming from things the magma has burned, and the entire area looks scorched. According to Cypher’s model, there is a molten core in the center of the volcano. It’s also a nice straight core like you might see on a diagram of a student’s science fair project. Not only does it have a molten core, it has a subterranean water system. This water system defies gravity as it seems to rise from the ground and go up. The entire water system is vertical, if you look at the image, yet doesn’t reach the top. So no water can get in from the top, but somehow it fills from another source and goes up. This also is not reacting with the hot magma to create steam, then pressure, and finally an eruption.
The Ursa sets a “pheromone trigger” so it can track. How does the Ursa know where to put these bodies? How many Rangers were in the back of the ship? I’ve already discussed the difficulty the Ursa would have finding dead bodies, so how does it happen upon the one it stuck on the tree? What kind of bullshit plan is this? Does it just throw up bodies in random places, and hope something stumbles across them? The body is not even out in the open where someone would see it. It’s like the Ursa hid the body so the Rangers wouldn’t see it.
The other option is that the Ursa put it in that spot on purpose. That would imply:
1. The Ursa knew, or at least suspected, that someone from the other part of the ship was alive.
2. Rather than hide in the downed ship, and wait for someone to come to it, the Ursa left and waited out on the periphery, but wasn’t watching the ship.
3. Instead, it planned on someone going to the Volcano and plotted out the most likely route to the Volcano, from the ship, and placed a pheromone trigger there as opposed to lying in wait. <
Pheromone traps should be employed by humans. How easy would it be to just spray a bomb or mine with fear pheromones and let the Ursa just blow itself up?
Do Ursas have to eat? What’s its plan for survival?
More importantly, can they teleport? Kitai walks into a cave, and we can see from Cypher’s computer that the Ursa is tracking and chasing him. The Ursa had to be pursuing Kitai outside of the cave since his smart fabric picks up movement and turns black. This is unless the suit can detect movement through solid walls. Yet, the Ursa is already in the cave! It’s up on the ceiling waiting for Kitai.
Why wait so far inside the cave? Why not pounce at the entrance, when Kitai’s eyes adjust to the sudden darkness (finally a benefit to blindness!). How does the Ursa find its way around the cave, or anywhere for that matter, with no sight? For that matter, how did it find Kitai so quickly? It was nowhere near Kitai when he saw the body, and I’ll cede that it would be waiting downwind of the body, but there’s not even a breeze to carry the triggered pheromones to it. Here’s where this smart fabric isn’t so smart. If it just absorbed or wicked away the pheromones, then the suit would make the wearer invisible to the Ursa – especially if they included gloves and a fucking helmet (which, again, might help with breathing!). I guess there’s no Under Armor in the Ranger Corps.
Chapter 13: 1:23:47 – 1:30:21
As Cypher struggles to maintain consciousness, Kitai has fallen into a pool of water. He sees light and swims to the top and into a stone shaft. As Kitai climbs out of the shaft, the Ursa pursues. It almost catches him twice, getting its claw on him both times, but Kitai is able to make it up the shaft as the Ursa falls back into the water.
Back on top of the mountain Kitai tries the beacon. It is ready to be fired, but before Kitai can do so, the Ursa surfaces and grabs him. It throws him against a stone wall, knocking the air out of him and making him lose the beacon. As Kitai lies on his back, he has a flashback to when his sister died while he was hiding in a bubble. The Ursa also frees itself from the shaft. Kitai hears his father’s voice and imagines his sister telling him “You’re still in that box”. The Ursa walks over top of Kitai but can’t sense him.
Realizing he is “ghosting” Kitai calmly severs the Ursa’s leg, then jumps on its back and stabs it. After the second stab, the Ursa dies. Cypher is able to see Kitai kill the Ursa before passing out. Kitai picks up the beacon and fires it into space, where it stops and sends out a circle of light.
How is that pool of water not boiling hot? It’s inside an active volcano that has lava bubbling out of it and searing the landscape. Somehow the heat in this volcano, which is coming from the core of the Earth, is so great that it melts rocks but can’t boil water. Also, there are fucking fish swimming around in this water. How did they get there, and how do they survive? Is there an underwater river that flows upwards and around the magma chute?
Again, wouldn’t the water wash off the pheromones? How does the Ursa track Kitai once he exits the pool? The pheromones should be floating around the water, confusing the hell out of the Ursa. Nope, the Ursa is able to realize Kitai went into the water, then follow him through the water, and finally realize that he swam out of the water at a specific spot. How does that Ursa swim? Look at its anatomy. It is all claws and angles. There is nothing to create drag to allow it to propel itself through water. It also looks pretty poorly designed for climbing rocks.
Since the Ursa is created to kill humans, once it gets its claws on Kitai it immediately decides to just throw him around a bit. It doesn’t pull him into its jaws and bite him to death, it doesn’t hold him with one claw and impale him with another, and it doesn’t throw him on the ground repeatedly like The Hulk and Loki. Instead it throws Kitai out of its own reach as it tries to climb all the way out of the chute.
This enables Kitai to have his epiphany, aided by his father’s and sister’s voices. His dad tells him “root yourself in this present moment.” This moment is where Kitai is injured, bleeding, on a volcano with ash falling down on him (where did the ash come from, was there an eruption?), lying on his back, while a creature genetically engineered to kill him is a few feet away trying to kill him! That’s supposed to help him not be afraid? His sister tells him he’s still in the box. What box? The image we see is of Kitai in a bubble, with zero fucking corners.
Yet this is enough to make Kitai no longer afraid and to make him invisible to the Ursa. Now, I could believe that he’s invisible because he took a bath in a nice volcanic spring, but that ship sailed when the Ursa swam after him. So the movie is claiming that Kitai is no longer afraid and the Ursa can’t find him. That’s not how the body works, though. When you’re afraid, you go into fight or flight mode, and that state of physical arousal persists for around 10-20 minutes after removal of the fear stimulus. So, even if he has decided not to be afraid, his body is still terrified. That would mean he would still be producing fresh fear pheromones until his body returns to its normal homeostasis. Think about it, if you are in a scary situation, your heart is still racing after it’s over.
Another design flaw with the Ursa. It can’t smell blood. Kitai is bleeding but this predator designed to hunt and kill humans can’t detect human blood.
Why are these Ursa so immune to environmental factors like cold, and air quality, and yet so flimsy? Kitai easily severs the creature’s leg, cutting it like a Ginsu with a tomato. Do Ursa at least have bones or cartilage? Then, when Kitai is on top of the Ursa, stabbing it, it still can’t seem to locate him. Or, it can’t reach its back, or it doesn’t have the wherewithal to just roll over. Kitai stabs it with simple blades, pulls the cutlass out, makes it into a pair of tridents and stabs it again, and when he pulls the blades out, they are back to being simple blades. Did Kitai change them back while they were inside the Ursa?
Why are these Ursa so immune to environmental factors like cold, and air quality, and yet so flimsy? Kitai easily severs the creature’s leg, cutting it like a Ginsu with a tomato. Do Ursa at least have bones or cartilage? Then, when Kitai is on top of the Ursa, stabbing it, it still can’t seem to locate him. Or, it can’t reach its back, or it doesn’t have the wherewithal to just roll over. While it can’t see Kitai, it seems to be fully aware of its environment. It’s like it can see everything except humans.
What the fuck is the deal with the beacon? That’s what the beacon does? It shoots a beam of light into space, and then that light explodes along only 2 axes? Wouldn’t a 360 x 360 signal be better? Also, the Hesper (their ship) jumped to Earth through a wormhole. How long is that signal going to take to reach someone? Planets are light years away from each other, meaning at the speed of light, it would take years to travel that distance. If the Hesper were close enough for the beacon to reach someone in time, the Rangers would have already figured out where the Hesper was. Maybe they’re already circling Earth, just waiting for the signal.
Finally, what about that Ionic layer? Does it stop at the volcano? Did the volcano create a hole in the ionic layer? How does the beam of light pass through so much ash and cloud cover? Or is the ionic layer only a hundred feet above sea level, and Kitai is now above it?
Chapter 14: 1:30:22 – End
Rangers in hazmat suits cut open the hull of the Hesper and find Cypher. The next scene, Kitai is walking down the hallway of a ship towards his father, who is lying on a bed surrounded by Rangers. Cypher’s hand moves and he turns his head to look at Kitai. Cypher pushes the other Rangers away and looks at his son. Cypher has the Rangers stand him up and salutes his son, who in turn runs up and hugs him.
Kitai tells his father he wants to work with his mother, and his father says he does as well. Cypher sheds a tear and laughs. He lies back on the bed and chuckles. Kitai puts his head on Cypher’s chest as the ship leaves Earth flying over a herd of whales.
The Hesper was broken in half, and Kitai walked out through a membranous doorway. Why do the Rangers have to cut a hole in the side of the ship? Also, why the hazmat environmental suits? Just throw on some of those spiffy breathing masks, or take some breathing liquid and go to work. Better yet, WHY DON’T THEY USE THOSE SUITS TO FIGHT THE URSA?! The movie takes great pains to make the conquering fear a huge deal then we see that the humans have the technology to mask their smells, all along – they just don’t use it!
Great scene where Cypher salutes Kitai, as the wounded soldier had saluted him earlier in the film. However, what is going on with Cypher? He’s crying and laughing now. Does that mean he’s experiencing emotions? Does he believe in happiness but not fear? Kitai wanted so badly to be a Ranger, but he lacked field experience. Now he has field experience and he can ghost. So, he’s going to take all of that and just go work in a lab with his mom. Was this whole Ranger thing just to get his dad’s approval, to honor his sister, or what? Also, if there were supposed to be more movies in this series, were they going to be about Kitai’s adventures in the lab with his mom?
I would have enjoyed seeing how those whales had evolved to kill humans, though.