For several years now actor Will Smith and his family have been dogged by rumors of an affiliation with the Church of Scientology, which the A-lister has repeatedly dodged.
Still. that hasn’t stopped some critics from reading into plot elements from his current film After Earth to find religious meaning.
“Will Smith has delivered an incredibly mainstream platform for the Church’s ideology,” wrote Matt Patches in a post for Vulture. “‘After Earth‘s subtext makes every beat feel like a nod to the lessons of [Scientology founder] L. Ron Hubbard.”
“The film’s tag ‘Danger is real, fear is a choice’…. may be a first clue to the scientology subplot. For bottling up fear and emotion is something that former scientologists admit they were encouraged to do,” adds The Sun‘s Grant Rollings.
The movie tells the story (which Will Smith helped conceive) of a father and son abandoned on planet Earth sometime in the future after a cataclysmic event has wiped out most of the population and highly-evolved creatures seek to attack them at every turn.
For their part, the Church of Scientology has distanced itself from any connection to Smith’s box office flop.
“After Earth has as much to do with Scientology as Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, Star Wars, Moby Dick, King Arthur, Homer’s The Odyssey or countless other stories about protagonists overcoming fears and opponents,” read a statement by the church to NextMovie.com.
Still, even if it isn’t a Trojan horse for Scientologist dogma, After Earth is still being compared to a movie that overtly was — John Travolta’s notorious bomb Battlefield: Earth.
That science fiction film (released in 2000), which was based on the literature of Hubbard, was a massive financial and critical disaster on par with After Earth and it temporarily sidetracked Travolta’s Hollywood career.
Similar questions have been raised about Will Smith’s bankability in his film’s wake.
Smith has tried to be light-hearted about the fate of After Earth, telling Jimmy Kimmel in a recent interview: “You get the [box office] information moment by moment. Someone is calling you every hour and I was like, ‘Uh oh.’ I felt like a fighter. It’s been over two decades since I’ve had a movie that wasn’t at number one. …That’s over now, buddy! Thanks!”