Although not credited on the finished film, co-writer/producer Will Smith was responsible for much of the movie's direction. While M. Night Shyamalan was primarily in charge of the blocking (composition of shots, placement of the camera) and the visual aspects of the film (color and design), it was Will Smith who personally coached Jaden Smith in his performance and dictated the development of the story and the on-screen action. After both the story and acting were heavily criticized, Shyamalan decided to take the blame.
The original cut was 130 minutes long, and included more backstory on the decline of Earth and the formation of Nova Prime. However, the film was vastly re-edited after performing poorly at test screenings, and any actors playing Nova Primates were either reduced to extras or cut out entirely. The deleted footage will likely never be seen, as M. Night Shyamalan is satisfied with the theatrical cut.
The original idea for the film was a father and son on a camping trip. After the car they are traveling in careens off the road, the son makes his way through the forest to find help for the father. Realizing that the idea had greater potential, producer Will Smith and screenwriter Gary Whitta decided to adapt the basic survival concept into a much larger science-fiction project.
Will Smith, who had wanted to work with M. Night Shyamalan for several years but was unable to find a suitable project, personally hired him to direct. This became the first time in twenty years that Shyamalan accepted a project based on someone else's screenplay, and the first film in Shyamalan's career where he does not appear on screen.
In a 2019 lecture at NYU's Stern School of Business, Shyamalan publicly disowned his films The Last Airbender (2010) and After Earth (2013), calling them "junk movies." He added: "I did a couple huge, big-budget CGI movies. There has always been this inexorable pull to join the group; a constant seduction in the form of whatever you want to tally, in the form of money, or safety, ease, not getting criticized. I did these movies, and I rightfully got crushed, because they said, 'You don't believe in yourself, you don't believe in your own voice, and in you don't believe in your values.' I felt really lost. It just didn't work. There's probably something Darwinian about all this."
When Kristofer Hivju showed up on set, he got into a discussion with the make-up department, who wanted to cut his characteristic long hair and beard. Hivju was against it, and was even supported by Jaden Smith, but eventually lost out. To make matters worse, most of his role was eventually deleted from the final cut.
Producer/co-writer Will Smith envisioned "After Earth" as a multi-platform franchise, including books, graphic novels, and interactive video games, which would all inform on and add to the ideas and concepts already developed in the finished film.
Eisner Award-winning comic writer Peter David, Michael Jan Friedman and Robert Greenberger produced a 300-page "bible" covering the history of mankind, from their decision to leave Earth to the events depicted in the finished film. It was intended to serve as a resource for all kinds of ancillary materials in the After Earth (2013) franchise.
Second time that real-life father and son Will Smith and Jaden Smith play father and son on screen. The first time was in The Pursuit of Happyness (2006).
There are two animals that can be linked as a proxy of animals that really co-existed with humans and were quite dangerous. The predatory big cats are often referred to as "sabre-toothed" cats, which could be true if one was using Machairodus or Homotherium as a reference. The giant condor could be based on Argentavis, a giant condor of the South American Miocene Epoch that is considered the largest flying bird to ever have existed. The Haast Eagle seems to also be a source of inspiration, which was the largest bird of prey ever to take flight and existed in New Zealand from the end of the Pleistocene to the middle of the Holocene in approximately 1400 A.D., when their main food source, the giant Moa went extinct through human activity. What this has to do with the condor of this film, is that the Maori Settlers told stories of the bird carrying away children, men, and women, and was known to these people as the Pouakai.
In 2014 won a rare three Golden Raspberry ('Razzies) Awards for "Worst actor" (Jaden Smith) "Worst Supporting Actor" (Will Smith) and "Worst Acting Combo" (Will and Jaden) .
A series of spin-off novels, sub-titled "Ghost Stories", have been planned to promote the movie, but are also intended to flesh out the concepts in the film itself. The titles of these books include 'Innocence', Peace, 'Hunted' and 'A Perfect Beast.' All books are written by writers Peter David, Michael Jan Friedman, and Robert Greenberger, with illustrations by Benito Lobel.
M. Night Shyamalan's first digital film. The first feature film shot with Sony's F65 digital camera.
Hesper was a bulk-freighter steamship that was used to tow schooner-barges on the Great Lakes. The Hesper sank off the coast of Lake Superior at Silver Bay, Minnesota, in a late spring snowstorm in 1905. The Hesper is the ship in which Jaden and Will boarded and crashed.
The original screenplay was written by Gary Whitta based on an idea by Will Smith. In pre-production, M. Night Shyamalan did a few drafts of the screenplay to familiarize himself with the material, before passing it over to Stephen Gaghan, who stayed on as the chief screenwriter during production. Mark Boal, writer of The Hurt Locker (2008) and Zero Dark Thirty (2012), also worked on the script.
Kristofer Hivju, Lincoln Lewis, and Isabelle Fuhrman had major supporting roles in the original cut though the majority of their scenes were deleted during post-production (In the theatrical cut Hivju has one scene, Lewis has one line, and only the back of Fuhrman's head is visible in one shot - though her face can be seen in the trailer).
To promote the movie, Harper Collins and Insight Editions published 'After Earth: United Ranger Corps Survival Manual' and 'After Earth: Kitai's Journal.'