Will Smith has never publicly confirmed that he's a member of the Church of Scientology—in a recent Vulture interview, Smith himself said that he and son, Jaden, are "students of world religion," whatever that means—but it's hard to deny that his new film, After Earth, is chock full of Scientology-driven ideas.
The concepts have been noticed by a few film critics, specifically Manohla Dargis at the New York Times and Matt Patches of Hollywood.com. Both report in their reviews that the film is filled with references to the L. Ron Hubbard-founded religion and its foundational text, Dianetics. In her review, Dargis writes:
“Root yourself in this present moment. Danger is very real. But fear is a choice.”
Casual students of Scientology may find their ears pricking up at those maxims because fear and its overcoming receive a lot of play in “Dianetics,” a foundational text by the creator of Scientology, the pulp science-fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard. “There are five ways in which a human being reacts toward a source of danger,” he wrote in “Dianetics.” “These are also the five courses he can take on any given problem.” These options are attack, flee, avoid, neglect or succumb.
Similarly, Patches writes in his review:
Kitai ends up having to cross the terrifying forest land of Earth and his biggest problem is that he’s a total pussy. He is bubbling over with fear. He’s too fucking emotional and that makes him a huge target for the alien.
This struck me as Scientology 101. [...] To me, After Earth is all about cleansing the body’s “thetan,” or soul. If Kitai can leave behind the physical dangers of the world and invest in self-determinism, he’ll be triumphant. He’ll be a hero because he’s entitled to be one. [...]
The auditing process also comes up. Kitai is stricken with memories of an ill-fated day back home, where he witnessed a love one perish at the hands of an alien invader. He was only a kid, but it kills him inside. This works like Scientology’s engrams, albeit a bit more overt. Through flashbacks, M. Night Shyamalan tortures his lead character with memories. The only way to make it to the end of his mission is to wash them away. So Cypher is giving Kitai his free stress test, one-on-one sessions between father and son that teach the emotionally involved child to put aside his feelings in favor of making the world a better place. The only thing missing is a 31st century E-meter.
In her review, Dana Stevens at Slate also mentioned the presence of Dianetics-inspired ideas in the film.
It's all a bit too much to ignore, especially when you consider this Reddit post that breaks down Scientology and how it relates to the film. In addition to pointing out that Smith and his family founded a private school that employs the use of "Study Tech"—something that is only taught at Scientology schools—it also notes that the basic principles of Scientology are all present in even just the trailers, and that symbols are evident even in the background of scenes (for example, a volcano seen in the film bears striking resemblance to the major symbol for Dianetics, and a uniform Will Smith is wearing in the film looks a lot like the uniform worn by the Church of Scientology's Sea Org members).
This is all, of course, speculation, but as the Reddit post points out, it's not unimaginable that a big budget film would be produced to promote ideas of Scientology: "Because LRH himself tried and failed, and because Scientologists literally believe that science fiction stories, what they call "space opera", are repressed memories of events that occurred millions of years ago [...] I'm fairly confident that After Earth is a major motion picture made to exalt Scientology...Instead of Scientology's recent tactics of negatively attacking others, they are trying to positively bolster themselves."
Also worth mentioning: The film currently has a 12% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. It's unclear if there's any correlation, but if it is a film made to "bolster" and promote Scientology, it's not doing a very good job anyway.