In the near future, the sun is expanding at an alarming rate, forcing humans to take the Earth and evacuate, but all is not well with the Wandering Earth.
When you think about sci-fi cinema, the Chinese don't really feature in your calculations. China's films haven't made a significant impact outside of their country of origin, but slowly their cinema is spreading across the globe. The Wandering Earth is one of the newest films to be released that has an all-Chinese cast and was filmed and produced solely behind the Great Wall. As a successful film, it's managed to become the third highest-grossing film in Chinese history. But what makes this film so great? And does it hold up under scrutiny from Western audiences?
The film is based on a novel of the same name. It starts off with a hard sci-fi setting. The Sun is expanding at an unprecedented rate. The only way for humanity to survive is to find a way to propel the Earth out of the solar system, turning the planet into a giant spaceship. Using Jupiter's gravity, the plan is to slingshot the Earth towards a new star. However, if they do this, the humans that exist on the planet's surface would not be able to survive. So, the Earth's united government opens a series of underground cities, each near to one of the massive earth propulsion engines to aid if they were ever to need repairs.
It's in this bleak setting that we follow an astronaut named Liu Peiqiang (Jing Wu), offering a tearful goodbye to his son Liu Qi (Chuxiao Qu) before blasting off to join the crew of the guidance satellite tasked with getting the Earth to Jupiter safely. Seventeen years later, a grown Liu Qi, together with his adopted sister Han Duoduo (Jin Mai Jaho), escape from security up to the surface. Using a vehicle license stolen from their grandfather Han Ziang (Man-Tat Ng), they head out to visit the surface. However, all is not well with the wandering Earth.
As the Earth closes in on Jupiter, a "gravitational spike" renders most of the engines non-functional, and emergency steps are taken to send teams out to restart the engines. It's a race against time because if the Earth gets too close to the gas giant, then the gravitation pull will be too much to escape from, and the planet will crash into Jupiter and be obliterated. The children and their grandfather all get caught up in the quest to get the Earth out of his peril, and the clock runs thin for the entire world as they work out how they can do what needs to be done while keeping their loved ones alive.
The setting is very well-fleshed out, and you feel as though you're actually watching a blockbuster film. While you can watch the movie with the dubbing on (Netflix has it dubbed into English), the real seriousness of the situation and the actors involved are only evident if you watch it subbed. The dialog is expected, and at times it almost feels as though you're watching a Chinese version of Armageddon, along with the epic explosions and nail-biting moments of tension. One of the things that become evident, especially as the action approaches a crescendo, is the propaganda angle. It's the first film that I've watched that doesn't give the Americans the "save the world" job, but it falls to the Chinese instead. While that might just be based on where the film originated, you can't deny that it seems like a bit of propaganda filmmaking.
I'm unfamiliar with the actors since they're all from Chinese cinema, but the choices for each role was well done. There was never a moment in between that the characters broke immersion. I was very impressed with the persona that Jing Wu gave to Liu Peiqiang because it made the final scenes of the movie so much more believable. Special mention goes to Chuxiao Qu for taking on a lead role and doing so well to portray his character.
One of the things that struck me about The Wandering Earth is that there are never moments where you feel as though you are just marking time. In a lot of films, even the blockbuster ones, the pacing tends to lag in between. In this case, the studio uses the in-between lags to flesh out our characters and fill us in about the world. Even the subtle nods to things allow us to see how technology has advanced and help us to understand details about the world. Overall, the pacing doesn't have lull moments, although one or two of the action sequences were a bit overdone, especially for an audience that has had their fill of Michael Bay movies.
The Wandering Earth's story has a lot of heartstring-pulling moments, but that doesn't take away from the action on the screen. Unlike a lot of modern action movies that go for explosions over a human connection, the Wandering Earth takes a different tack, making us feel for the characters. There aren't so many explosions as they are collapsing ice bridges and crushing metal falling from the sky. Within all of that is the premise of an amazingly well-planned movie that was executed artistically and leaves you feeling satisfied with the conclusion, as bittersweet as it may be.
The Wandering Earth is something new, using a formula that we haven't really seen in the West for some time. A brand-new set of faces to Western cinema together with a well-written plot and the requisite number of explosions you'd expect for an action film makes this one of those movies that you should watch at least once. It might surprise you, even if you decide to use the dubbed version.Disclaimer : The views expressed in this article belong to the writer and are not necessarily shared by trinikid.com