By John Liu
NORTHWEST ASIAN WEEKLY
If you can accept the crazy space expedition premise like I did, then you will find this movie quite enjoyable.
More than $50 million was riding on China’s first major sci-fi movie, “The Wandering Earth,” but investors can breathe a sigh of relief as the movie made all the money back in just two days. “The Wandering Earth” ended up breaking the record for the highest daily gross and opening week for a local title, and it is on pace to beat more movie records.
“The Wandering Earth,” which has English subtitles, is based on a story by Cixin Liu, the author best known for “The Three-Body Problem,” and the first Asian to win the Hugo Award for best science fiction/fantasy novel in 2015. I have not read the books before seeing the movie, but was intrigued by its premise. Life on Earth is predicted to cease in 300 years due to the sun’s degeneration. As a result, nations put aside their differences to form the UEG — United Earth Government. Their solution is to create a space station to navigate space and to implement rocket thrusters on Earth and propel it to another star system. Since Earth is no longer orbiting the sun, monstrous waves and extreme weather destroy everything above ground. The remaining survivors live in underground cities. While Earth is passing Jupiter, it gets caught in Jupiter’s gravitational pull and soon the fate of humanity lies in the hands of our heroes.
Wu Jing, who starred in mega China blockbuster “Wolf Warrior 2,” contributed financially to make this movie possible and plays Liu Peiqiang, an astronaut aboard the space station tasked with working with the super computer, MOSS. While on Earth’s surface, we follow Peiqiang’s son, Liu Qi (Qu Chuxiao), adopted sister Han Duoduo (Zhao Jinmai), grandpa Han Zi’ang (Ng Man-tat), and a group of elite soldiers to save the planet. Both stories intertwine with each other through family issues and the end-of-the-world action sequences.
If you can accept the crazy space expedition premise like I did, then you will find this movie quite enjoyable. Throughout the movie, MOSS is constantly narrating what is going on, and it’s a little too much at times. The cinematography is gorgeous, and I’m envious of everyone who got to see this in IMAX 3D. I wish more time was spent on the dialogue as it’s non-stop action, but maybe some of it was lost in subtitle translation. There was one cheesy call back to Lunar New Year, but probably required to for a movie coming out during this golden movie period in China.
The movie definitely reminds me of other Hollywood space and disaster blockbusters, such as “The Day After Tomorrow,” “2012,” “Interstellar, Gravity,” and “Space Odyssey 2001.” I wish this movie took some time to explore complex moral dilemmas like determining who would attempt a suicide mission between two people with something to die for, but the movie clearly indicated it was not going in that direction, which makes each decision very clear-cut for our heroes. Sometimes movies with too much complexity do not do well at the box office, so better to play it safe. There are a lot of action cliches, and the movie was shoehorning emotional deaths. However, even I caught some space dust in my eye near the end of the movie.
Seattle was fortunate to have two theaters showing “The Wandering Earth” last weekend, and each showtime was practically sold out. You can still catch “The Wandering Earth” this week at AMC Pacific Place or Regal Meridian, and I recommend that you do!
John can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.