You might forgive the indulgence of this particular Editor in Chief, but for just a moment (or an article at least). Normally we don’t do reviews of movies here. However The Wandering Earth has just been released and it’s the first proper science fiction blockbuster from China. The film is based upon a short story of the same name by acclaimed author Liu Cixin, who is the mad imagination behind the fantastic Three Body Problem and its sequels. The question is whether the movie does the genre justice?
If you’ve read the short story you’ll no doubt be familiar with the premise. Some time in the nearish future, it’s found that the Sun will expand and destroy the Solar System within a hundred years. The national governments of Earth unite to build the most ambitious project ever: move the planet to a new host star. In this case, Proxima Centauri, our nearest stellar neighbour, which is 4.2 light years away.
While the short story encompasses a long period of the perilous journey, the movie focuses on an aspect of the odyssey.
The movie opens with our main character’s impending separation from his father. While his dad goes on a long mission in space to support the Wandering Earth initiative, he remains on Earth with his grandfather in one of the world’s underground cities. They’re designed to keep people warm and safe during the eternal winter caused by the millenia long journey through interstellar space.
As Earth approaches Jupiter, the situation goes awry. Some gravitational “spike” occurs and draws our planet closer to the gas giant than intended. What follows is a scientifically inaccurate but fun adventure over the icy wastelands of old Earth.
Without beating around the bush (or ice) the movie swings wildly between scientific accuracy and Star Trek level techno-incoherence. I mean… they kept the mega-tsunamis following the cessation of Earth’s spin but introduced a gravitational spike.
It’s up to our hero and his merry band of hardened adventurers to save the world. In the literal sense. Because if it’s not saved, the planet will be torn apart by Jupiter’s gravity and kill everyone. Sucky end right there.
With a much smaller budget than Western equivalents it kind of shows. The acting isn’t the best and you an poke a lot of holes through the computer graphics. The movie also lays it on with a little too much drama, perhaps one too many twists and overly emotional appeals to hope and legacy. However you do get the sense that it’s a properly international affair. A lot of languages and nationalities make it into the movie. The leader of the United Earth Government is even French. Surprisingly, they’re pretty quick to surrender to despair.
There are even some great homages to great sci-films of yesteryear during the action. The red eye of HAL from 2001 and the crescendoing organs of Interstellar both make little cameos. Indeed, the tone of the movie even feels like Independence Day. All that was missing was the best movie presidential speech…in the world.
The Wandering Earth might not win any Oscars (and frankly, who cares?). But on a scale of Ambitious But Rubbish and Pretty Damned Good, the movie falls heavily towards the latter. If you’re looking for a good sci-fi adventure, then this might be just for you.