As the Chinese movie industry continues its inevitable march to domination, they take on the one big genre that has, thus far, eluded them, sci-fi.
After reportedly being turned down by directors such as James Cameron, Luc Besson and Alfonso Cuaron, the job of manhandling this multi-million dollar movie went to Frant Gwo, who had only directed two movies prior to this: My Old Classmate and Lee’s Adventure.
Based on the novel from Cixin Liu, The Wandering Earth tells the story of humanity in trouble, the Sun is about to explode, much sooner than expected, and it will destroy the galaxy, let alone Earth.
To that end, the governments of the Earth combine to form the United Earth Government and hatch a plan to physically move the Earth to a new galaxy, over four light years away.
They do this by building huge engines all across the surface of the Earth and turn it into a giant space ship. They then use the gravity from the Sun and Jupiter to slingshot the Earth closer to its new home, the whole journey taking some 2,500 years.
The population of Earth live in giant, underground cities to protect the from the -85 degree temperatures on the surface, whilst in space, acting as a kind of sat-nav, a large space station travels in front of the Earth.
Onboard the space station is Jing Wu (“Call Of Heroes“, “SPL: Kill Zone”) who has gone, primarily, to provide a pass to his father, son, Chuxiao Qu (“Father And Son”, “Oh Boy!”), and daughter, Jin Mai Jaho (“Balala The Fairies”, “Go Brother!”), to an underground city.
Years pass, and as the Earth approaches Jupiter, the machine onboard the space station determines the Earth isn’t going to make it. It’s off course and its new path sees it heading for destruction straight into Jupiter.
Having thought of this scenario already, the United Earth Government have stocked the space station with embryos and Earth knowledge, and instructed the AI running the joint to forget Earth and go on its way, find somewhere to start a new Earth.
Wu isn’t having any of this though, and whilst he’s in space fighting with the AI, his son, daughter and father are on Earth, along with some marine-type soldiers, fighting to restart some of the engines which have stopped due to an earthquake.
It’s all go in The Wandering Earth, a non-stop action, adventure, sci-fi from the moment it starts. As with anything sci-fi related, and set in space, the CGI plays a big part of things. Whilst decent, there are a few occasions where it doesn’t quite meet the giddy heights of some of the more popular Western films.
The look and feel of the movie borrows heavily from films you’ll have most likely already seen; the AI onboard the space station looks exactly like the one from Wall-E, both of which look like HAL from 2001: A Space Odyssey for example, whilst the frozen Earth is akin to The Day After Tomorrow and the suits the soldiers wear are straight from Elysium.
The storyline has a distinct Hollywood feel to it at times, soaring music and our hero’s shouting as they pull something miraculous off with seconds to spare.
Having said all that, The Wandering Earth is hugely, hugely ambitious and the filmmakers must be given credit for even giving something of this size a go. Whilst not always successful, it’s a fun, don’t think too hard about it all, sci-fi adventure film that I imagine looks great in IMAX.