The Sun is about to transform into a red giant engulfing the Earth. Can humanity survive?
I first heard about The Wandering Earth (Liu lang di qiu) when a trailer popped up amongst my YouTube feed. Despite the obvious language barrier, the film looked very interesting at least and I marked it down as one to watch.
Expecting to having to find an imported DVD or Blu-ray, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that the film would be coming to Netflix at the end of April.
So recently, I sat down, booted up Netflix and watched The Wandering Earth. I prefer to watch foreign films in their native language with subtitles although an English dub is also available.
Set in a not too distant future, The Wandering Earth starts out by introducing the small family unit that will dominate the story.
Liu Peiqiang, a Chinese astronaut, is about to leave the Earth and take the supervisory role on the international space station that will lead The Wandering Earth project. Unfortunately, the job in question will mean that his role in the space station will last for seventeen years.
He promises to his son, Liu Qi, that he will return and hands guardianship over to his father in law, Han Zi’ang.
The Wandering Earth project exists because the Sun is about to turn into a red giant. When this happens, the size of the Sun grows exponentially and will engulf most of our solar system including Earth.
The Earth, powered by huge fusion engines, heads out of the solar system.
The governments of Earth come together to form the UEG, the United Earth Government. Together as a species, humanity has worked out a plan to survive.
Thousands of enormous fusion powered engines are built all over the world and this will effectively transform the Earth into a spaceship.
The international space station will lead the way for Earth, acting as a scout ship, as they make their planned 2,500-year journey across space towards Alpha Centauri.
To help speed up Earth’s velocity, the plan is to use Jupiter’s gravity to slingshot around the huge gas giant and out of the system.
Fast forward seventeen years and this crucial point in the plan is about to take place. Liu Peiqiang has officially signed off as space station supervisor and is looking forward to seeing his son once again.
However, a huge gravity spike from Jupiter causes huge earthquakes across the Earth causing most of the fusion engines to shut down.
Now drifting without power, the Earth is being pulled closer to Jupiter on a collision course.
The Wandering Earth demonstrates that China can produce a blockbuster film of the same scale and quality of anything that Hollywood can throw out.
Although the science fiction story is quite far fetched when you analyse it closely, on screen it makes for entertaining viewing.
This is science fiction at its best. Huge engines moving the Earth through space, giant space stations acting as guides, even the huge transporter vehicles that play a large part of the film are all wonderfully realised and bought to life.
All this has obviously been achieved through the use of extensive CGI work and it looks pretty damned good, anything set in outer space is near perfect.
My only criticism would be that in some shots, the huge transport vehicles that are used on Earth don’t always move the way you’d think a large metal lump on wheels should.
Liu Peiqiang watches on as Jupiter’s gravity wreaks havoc on Earth.
Whilst Liu Peiqiang, Liu Qi and Han Zi’ang are the three main protagonists for the story, several more are introduced early on.
When this number grows larger still with the addition of more survivors, not only does this becomes a little hard to keep track of who is who but leaves no room for character development of which there is already very little.
But don’t let these minor quibbles stop you from experiencing what is a decent slice of Chinese sci-fi action cinema.
The Wandering Earth has been a huge commercial success in China and it’s easy to see why. This film easily stands amongst other doomsday films such as The Day After Tomorrow, 2012 and Armageddon.
With its story of humanity struggling to survive, superb visuals and the fact it is free on Netflix, I think The Wandering Earth is worthy of your time.
Three and a half stars. A solid sci-fi action blockbuster that’s definitely worthy of a viewing.