Film Review: ‘The Wandering Earth’

Starring: Wu Jing, Qu Chuxiao, Zhao Jinmal, Ng Man-tat, Li Guangjie

Directed by: Frant Gwo

Originally Released in February 2019

Review by Miriam Atkinson

The Wandering Earth is a Chinese film that falls into the genres of science fiction, dystopian, and disaster stories.

So what is it about? The sun is expanding. Earth has a hundred years left…unless it moves. 10,000 engines built into the Earth must take the planet to its new solar system. The film follows the journey of one family. Liu Peiqiang (Wu Jing) lives on the navigational space station above Earth. His children Lui Qi (Qu Chuxiao), Han Duoduo (Zhao Jinmal) and father Han Zi’ang (Ng Man-tat) live in one of the new underground cities. When Earth is pulled too close to Jupiter they must all play their part in saving Earth and its remaining population.

Firstly I cannot fault the special effects in this film. From the frozen ruins of old Beijing to the powerful, almost spider-like, Earth Engines the visuals were always very entertaining and made it easy to understand what was happening in the story. I particularly liked the shots where the camera gradually rose from something very small on the ground and climbed until a view of Earth filled the screen. It helped to show the true scale of the story.

I don’t know if it would even be possible to move an entire planet (should the technology actually exist) but it was still a fun premise. I really liked the inclusion of the timeline of Earth’s journey. Rather than blinking and the Earth suddenly jumping to its new home, the journey will take 2500 years to complete. This means that, although the characters are fighting for their own and their family’s survival, they are also fighting for a future they will never see. I thought it was an interesting element to add to the story – that the generation who set the Earth in motion will not experience the full benefits of their efforts. Do they really want to fight for this unknown future?

Despite the destruction happening at every turn, the core theme of The Wandering Earth is hope. This theme is most strongly felt in the film’s climax. Our first encounter with Duoduo is at school when her teacher asks the question: ‘what is hope’? At the end of the film, a now confident and emotionally stronger Duoduo is able to reiterate her classmate’s answer to the question in order to inspire people to stop running and help the team fix one of the engines. For me her speech was one of the standout moments of the film and I loved the reference to the beginning of Duoduo story.

The other character who goes on the biggest journey in the film is Lui Qi. Starting as an arrogant young man with little respect for authority, Qi progresses from a rather selfish person who risks his Grandfather job just to joyride a truck to one of the few people determined to save Earth. Qu Chuxiao does a great job of portraying Qi and this transition. The development in his character came across as very natural and, as a viewer, you root for Qi to succeed and become a stronger person.

I haven’t seen many non-British or American sci-fi films but, as someone who grew up watching disaster films, The Wandering Earth is an entertaining addition to that list. While I won’t say The Wandering Earth is the greatest sci-fi film of all time there was still a lot to like about this story with amazing visuals, a solid plot (at least from the point of view of a non-scientist) and good characters.

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