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'The Wandering Earth': A new star is born

By Faisal Kidwai | Updated: 2019-02-19 15:44
The Wandering Earth [Photo/Mtime]

The sun is expanding and will consume the Earth in 100 years. Soon it will engulf the whole solar system. Half of our planet's population is already dead and big cities such as Beijing and Shanghai lie destroyed. To save the Earth, the whole world unites and comes up with an ingenious plan: Move the whole planet to another solar system.

This is the ambitious plot of the movie The Wandering Earth. Directed by Frant Gwo, whose past credits include My Old Classmate, the film is epic in scale. In the first 10 minutes of the movie, the director shows us the full impact of sun's expansion. The Earth is a barren, desolate place, where people are living in underground bunkers and time is ticking.

Liu Peiqiang (Wu Jing), an astronaut working at a space station sent to help Earth navigate its path to new solar system, teams up with Russian astronaut Makarov (Arkady Sharogradsky) as the gravitational pull of Jupiter threatens the existence of the whole world.

Meanwhile on Earth, Liu Qi (Qu Chuxiao), the son of Liu Peiqiang, escapes from the underground bunker with his adopted sister Han Duoduo (Zhao Jinmai) to Earth's surface where only workers are allowed. There he steals a truck and then, through a series of events, gets entangled in saving the Earth as it moves toward Jupiter.

The Wandering Earth [Photo/Mtime]

The computer-generated imagery captures the Earth so well as it travels away from sun that you realize what the planet would look like if we don't reverse the impact of greenhouse gases. While there are shades of other movies such as Independence Day, what makes this film stand out is that there's no superhero saving the planet. It's all about teamwork as the whole world comes together for the greater cause of humanity.

Another factor that makes this movie engrossing is the attention to details. Four scientists from the Chinese Academy of Sciences worked with the team to ensure that the technical aspects of the script were flawless. The way Jupiter is shown and the views of Earth from space are mesmerizing.

This is undoubtedly a breakout film for the Chinese movie industry. Until now, directors struggled to get sci-fi projects off the ground, as the common belief was that a Chinese-made sci-fi movie would not do well in the market. The Wandering Earth has shattered that perception forever, as it has already brought in around $560 million in China in just two weeks. Next in line are Shanghai Fortress, a story about an alien invasion, and Pathfinder, an intergalactic adventure, both expected to hit the theaters this year.

Although the movie deserves all the praise and the ringing endorsements of audiences, there are some shortcomings. First, the characters do not get enough screen time to develop, especially Han Duoduo. Initially she is shown as a teenager who is just along for the ride, and then she suddenly transforms into a serious character. But the director does not show how this change happened. There are also other figures whose presence or absence is not explained.

Second, sometimes the story is hard to follow as scenes appear out of nowhere. Although the movie is more than two hours long, maybe Gwo should have made the film longer to provide more space for characters or to build scenes more slowly.

That said, the film is worth every penny. The movie, based on a short story by the Hugo Award-winning author Cixin Liu, has proven that Chinese directors are as good as, if not better than, any Hollywood filmmaker when it comes to sci-fi thrillers. It's time to buckle up.

The author is a journalist with more than 18 years experience in media.

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