Movie Review – The Wandering Earth (Liúlàng Dìqiú, 流浪地球)

TL;DR –  At its core is an interesting idea, however, it is populated by the most unlikable characters in cinema at the moment  

Score – 1.5 out of 5 stars

Post-Credit Scene – There is no post-credit scene

The Wandering Earth. Image Credit: China Film Company Limited

Review

If you have read any of my reviews you will know I am a fan of Science Fiction. I love exploring the future and what it could be, I love interesting ideas and concepts, and I love the idea of exploring the universe. Today’s movie The Wandering Earth out of China does all of that and more. However as I walked out of the cinema I was not elated, instead, frankly, I was disappointed in how someone could squander such a good idea.

So to set the scene, at some point in the near future the Sun decides that it is ready to turn into a red giant now rather than billions of years from now and humanity has a choice. They can sit there and die as the Sun expands, or they can do something about it. They choose the latter and build hundreds of engines across the planet so that they can move the Earth to the Alpha Centauri system. To make sure nothing goes wrong they build a large space station that travels ahead of Earth to warn them of any danger. The one threat is that before they leave the Solar System they need to perform a gravity assist boost around Jupiter, but then it seems that Jupiter was not ready to let go. As all of this is happening Liu Peiqiang (Wu Jing) the senior astronaut on the Space Station has to watch helplessly as his son Liu Qi (Qu Chuxiao), father-in-law Han Zi’ang (Ng Man-tat), and adopted daughter Han Duoduo (Zhao Jinmai) are caught outside in the emergency and are marshalled into helping the Earth stave off disaster.

The Wandering Earth. Image Credit: China Film Company Limited
There are some interesting world building moments in the film. Image Credit: China Film Company Limited

Now, I am going to be a bit negative with this film, but before I jump into that side of things I do want to take a moment to talk about everything the film does right because there are some gems in here. First, the concept itself is a fantastic idea and it completely lines up that humanity would nope out of the Solar System. As well as this, while they can be a bit hit and miss at times, there are some moments where the effects are truly outstanding. For me, the highlight was some of the actions scenes in and around the Space Station when everything goes wrong. Also, a lot of work has gone into the world building, and you see that through the set design and costumes, and I did really appreciate it.

One of the things that you need to do when you are watching this films is take any of your knowledge about gravity, planetary bodies, temperature, chemistry, etc. and put them away in a little box. This is because while The Wandering Earth dips its toes into the more hard side of Sci-fi it does quite know how it would all play out so you have to kind of just go with it if you want to enjoy the film. Like one character goes that if we don’t do something Jupiter will siphon off all the atmosphere and then they will not able to breathe, well I got some bad news for you as to what will happen to most of the atmosphere once you leave the warmth of the Solar System.

The Wandering Earth. Image Credit: China Film Company Limited.
Unfortunately they film the film with deeply unlikable characters. Image Credit: China Film Company Limited.

Where the film really lets itself down, and in a significant way, it taking an interesting world and concept and then filling it with the most unlikable people in recent cinema. There is not one character in this film that I could say that I liked, I mean Duoduo and Makarov (Arkady Sharogradsky) come close, but the rest are a write-off. Liu Peiqiang is a father that makes the ultimate sacrifice and lets his very sick wife die so that his son could be looked after in the underground refuge, this could have been a real character development moment, but we get it drip feed throughout the movie, so most of the time he seems vague at the point of annoyance. Liu Qi is without a doubt the biggest spoilt brat that I have seen in cinema in a very long time. He is meant to have the biggest character arc throughout the movie, but he spends 90% of it having tantrums and posturing like he knows the answer about everything, and then 10% being the hero at the end because they had no one else to do it.

Then there is Tim (Mike Sui), I have never truly, viscerally, hated a character as much as I did with Tim. When he is introduced he is in a jail cell he off handily mention he is there because he allegedly sexually assaulted someone, and then it is all downhill from there. I get having a character there for comic relief, but there is literally no redeeming qualities about him at all and every time he spoke I found myself liking the film less and less. There is a point in this film where Earth is on a collision course with Jupiter and is about to get destroyed and I went, yep that’s fine, I am done with Earth and humanity at the moment, let it crash into the planet.

The Wandering Earth. Image Credit: China Film Company Limited.
There is also a nice be heap of Chinese Communist Party propaganda. Image Credit: China Film Company Limited.

Adding to all this were some persistent issues that really drags the film down. While there are a lot of characters, very few of them actually get any resembling a character arc, or indeed any story building. They are just there to do their thing and then that’s it. While there are times when the effects are spectacular, there are also times when they look like they are in a made-for-TV film from 10 years ago. Also, while it is clear that the many writers of this film have a love for the Disaster Film genre and the works of Roland Emmerich especially, they imitate but they don’t iterate, leaving it feeling like a shallow experience that you have seen before. This also extends to a number of other references to past cinema they throw in. Finally, there were also clearly a lot of issues that they just wallpapered over rather than fixing. I watched the film in Mandarin with English subtitles, but there were clearly times when the actor had been dubbed over because what was being said and how the character’s mouth was moving did not line up at all. Though there was one amusing moment where I am 90% sure a character went ‘F this S’ in English only to have the film subtitle it as ‘Ah!’   

In the end, do we recommend The Wandering Earth? Unfortunately no. While it does have a very interesting concept behind it, a concept does not make a film. You need to populate the film with characters that you actually care if they live or die. Unfortunately, this is a film that is all concept and not a lot of execution.                          

By Brian MacNamara: You can follow Brian on Twitter Here, when he’s not chatting about Movies and TV, he’ll be talking about International Relations, or the Solar System.

Have you watched The Wandering Earth?, let us know what you thought in the comments below, feel free to share this review on any of the social medias and you can follow us Here. Check out all our past reviews and articles Here, and have a happy day.
 


Credits –
All images were created by the cast, crew, and production companies of The Wandering Earth
Directed by
– Frant Gwo
Written by – Gong Ge’er, Yan Dongxu, Frant Gwo, Ye Junce, Yang Zhixue, Wu Yi & Ye Ruchang
Based onThe Wandering Earth by Liu Cixin
Music by – Roc Chen & Tao Liu
Cinematography by – Michael Liu
Edited by – Cheung Ka-fai
Production/Distribution Companies – Beijing Jingxi Culture & Tourism Company, China Film Company Limited., United Entertainment Partners, CMC Pictures Holdings  
Starring
– Qu Chuxiao, Li Guangjie, Ng Man-tat, Zhao Jinmai, Wu Jing, Arkady Sharogradsky, Mike Sui, Qu Jingjing, Zhang Yichi, Yang Haoyu, Li Hongchen, Yang Yi, Jiang Zhigang & Zhang Huan      
Rating – Australia: M; Canada: PG

4 thoughts on “Movie Review – The Wandering Earth (Liúlàng Dìqiú, 流浪地球)

  1. You’ve got the point. We do not need a character who is capable of saving the planet or whatever, the point is that we save our earth as a whole. If and only if everyone does their own jobs well, we could achieve great success, instead of letting a ‘superman’ to do everything. Chinese people have great faith on working together, as a team, not individuals. This is what we want to express.
    P.S. As you are wandering about the atmosphere thing, you’ve understood the whole thing wrong. (I admit that the subtitles are terrible.) the problem is that Jupiter’s gravity will pull the Earth into small pieces of solid blocks, not just the atmosphere. Take a look at the novel “The Wandering Earth” by Liu Cixin, and you will get a more detailed explanation. The movie differs from the novel a lot. The whole atmosphere freezes, while living is still normal in the underground cities around the earth.

    Like

    • I am all for team films, indeed I prefer them, but you do need to have at least someone you at least remotely likeable. And the film does have a ‘superman’ character in Liu Peiqiang, who literally flies in to save the day.

      With regards to the atmosphere, I completely understood that that the threat was the planet breaking up when it hit the Roche limit. I was referring to a line of dialogue where one character look up at the atmosphere being sucked away by Jupiter and exclaimed that if it all goes how will they breath,

      Like

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