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
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.
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
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 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.
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.
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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 on – The 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