The Wandering Earth (2019)

The Wandering Earth (2019)

  • Score: 3/5
  • Genre: 3/5
  • Did I enjoy it: Mostly.
  • Did it move me: Mildly.
  • Rewatch:  Probably once, eventually, but I am not calendaring it in.
  • Art/Pop: Pop
  • Noteworthy/Significant: Chinese Sci Fi.

The Wandering Earth is a big budget Chinese Sci Fi spectacle. Based loosely on a story by a young, well-regarded (Hugo award winning) Chinese science fiction author, it tells the story of a planet facing extinction by an unexpectedly early transformation of our sun into a red giant, which will result in the Earth and most of the solar system being destroyed. Given about a century’s warning, the Earth bands together around a crazy plan to turn the entire planet into a generation ship by circling the planet with giant engines that will push it out of the solar system and all the way to a nearby star, arriving over a hundred generations later, while the surviving population hunkers down in underground cities.

The overall production and effects are top notch and the equal of a top line Hollywood production, so plenty of kudos to the Chinese film industry. This film moved me in ways that were not directly tied to its actual content, and this was one of them: that this film was made at this level of production quality promises hope for a new source of action-adventure-sci fi films. While on one hand they were clearly using Hollywood as a blueprint for the film, there are definitely shades of difference in outlook and approach of the characters and the point of view that were welcome and fun to observe. For example, about 3/4s of the way through the film I contemplated something especially dark happening, that I would have never even considered a possibility in a mainstream Hollywood film. It didn’t, but damn, it was fun while it lasted. 

Still. Still. It was good, but other than scope of production I did not find it particularly above average. It was not as smooth as it could be. It was not clear at all times where they were going and for what purpose. Some of the characters reminded me of stereotypical characters you would find in a Japanese Anime. I watched it dubbed, which was fine. I usually prefer subtitles, but I am more accepting of dubbing with Chinese because the fundamental nature of the differences between Chinese languages and European, primarily, intonation being a key dynamic of primary meaning generation; this means that it is more difficult to pick up the emotional quality of the speakers like you can as a native English speaker with a related romantic or germanic language (with exceptions: I always watch Ang Lee’s gorgeous Eat Drink Man Woman subtitled). The dubbing was pretty good, though, especially with several of the main characters, so I was not significantly distracted by it. 

I think this a must-watch for serious genre fans as I think it is a noteworthy, even important, movie for what it signifies, but it lacks the type of engaging characterizations and interpersonal struggles that gives films like Interstellar greater depth and universal appeal, so it will be a tough sale for average viewers.

Review Date: 05/19/2019


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