Review of 'Liú làng dì qiú (The Wandering Earth)'

the_wandering_earth.jpg It is the early 22nd century and humanity discovers within 100 years the sun will expand, eventually destroying the earth. A plan is developed to attach 10,000 huge rocket to the surface of the planet and send it hurtling to the stars. Mankind retreats from the frozen surface of the planet to massive underground cities where they thrive. 20 years into their journey they plan to slingshot around Jupiter but the gravity of Jupiter causes massive earthquakes that cause many of the engines to stop working. Liu Qi (Chuxiao Qu) and his adopted sister Han Duoduo (Jin Mai Jaho) long to see the surface of the planet choosing the worst time to do so…just as the earth is plunging towards Jupiter and eventual destruction. Making it to the surface they steal their grandfather's truck but are soon drafted into helping save the planet by restarting the engines. Queue action music…

I really wanted to love this film. The book this is based on was written more than 20 years ago and went on to win many literary prizes. The film is the second highest grossing film in China (after “Wolf Warrior 2”)…so I had very high hopes. The effects are truly astounding and it looks absolutely amazing but the characters are one dimensional and, often, grating – the petulant, pouting, whinny sister a case in point, the cartoon character-like grandfather being another. Yeah, the fast moving, agile trucks are very cool though the joke of Liu having trouble figuring out how to drive but then, inexplicably, being an expert driver in the scenes that follow (only to crash into another driver again in a final scene…) is, well, just odd. Regretfully, realism is thrown out the window and instead we are treated to stereotypical Chinese film characters and low-brow, ill-placed, and frankly daft humour.

The story is…interesting and one I had a hard time swallowing though I tried very hard to push this aside anyway…but it is a very big ask – Seriously, massive engines on the surface of the planet and ripping the planet from the solar system only to not have taken into account the gravity of Jupiter in the planning? Sure, they may not have a lot of time but there had to have been a least one scientist with a working calculator figuring this stuff out before they pressed the “engine start” buttons.

There is a strong note of nationalism and “together we can do anything” throughout the film which is not completely unexpected but then the contrast of a single man ending up saving everyone is played out…confusing is not the word for it.

I watched this film twice in the hope that I would grow to love the film but sad to say this was not to be…It was just as disappointing the second time around. So, looks great, but far less filling then it could have been. However, I still look forward to reading the book. Perhaps there the characters will be more engaging and less irritating.

Rating: “A bit better than average”

Review Date: 2019-05-20

Directed by: Frant Gwo

Studio: Beijing Dengfeng International Culture Communications Company

Year: 2019

Length: 125 minutes

Genre: Science Fiction