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Luca Richardson
Luca Richardson

The Wandering Earth

Seventeen years later, in 2075, Liu Peiqiang is set to return to Earth after the Chinese New Year. His son Liu Qi, now an adult, obtains fake IDs and thermal suits from criminal gangs and steals his grandfather's clearance pass to take his foster sister, Han Duoduo, to requisition a heavy transport vehicle. Both are arrested at a nearby checkpoint and get jailed, meeting fellow prisoners Tim and Han Zi'ang. As Earth approaches its gravity assist around Jupiter, a spike in tidal force causes devastating earthquakes that disable many Earth Engines, resulting in the planet approaching a collision with Jupiter itself.

The Wandering Earth

"The Wandering Earth" is based on a short story with the same name by Liu Cixin, China's top Chinese science-fiction writer and the first in China to win the prestigious Hugo Award. It takes place in a future on the brink of apocalypse, where the dying sun threatens to extinguish all life on earth. The United World Government opts for an audacious plan to physically move the entire planet to orbit a safer, distant star.

A catastrophic event renders the earth a ticking time bomb. In a feverish race against the inevitable, nations around the globe band together to devise an ambitious plan to ensure the survival of humanity far beyond our atmosphere, in outer space.

The Wandering Earth tells the story of a close future in which the sun is about to expand into a red giant and devour the Earth, prompting mankind to make an audacious attempt to save planet. The multi-generational heroes build ten-thousand stellar engines in an effort to propel Planet Earth out the solar system, in the hope of finding a new celestial home. During the 2,500 year-long journey, a group of daring heroes emerge to defend human civilization from unexpected dangers and new enemies, and to ensure the survival of humanity in this age of the wandering Earth.

Parents need to know that The Wandering Earth is a 2019 book-based Chinese sci-fi movie in which a ragtag group of teenagers and soldiers try to prevent Earth from getting sucked into Jupiter's gravitational pull. It's in Mandarin Chinese (as well as English, French, and Russian), with English subtitles. There's constant violence: Characters try (and sometimes fail) to survive while the Earth crumbles in avalanches or rumbles in earthquakes, and when a space station master computer fails. A soldier fires his machine gun at Jupiter. Some fighting occurs, with punches and blood. Profanity is infrequent, including "f--k" and "s--t" used a few times. Overall, it's a Chinese take on the blockbuster science fiction movie, and it proudly wears its bombastic influences on its sleeve.

THE WANDERING EARTH takes place in a future where Earth is in peril. Climate change due to the sun dying has led to tremendous unrest and impending extinction for humanity. All countries and governments have united to form the United Earth Government, to find a way for the human race to continue. They have come up with a unique solution: Build large and powerful rocket boosters all over the globe and send the Earth out of its orbit around the sun, and transport it to another, more habitable solar system. This is known as the Wandering Earth Project. As this happens, cities are built underground, as the Earth begins to freeze. Liu Pieqiang is a Chinese astronaut who has left his son, Liu Qi, behind in order to serve on the space station that's helping the Earth navigate out of the solar system. Now a bitter and resentful teenager, Liu Qi has taken his adopted sister, Han Duoduo, out of the underground city with his grandfather's transport pass. He steals a transport vehicle, leading to their arrest, where they meet a half-Chinese, half-Australian teen named Tim. Then their grandfather is thrown in jail with them for losing his transport pass to his grandson. As they try to figure out how to get out of jail, massive earthquakes start happening all over the world, and the four escape. The reason for the earthquakes is Earth approaching Jupiter, resulting in Jupiter's gravity spikes wreaking havoc with the Earth. The plan was to use Jupiter's gravity as a slingshot to propel Earth further along its journey, but instead, the Earth is getting pulled into Jupiter. As Liu Pieqiang begins to realize what's happening, he tries to find a way to stop it, but he's thwarted by the space station's master computer, which seems to have a mission of its own. As the Earth engages in a desperate last-ditch effort to stop its final destruction, Liu Qi, Duoduo, Tim, and a ragtag group of hackers and soldiers come up with a desperate idea of their own, and it's up to all of them to find a way to reach the world and unite once again in order to survive.

The movie, its sci-fi aesthetics, its dramatic plot and its bombastic soundscape not only bring to mind a strong Hollywood genre style, they also conjure up memories of a host of Hollywood sci-fi successes, particularly the 1998 release Armageddon with Bruce Willis in the leading role. This movie features a Texas-size asteroid that is predicted to collide with planet earth in eighteen days. While I was watching The Wandering Earth in a Beijing cinema, I was also thinking about this earlier version and about how in general I considered science fiction a Hollywood-inflected genre. I felt somehow guilty for this denial of coevalness, for positioning the Chinese movie as a late and seriously delayed translation of a Hollywood blockbuster. And I was not alone. Indeed, both within and outside China, The Wandering Earth has been criticized as a rather soulless imitation of Hollywood. In the New York Times, Ben Keningburg (2019) wrote:

The Wandering Earth gives us a vision into the future, but the future it shows is a grim one. The sun is expanding into a red giant and threatening to engulf the planet. In order to save the earth from destruction, humans build enormous engines to propel the earth through space in hopes of finding a new, and less deadly star.

Synopsis: As the sun was dying out, people across the world built giant planet thrusters to move Earth out of its orbit and to sail Earth to a new solar system. Yet the 2,500-year journey came with unexpected dangers and, in order to save humanity in this age of a wandering Earth, a group of young people came out boldly and fought hard for everyone's survival. 041b061a72


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