The Wandering Earth (2019)

Movie


The Wandering Earth (2019)
Liu lang di qiu (original title)

The sun is dying out. The earth will soon be engulfed by the inflating sun. To save the human civilization, scientists draw up an escape plan that will bring the whole human race from danger. With the help of thousands of infusion powered engines, the planet earth will leave the solar system and embark on a 2,500 year journey to the orbit of a star 4.5 light years away.
China
IMDb   6.0 /10
Metacritic   57 %
TheMovieDb    6.4 /10
RottenTomatoes  71 %
FilmAffinity   4.9 /10
Information
Release Date2019-02-05
Runtime2h 5mins
GenreAction, Sci-Fi
Content RatingTV-MA (TV-MA)
Awards32 wins & 37 nominations.
CompanyBeijing Dengfeng International Culture Communications Company, Alibaba Pictures, Base FX
CountryChina
LanguageMandarin, English, Russian, French, Japanese, Korean, Indonesian, Hindi

The Wandering Earth

The Wandering Earth (Chinese: 流浪地球; pinyin: liúlàng dìqiú) is a 2019 Chinese science fiction film directed by Frant Gwo, loosely based on the 2000 novella The Wandering Earth by Liu Cixin. The film stars Qu Chuxiao, Li Guangjie, Ng Man-tat, Zhao Jinmai, Wu Jing and Qu Jingjing. Set in the far future, it follows a group of astronauts and rescue workers guiding the Earth away from an expanding Sun, while attempting to prevent a collision with Jupiter. The film was theatrically released in China on 5 February 2019 (Chinese New Year's Day), by China Film Group Corporation.

The film grossed $699 million worldwide. It is China's fourth highest-grossing film of all time and the fourth highest-grossing non-English film to date. It has received generally positive reviews from critics, with The Hollywood Reporter describing it as "China's first full-scale interstellar spectacular." Netflix has acquired the film's global streaming rights. The film was available to stream by Netflix in various countries outside of China on 30 April 2019.


Plot

In the year 2061, the aging Sun is about to turn into a red giant and threatens to engulf the Earth's orbit within 100 years, forcing nations to consolidate into the United Earth Government (UEG). The Wandering Earth Project to migrate the Earth out of the Solar System and into the Alpha Centauri system is initiated and uses 12,000 enormous fusion-powered Earth Engines built across the Northern Hemisphere with further Torque Engines along the equator to propel the entirety of planet Earth. Chinese astronaut Liu Peiqiang oversees the gravitational slingshot maneuver of Earth using the gravity of Jupiter to assist propulsion before going on his mission to the Navigation Platform International Space Station to help navigate the Earth along its interstellar journey.

Much of the human population dies in the next few years due to cataclysmic natural disasters, including tsunamis that occur after Earth's rotation is halted. As the planet distances from the Sun, most of the surface becomes frozen solid, forcing remaining humans to live in vast underground cities built adjacent to and under the engines. 17 years later, in 2078, 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 illegally requisition a heavy transport vehicle. Both are arrested at a nearby checkpoint and get jailed. They meet fellow prisoner Tim and are soon joined by Han Zi'ang after he unsuccessfully attempts to bribe the prison warden into releasing them.

As Earth approaches Jupiter to make use of a gravity assist, a spike in tidal force causes devastating earthquakes that disable many Earth Engines across the globe. Jupiter's gravity puts Earth on a collision course with the gas giant. The four escape the prison amidst the chaos and attempt to make their way to another underground city inside Han Zi'ang's truck. They are stopped by and requisitioned for an emergency mission by a military rescue team led by Captain Wang Lei, transporting a Lighter Core to restart the 01 Earth Engine in Hangzhou. In the frozen ruins of Shanghai, they lose their vehicle while transporting the component up the ruins of the Shanghai Tower, where Han Zi'ang freezes to death after being trapped. After a confrontation with the other rescue team members, Liu, Tim and Han decide to abandon the mission. The trio come upon a crashed cargo plane with an intact vehicle, where the surviving engineer aboard, Li Yiyi, eventually convinces them to transport another Lighter Core to repair the Torque Engine in Sulawesi, reconciling with the other members on the way.

Liu Peiqiang discovers that MOSS, the A.I. commanding the space station, has prioritized a new mission: rather than to assist Earth, the station is planned to serve as an interstellar ark to seed a new planet with Earth's biosphere. Liu manages to break out of forced hibernation along with Russian cosmonaut Maxim Makarov in attempts to reach the control room. While spacewalking, Makarov is killed by the spacecraft's automated security measures. Liu enters the control room, but his attempts of overriding the evacuation procedures are revoked due to insubordination. Liu Qi's group arrives at the Sulawesi Supply Depot to find that the engine was already fully restored along with most others around the planet. However, the combined thrust of the engines is no longer able to divert the trajectory, with Earth approaching Jupiter's Roche limit. MOSS broadcasts a final message to the world, but Liu Peiqiang is reluctant to follow the A.I's instructions.

Liu Qi proposes to ignite the oxygenated mixture of Jupiter and Earth's atmospheres to blow Earth away. Li Yiyi hacks the Sulawesi Engine and concentrates its power to fire a plasma beam tall enough to ignite Jupiter. The group overcome various challenges and are able to mostly reconfigure the engine to carry out the plan, but are unable to push the firing pin of the engine to ignite it.

Liu Peiqiang, contacted by Han, is able to persuade the UEG to use its communication channels to call assistance for the party at Sulawesi, even though MOSS reveals that the attempted solution was already proposed by Israeli scientists and has zero chance of success. Other rescue and repair parties arrive in time and the engine is started along with two additional engines, but falls short of being able to ignite the Jovian hydrogen. After disabling MOSS using a fire started with a bottle of vodka that Makarov smuggled on board, Liu Peiqiang pilots the space station into the plasma jet, tearfully apologizing to his son for breaking his promise before sacrificing himself to ignite the mix of atmospheres. The subsequent shockwave saves Earth from destruction, with Liu Qi and Han narrowly surviving the aftermath.

3 years later, Liu, Han, and Tim work as transport vehicle drivers, as Earth continues towards the Alpha Centauri star system.


Cast

  • Qu Chuxiao as Liu Qi (刘启)
  • Li Guangjie as Captain Wang Lei (王磊)
  • Ng Man-tat as Han Zi'ang (韩子昂)
  • Zhao Jinmai as Han Duoduo (韩朵朵)
  • Wu Jing as Liu Peiqiang (刘培强)
  • Arkady Sharogradsky as Makarov
  • Mike Sui as Tim
  • Qu Jingjing as Zhou Qian (周倩)
  • Zhang Yichi as Li Yiyi (李一一)
  • Yang Haoyu as He Lianke (何连科)
  • Li Hongchen as Zhang Xiaoqiang (张小强)
  • Yang Yi as Yang Jie (杨捷)
  • Jiang Zhigang as Zhao Zhigang (赵志刚)
  • Zhang Huan as Huang Ming (黄明)
  • Lei Jiayin as Yi Ge

Production

Development

"China's film market cannot always be filled with European and American science fiction films. Filling the gap is a gamble, but China cannot remain absent."

——Producer of the film The Wandering Earth and then Chairman of China Film Co., Ltd.,China Film Journal,15 February, 2019

In 2012, China Film Group bought the rights to three of Liu Cixin's best-known science fiction novels, The Wandering Earth, The Age of Supernovae and The Micro-Age. The plan to turn The Wandering Earth into a film was first announced at China Film Group's 2014 film project promotion conference, which estimated the production cost would be $50 million. In the middle of 2015, China Film Production Branch found Frant Gwo, to discuss the cooperation intention. Gwo replied that he was particularly interested in making science fiction films, but The Age of Supernovae and The Micro-Age were technically more demanding and set in a more distant time, Frant Gwo chose The Wandering Earth. He thinks the technical extension of "The Wandering Earth" makes it easy to empathize with viewers. Frant Gwo was a big fan of the science fiction genre and was first influenced by James Cameron's Terminator 2: Judgment Day which inspired him to become a director in the genre. He spent the following years studying the genre to direct a science fiction film. In the middle of July 2016, The Wandering Earth was officially approved in the script filing of National Radio and Television Administration,And confirmed by Frant Gwo to direct.

Pre-production

In the pre-production stage, Frant Gwo first considered the center of gravity of the movie and the relationship with the original. Considering that " the novel we can choose different perspectives, such as Liu Cixin often chooses God's perspective, the perspective of the universe, the timeline is very grand, crossing thousands of years. But the movie is hard to express this, If the movie spends two hours to express the detailed world view, it will become a scientific film." He believed that the film could only take the novel story as the background, and must focus on the characters and emotions of the story. Based on this, the crew began to consider which part of the original book would be more suitable for the film background. For this Frant Gwo emphasizes that for "the presentation of the movie needs, you must find a comparison that makes the audience feel very interesting, or can have a visual impact." In the end he decided to use Jupiter's accelerating gravity to precipitate the Earth into crisis, and for humans to use solidarity and wisdom to protect it as the setting, and to completely adapt the story, which is only about five paragraphs in the original book. Jupiter was chosen precisely for its visual impact: Earth is huge for humans, but becomes very small and fragile when compared with Jupiter, which is more than 1,300 times larger.

After confirming Jupiter's background the crew began to consider a world view, which was the most difficult part of Kuo Fan's preparatory work. The whole world outlook of the set took about eight months, from the social aspect of politics, economics, culture, education, entertainment, and food production, to natural levels of physical environment change in the Earth, how to escape the sun, the cast, and the relationship between all of these relevant aspects. In order to establish a rigorous setting, Gwo invited 4 scientists from the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) to act as consultants.

The crew also chronicled one hundred years of history, including the big events since 2017, to connect the real world and the movie world.

The film's 3,000 concept maps and more than 8,000 sub-mirrors were created by a conceptual art team of 300 people over a period of 15 months.

In 2017 Beijing Culture partnered with the project to complete the film, together with China Film Group as the main producer of the film. The Wandering Earth will be the first work by Liu Cixin that truly moves from words to movie. (I cannot translate this, but apparently it is an interview with Frant Gwo and Liu Cixin.)

Filming

Principal photography started on 26 May 2017, in Qingdao, a seaside city on north China's Shandong province, and wrapped on 27 September, 2017. Weta Workshop made the film's spacesuits, exoskeletons and weaponry.

Wu Jing was asked by Frant Gwo to play a cameo role in the film, but was later cast in a leading role. When he was told that the production had run into financial trouble, he gave up his remuneration and invested in the film to help it continue, for which he was given special thanks in the credits of the film. Due to the financial difficulties, there was a limited remuneration budget, and the salary for the lead actor Qu Chuxiao was around 100,000 yuan (US$15,000).

Post-production

The visual effects of the film were made by Base FX, Bottleship VFX, Dexter Studios, Macrograph, More VFX, Pixomondo and Black Nomad.

Liu Cixin, the author of the original novella, said to China Central Television, "Chinese studios have no interest to invest in sci-fi films. US sci-fi film audiences have trust but this trust between audiences and China's sci-fi movies doesn't exist yet and this is the main difference between Chinese and US sci-fi films...It is a challenge because this trust must build between producers, investors, and the audience until people have faith in a Chinese sci-fi movie."

Music

The film's music was composed by Roc Chen (阿鯤), and Liu Tao (刘韬) as an additional composer. The film's music was performed by the British Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and conducted by Roc Chen at the Abbey Road Studios.


Release

On 25 December 2018, the first official trailer for the film was released at the China Aerospace Museum in Beijing along with a teaser poster.

On 30 January 2019, Beijing-based distributor China Media Capital (CMC Pictures) announced that it has secured the international rights and is planning a sizable North American release on 8 February. The company will open the film in 22 cities in the U.S. and 3 in Canada, throughout Australia and New Zealand. The movie released in U.S. theaters with IMAX 3D during the first week.

On 20 February 2019, it was announced that Netflix acquired the distribution rights to stream the film internationally. The film was expected to be available to stream globally on Netflix, outside of China, on 30 April 2019, however the film was later promoted on the Netflix Facebook page as being released on 6 May 2019.


Reception

Box office

The Wandering Earth released over the Chinese New Year holiday season, and earned more than CN¥2 billion (£232 million) in 6 days, setting a new record for a Chinese film. It also set the record for the highest-grossing Chinese film on IMAX. Second weekend box office dropped 53%, on par with all other currently playing films post Chinese holiday season, as expected. The film's total gross in China stands at CN¥4.655 billion.

On release, it topped the worldwide box office with a 3-day opening weekend gross of $172,718,000, and had a 6-day opening gross of $289,090,290. The film has grossed $693,371,204 in China, $5,875,487 in North America, and $1,575,366 in other territories, for a worldwide total of $699,992,512.

Critical response

On Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 71% based on 38 reviews, with an average rating of 6.10/10. The website's critics consensus reads: "The Wandering Earth's story won't win many points for originality, but this sci-fi epic earns its thrills with exciting set pieces and dazzling special effects." On Metacritic the film has an average score of 57/100 based on reviews from 8 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews".

The film received a generally positive reception in China. Several state-run media publications have given the film a positive review. Specifically, Zhong Sheng, in the People's Daily, writes that the film is "not superheroes saving the world but mankind changing their destiny together." On Douban, during the initial release, the movie had a 8.5 rating; then suddenly fell to 7.9 as of the early morning of February 23 in China. It was reported some reviewers were offered money for posting negative reviews on the rating platform. Douban banned nearly 50 users for violating guidelines and thousands of comments were removed. The rating finally stabilized at 7.9. Some commenters, specifically on Douban, who gave the film negative reviews were accused to be in bad faith or trolling, but the accusations are disputed.

Tasha Robinson of The Verge describes the film as "rich, gorgeous, and goofy". Travis Johnson, of Flicks.com.au gave the film 4/5 stars and, whilst criticizing the film for its lack of character development, praised the visuals and called it the best science fiction film of 2019. Ben Kenigsberg in The New York Times wrote that the film is "as awash in murky computer imagery, stupefying exposition and manipulative sentimentality as the average Hollywood tentpole," but that it proved that the Chinese film industry "can hold its own at the multiplex." Simon Abrams of RogerEbert.com gave the film 3.5/4 stars, saying that the experience was "visually dynamic, emotionally engaging."

Accolades

Li Guangjie won the Golden Angel for Best Actor in a Supporting Role at the 15th Chinese American Film Festival in Los Angeles.

The film won the Golden Rooster Award for Best Picture and Best Sound for 2019. It also won the Golden Oak Award for Best Film in New York City.


Sequel

A sequel has been announced for 2023 and will begin production in October 2021.