“The Wandering Earth” –China’s Sci-fi Blockbuster: ‘Dawning of a New Era’

Jupiter Planet

 

China’s new sci-fi feature film The Wandering Earth -adapted from a novella of the same name by Liu Cixin, author of the Hugo Award-winning The Three-Body Problem– opens with a crisis of unprecedented proportions: the sun has become unstable, and within a hundred years, it will expand to consume Earth.

“Within 300, the entire solar system will be gone,” reports The Verge. “Earth’s governments rally and unite to face the problem, and come up with a novel solution: they speckle the planet with 10,000 gigantic jets, and blast it out of its orbit and off on a hundred-generation journey to a new home 4.2 light-years away. The idea is to use Jupiter’s gravitational well to pick up speed for the trip, but a malfunction of the Earth Engine system leaves the planet caught in Jupiter’s gravity, and gradually being pulled toward destruction. A frantic group of workers have to scramble to reactivate the jets and correct the Earth’s course.”

The New York Times reports that China’s film industry has finally joined the space race “amid grandiose expectations that it will represent the dawning of a new era in Chinese film making”.

A stellar performer during Spring Festival, the film raking in 1.9 billion yuan ($282 million) as of Sunday at domestic box offices since it hit cinemas on Tuesday, garnering acclaim from critics and audiences both at home and abroad.

 

 

Directed by Guo Fan, the film stars actors Wu Jing, who says 2019 is “year one” of Chinese sci-fi films. “With 7,000 people taking part in the production of the film, we have educated at least this number of people on how to make sci-fi films,” he said at the film’s premier on Jan 28.

“It fits the Hollywood standard on presentation and visual effects, but the themes of family and love of homeland are characteristic of Chinese sci-fi films,” one online review reads.

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Critics have found the plot problematic, depictions of characters thin, and lines awkward and redundant. The film has also ignited a heated online debate about what other scientific options the film could have explored to better help the Earth escape its increasingly hostile solar system.

Zhang Shuangnan, a researcher from the Institute of High Energy Physics at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, said he thinks the idea of the film makes for a brilliant sci-fi story. However, he said it is both impossible and unnecessary to stop the Earth from rotating. “If pulsar navigation were used in the film, it would make it more ‘hardcore’ science than fiction, and it may even promote the development of pulsar navigation technology,” Zhang wrote on WeChat account iScientist.

The film was also released in theaters across North America, Australia and New Zealand beginning on Feb 8, attracting attention as it is China’s first major sci-fi film.

US news and media network The Verge said The Wandering Earth “shows a new side of Chinese filmmaking-one focused on futuristic spectacles rather than China’s traditionally grand, massive historical epics”.

The Daily Galaxy via The Verge and China News Service

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