Liu Lang Di Qiu/ The Wandering Earth (2019), adapted from a sci-fi novel by Liu Cixin of 2000, is a mediocre imitation of Hollywood's apocalyptic sci-fi films
with little or no credible "sci" and rather unimaginative "fi".
It simple speculates on the success of similar blockbusters in the USA, such as
Interstellar (2014) and The Martian (2015),
and in Russia, such as Klim Shipenko's Salyut-7 (2017).
The science is totally implausible (even if there was a way to send the Earth
to another solar planet, what are the chances that the conditions would be
exactly the conditions required for living beings to survive?)
The plot is mostly a collage of all the stereotypes that cinemagoers have
become accustomed to over decades of sci-fi movies.
Some of the visual effects are a bit amateurish (it is not difficult to
guess that sometimes we are looking at toys) and sometimes comically
derivative of famous films (like MOSS the computer that is very similar
to HAL of Kubrick's 2001 A Space Odyssey ,
made 50 years earlier, or the space station
that is reminiscent of so many Star Wars-inspired galactic sagas,
or the action in space that recalls Alfonso Cuaron's Gravity, or
the icy landscape that is copied from Roland Emmerich's
The Day After Tomorrow, in which climate change caused the entire planet to plunge into a new Ice Age).
One can argue that the ambition of this film are bigger than of any previous
film of the same kind. For example,
there have been countless movies about galactic apocalypses, from
When Worlds Collide (1951) to Michael Bay's Armageddon (1998),
but certainly none aimed at sending the whole Earth into a cosmic journey.
There have been desperate missions before, like
The Core (2003), in which the heroes need to reach the center of the Earth to avoid that the planet stops spinning, but none that united the whole
planet in a multi-generational project.
The whole father-son relationship comes out as a bit comic, and the action
does not build suspense precisely because it is so implausible (and because
it sounds so familiar).
All the commotion about the different scientific attempts to ignite Jupiter
feels grotesquely amateurish (hopefully in the real world the human race
would not depend on the inspiration of amateurs but on real scientists).
Incidentally, humankind deserves to die if in the future the announcements about life and death of the entire planet will be delivered in the tone of train station's announcements.
The only refreshing thing is that we finally see a film in which those who
save the Earth are not from the USA.
China has produced some of the best films of the last two decades. Hopefully
this film doesn't mean that it has started to simply copy Hollywood's worst
An astronaut, Peiqiang, tells his boy Qi that he is about to leave for his most important mission and invites the boy to look at Jupiter. Peiqiang's father,
a professional driver,
becomes the new guardian of the boy, who already lost his mother.
We are told that the Sun is about to explode and a United Earth Goverment has
launched a project to send the Earth into the orbit of another star located
four light-years away.
A few astronauts have the mission of manning the space station that acts
like the steering wheel for the whole operation, and the space station is
directed by a HAL-like computer called MOSS.
When the project begins, the world's population (the few who won a lottery)
has to take shelter in giant underground shelters because the Earth stopped
rotating and started moving away from the Sun, i.e. temperatures dropped
to subfreezing levels.
Fast forward 17 years later, and Peiqiang has completed his shift at the
space station and is ready to go home and see his son again how is now a
His son, however, has a different plan. While the country is
celebrating Chinese New Year, Qi and his adopted sister Duoduo escape from
school, steal granpa's driver license, buy counterfeited astronaut suits
from a gangster
and walks out of the underground shelter via a 5-km elevator that takes them
to the iced surface of the planet. They use granpa's driver license to drive
around in a truck. They see workers at work around the thrusters and the
engines that are driving the planet towards Jupiter. They are soon stopped
by the police and thrown in jail, where they meet another juvenile delinquent,
Tim. Informed of the arrest, Granpa travels to the surface and tries to bribe
the prison officer but is instead thrown into the same jail.
Jupiter's gravity causes earthquakes all over the planet, and one such
earthquake destroys the prison and frees the prisoners.
The situation becomes dire: in 37 hours the Earth will collide with Jupiter.
Rescue missions need to urgently repair the thrusters.
The four escape and steal the truck again. As they are trying to make their
way back home, they are stopped by a patrol that is trying to deliver a
"light core" where it is desperately needed to restart a thruster.
The truck is confiscated and the four are de facto prisoners of the squad
that is heading towards an underground city.
Meanwhile, the computer MOSS has canceled Peiqiang's retirement and ordered
all personnel on the space station to go in hybernation. Peiqiang is the only
one who is reluctant because he would like to first find out if his son is ok.
However, his son hates him because of the way his mother died.
Shanghai is completely covered with ice. Only the tip of the skyscrapers
stick out. The group loses the truck and climbs the tallest skyscraper.
Granpa dies heroically and his last memory is how he saved Duoduo who was
drowning and raised her as Qi's sister. The patrol is determined to accomplish
their mission and continues on foot.
When news reaches them that their destination Hangzhou is completely destroyed,
it seems obvious that their mission has become pointless.
Qi, his sister and Tim decide to go back home, and start walking in the opposite
direction. Luckily they run into a truck. Inside there is only one scared
engineer, Yiyi. Qi takes control of the vehicle and heads home.
Meanwhile, Peiqiang still refuses to go into hybernation.
Peiqiang finds out that MOSS is trying to save the space station,
abandoning Earth to his destiny.
MOSS awakes the others to arrest Peiqiang but instead his Russian friend helps him escape outside the space station. The Russian dies but Peiqiang survives
and reaches the central command of the space station.
Qi and his friends hear a desperate call for help
and decide to turn the vehicle and contribute to the epic fight to save the
Earth: their vehicle has the light core that is needed in Sulawesi.
On the way they pick up the patrol that was going to Hangzhou.
They reach their destination in time but it is useless: it is too late to
avoid the collision with Jupiter.
Qi, however, remembers something that his father told him and guesses that
an explosion on Jupited would propel Earth into a different trajectory.
Yiyi finds a way to use their fuel to ignite Jupiter's atmosphere.
Meanwhile, Peiqiang tries to disable MOSS but MOSS shows Peiqiang evidence
that he is just obeying orders from the Earth government: the space station
is equipped with enough DNA to continue the human species on another planet
in case Earth cannot be saved, and this seems to be the case.
The mission has been renamed "Helios", a secret mission to abandon Earth
and try to colonize another planet.
Peiqiang begs the government to assemble all rescue units so that they can help his
son Qi to carry out his plan. Nonetheless, Qi's plan fails. Then Peiqiang has
a bright idea: use all the fuel of his space station to cause the ignition.
Peiqiang, however, uses his Russian friend's illegal vodka bottle to set
MOSS on fire and then assumes manual control of the space station.
His bids goodbye to his son and pilots the space station into Jupiter's
combustible atmosphere. The explosion sends Earth on a new orbit (nobody dies
of course) and heads towards better solar systems.
Qi saves Duoduo's life with an acrobatic jump into the void.
The government comes up with a new plan that will last 1,000 generations.