The Wandering Earth

Sci Fi / Film

The Wandering Earth
Photo: Netflix

Is It Worth Watching? DO NOT GO NEAR IT!

It was tough writing the review of The Wandering Earth, because the extent of its crapness goes beyond the scope of my vocabulary. But I shall try. If only to make sure that none of you has to submit yourself to this pile of rubbish.

While Netflix should be commended on its inclusion of programs and films from around the world, and while some of these have been a great hit — 3% (Brazil), Dark (Germany) — The Wandering Earth is definitely not a high point for the streaming service. It’s obvious why they bought it: because it was a box office smash in China. But there is absolutely nothing going for this film. It’s a thriller (or supposed to be). Our sun is dying and all the countries unite and decide to shoot Earth out of its orbit and take it to a new galaxy with a new sun. That’s right. Instead of plumping for the usual resolutions — restart the sun or relocate the people to a new planet — these clever people have decided to put a series of engines, which really are just jetpacks, along the equator and boost it out of its orbit. What could go wrong?

I: But what about the atmosphere? How are they going to take that with them?

H: Seriously? You’re worried about the science?

The Wandering Earth Trailer

H was right. The science, not just questionable but non-existent, is the least of the film’s problems. Let’s start with the plot. The story is told from the viewpoint of Qui (Chuxiao Qu) whose father, Peiqiang (Jing Wu), left him when he was a child to work on an international space station which maps the trajectory of the Earth until it slingshots around Jupiter out of the galaxy. Qui, formulaically, has daddy issues, hates his father for leaving him and letting his mother die and so becomes a bit of a rebel. He decides to do something stupid on the very day that Earth is nearing Jupiter. The gravitational force of the largest planet is too big for Earth’s jetpacks and it begins to spiral into Jupiter. (How did no one predict this?) Our hero’s job is to restart the failed jetpacks and get our floating planet out of Jupiter’s gravitational force. It’s a rescue film as most space films are. But it moves at a speed which doesn’t give the viewer any time to breathe or to get to know the main characters. Characters are dying and the sad music makes you feel like you should be sad for them, but you don’t know them. It’s a big jumble of different elements: father-son relationship, brother-sister relationship, idiotic friend, HAL-like computer, nerdy scientists, a global community, over-dutiful army men (with a token woman), and the kitchen sink. Even with the biggest obstacle they could think of, there is as much tension in the film as in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

The acting is mostly hammy. In one scene, an army guy, despondent and angry at being sucked into Jupiter, starts shooting at it! To overcompensate, Chuxiao Qu as Qui is sullen and pissed-off throughout. I’m sure quite a bit was lost in translation as well. The subtitles were awful. When the space station computer MOSS kills an astronaut, Jing Wu, instead of saying it’s murder, exclaims, ‘It’s homicide!’ I’m sure, it’s not a word widely used by people outside court rooms and police stations. Netflix would do well to quality-control its subtitles.

The only thing really going for the film is the CGI. The shot of Shanghai embedded in a mountain of snow or a frozen whale with its mouth open to breathe is quite stunning. Yet, Jupiter just looks like a two-dimensional picture from a child’s text book. It doesn’t come across as threatening at all. It would have been nice to at least see the raging storm of the Great Red Spot.

Even if you are a fan of space films (as H is), this is not a film to waste your time on, unless of course you are completely drunk and want to have a good laugh.

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