The Wandering Earth
|The Wandering Earth|
Chinese theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Frant Gwo|
|Produced by||Gong Ge'er|
|Based on||The Wandering Earth (Chinese: 流浪地球)|
by Liu Cixin
|Edited by||Cheung Ka-fai|
|Distributed by||China Film Group Corporation|
English (Electronic Voice)
|Box office||$700 million|
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, followed by North America and Australia on 8 February 2019.
The film grossed[when?] $700 million worldwide. It is China's third highest-grossing film of all time and the third 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.
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In the year 2061, the aging Sun is about to turn into a red giant and threaten to engulf the Earth's orbit within 300 years, forcing the nations of the world to consolidate into the United Earth Government to initiate a project to migrate the earth out of the Solar System to the Alpha Centauri system 4.2 light-years away, thus preserving further human civilization. Enormous planetary thrusters running on fusion power, known as Earth Engines, are built across the planet to propel Earth. The human population is reduced severely due to catastrophic tsunamis that occur after Earth's rotation is made to stop, and later, as the planet moves away from the Sun, much of the surface is frozen, forcing the remaining humans to live in vast underground cities built adjacent to the engines.
At the beginning of the film, Chinese astronaut Liu Peiqiang promises to his 4-year-old son Liu Qi of his eventual return before going on his mission to a pathfinder space station that will help navigate the Earth on its interstellar journey, and entrusts the guardianship of his son over to his father-in-law Han Zi'ang. 17 years later, Liu Peiqiang's space mission is finally about to end and he will soon return to Earth after the Chinese New Year.
On Earth, a now-adult Liu Qi takes his adopted teenage sister Han Duoduo on an unauthorized trip to the surface in a heavy transport vehicle by obtaining fake IDs from criminal gangs and stealing their grandfather Han Zi'ang's trucker clearance pass. They are arrested at a checkpoint, meet a fellow prisoner named Tim, and are joined by Han Zi'ang after he unsuccessfully attempts to bribe the prison warden into releasing them.
As Earth passes by Jupiter to make use of a gravity assist, a "gravitational spike" causes devastating earthquakes that disable many Earth Engines across the globe and pull Earth dangerously close to the gas giant. The four escape from prison amidst the chaos and attempt to make their way out in Han Zi'ang's truck, but the truck is requisitioned for an emergency mission by the military rescue team CN171-11 led by Wang Lei. They are to transport a Lighter Core (a fusion engine component) to restart the Earth Engine in Hangzhou. In the frozen ruins of Shanghai, they lose their vehicle, and while transporting the component up the ruins of the Shanghai Tower, one of the soldiers is killed and Han Zi'ang is trapped and frozen to death. But when he does freeze, his voice recalls how he rescued and adopted Han Duoduo from the tsunami that destroyed the city, even looking out the window seeing frozen bodies in the ice. With news that the Hangzhou Engine was fully compromised and the city was completely destroyed by magma, the group becomes downcast. However they happen upon a crashed cargo plane with an intact vehicle, where the surviving engineer aboard, Li Yiyi, convinces them to transport another Lighter Core to repair the equatorial Torque Engine in Sulawesi.
In space, Liu Peiqiang discovers that MOSS, the artificial intelligence commanding the space station, has directed it to escape rather than to assist the humans on Earth. He breaks out of forced hibernation and attempts to stop the space station along with Russian cosmonaut Makarov, who is killed by the spacecraft's automated security measures. Liu Peiqiang arrives in the control room, but his clearances are revoked due to his acts of insubordination and he can do little to override the escape process.
Liu Qi's group arrive at Sulawesi to find that the planetary engine was already fully restored. Globally, most of the planetary thrusters have been repaired as well. However, the gravitational pull from Jupiter is too great and Earth continues to move toward it, approaching the planet's Roche limit. Liu Qi, inspired by recollections of his father's explanation of the thrusters' mechanics as a child, proposes to ignite Jupiter's abundant hydrogen atmosphere to blow Earth away. Li Yiyi proposes to hack and concentrate the Sulawesi Engine's power to fire a plasma beam tall enough to ignite Jupiter. The group overcome various challenges, such as renewed aftershock tremors that injure several members, and are able to mostly reconfigure the engine to carry out the plan, however they are not able to push the firing pin of the engine to ignite it.
Liu Peiqiang is contacted by Han Duoduo, and is able to persuade the United Earth Government 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 other scientists and has no chance of success based on probability calculations. Other rescue and repair parties arrive and the engine is fired up, but it falls short of being able to ignite the Jovian hydrogen. Liu Peiqiang proposes flying the space station into the plasma jet and detonating the space station's fuel to ignite Jupiter's hydrogen; MOSS disagrees as the station is the back up plan should the Wandering Earth project fail. After disabling MOSS using a fire started with a bottle of vodka that Makarov smuggled on board, Liu Peiqiang manually overrides the control and apologizes to his son for breaking his promise to return, before piloting the space station into the plasma jet and sacrificing himself as the ignition succeeds. Earth is saved from destruction and continues towards the Alpha Centauri star system.
Three years later, Liu Qi is now a formal construction crew member and a respected hero figure. As the film ends, Liu Qi recounts and envisions the stages of Earth's migration, a process taking 2,500 years and 100 generations to complete, still bound with uncertainty, in a hopeful tone.
- 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)
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 order to establish a rigorous setting, Gwo invited four scientists from the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) to act as consultants. The film's three thousand concept maps and more than eight thousand sub-mirrors were created by a conceptual art team of three hundred people over a period of 15 months.
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).
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 state broadcaster 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." He said "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."
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.
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 three in Canada, as well as throughout Australia and New Zealand.
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.
The Wandering Earth released over the Chinese New Year holiday season, and earned more than CN¥2 billion (£232 million) in six 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.
Internationally, it topped the worldwide box office with a three-day opening weekend gross of $172,718,000, and had a six-day opening gross of $289,090,290. The film has grossed $693,371,204 in China, $5,875,487 in the United States and Canada, and $1,575,366 in other territories, for a worldwide total of $700,822,057.
On Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 69% based on 36 reviews, with an average rating of 6.04/10. 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 out of 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 four out of five 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 three and a half stars out of the four, saying that the experience was "visually dynamic, emotionally engaging."
A sequel has been announced for 2023.
- Sun in culture
- Moving the Earth
- A World Out of Time, a novel by Larry Niven that also features an interaction between the Earth and Jupiter in an attempt to escape an expanding Sun
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