A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The Wandering Earth is a 2019 book-based Chinese sci-fi movie in which a ragtag group of teenagers and soldiers try to prevent Earth from getting sucked into Jupiter's gravitational pull. It's in Mandarin Chinese (as well as English, French, and Russian), with English subtitles. There's constant violence: Characters try (and sometimes fail) to survive while the Earth crumbles in avalanches or rumbles in earthquakes, and when a space station master computer fails. A soldier fires his machine gun at Jupiter. Some fighting occurs, with punches and blood. Profanity is infrequent, including "f--k" and "s--t" used a few times. Overall, it's a Chinese take on the blockbuster science fiction movie, and it proudly wears its bombastic influences on its sleeve.
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What's the story?
THE WANDERING EARTH takes place in a future where Earth is in peril. Climate change due to the sun dying has led to tremendous unrest and impending extinction for humanity. All countries and governments have united to form the United Earth Government, to find a way for the human race to continue. They have come up with a unique solution: Build large and powerful rocket boosters all over the globe and send the Earth out of its orbit around the sun, and transport it to another, more habitable solar system. This is known as the Wandering Earth Project. As this happens, cities are built underground, as the Earth begins to freeze. Liu Pieqiang is a Chinese astronaut who has left his son, Liu Qi, behind in order to serve on the space station that's helping the Earth navigate out of the solar system. Now a bitter and resentful teenager, Liu Qi has taken his adopted sister, Han Duoduo, out of the underground city with his grandfather's transport pass. He steals a transport vehicle, leading to their arrest, where they meet a half-Chinese, half-Australian teen named Tim. Then their grandfather is thrown in jail with them for losing his transport pass to his grandson. As they try to figure out how to get out of jail, massive earthquakes start happening all over the world, and the four escape. The reason for the earthquakes is Earth approaching Jupiter, resulting in Jupiter's gravity spikes wreaking havoc with the Earth. The plan was to use Jupiter's gravity as a slingshot to propel Earth further along its journey, but instead, the Earth is getting pulled into Jupiter. As Liu Pieqiang begins to realize what's happening, he tries to find a way to stop it, but he's thwarted by the space station's master computer, which seems to have a mission of its own. As the Earth engages in a desperate last-ditch effort to stop its final destruction, Liu Qi, Duoduo, Tim, and a ragtag group of hackers and soldiers come up with a desperate idea of their own, and it's up to all of them to find a way to reach the world and unite once again in order to survive.
Is it any good?
This is a bombastic Chinese take on the blockbuster sci-fi movie. The special effects and computer graphics are truly incredible in nearly every scene. The detail and chaos of a world that seems to be in a constant state of crumbling is epically rendered. It's a ludicrous concept, but for those willing to suspend all disbelief, it's a frenzied blowout of escapist entertainment. And if that isn't enough, there is the hilarious (intentional or not) scene in which a soldier, as angry as anyone in a firefight from a John Milius screenplay, fires his machine gun at Jupiter's Great Red Spot while cursing at the Gas Giant.
While the dystopian scenery is dense and hypnotic (so much crumbling!), there's a lingering sense that so much of this has been done before. The Wandering Earth wears its bombastic influence on its sleeve. There's the feel of Roland Emmerich, Michael Bay, and a talking supercomputer that might as well be called Hal 9000, for instance. While it manages to steer clear of some of the more obnoxious tropes and clichés of its Hollywood influences, what remains with the story and characters isn't exactly groundbreaking. But perhaps that doesn't matter so much, especially when looking at amazing scenes in which tiny planet Earth, while traveling through space like a slow-motion comet, is on a collision course with the orange-yellow swirling entropy of Jupiter.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about blockbuster science fiction movies. How does The Wandering Earth compare to other big-budget sci-fi movies?
How is this similar to and different from other dystopian sci-fi movies -- movies set in a less-than-rosy future in which humanity struggles to survive?
This movie is based on a novel. What would be the challenges in adapting a book into a movie?
- In theaters: February 5, 2019
- On DVD or streaming: May 6, 2019
- Cast: Jing Wu, Chuxiao Qu, Guangjie Li
- Director: Frant Gwo
- Studio: Beijing New Picture Film Co.
- Genre: Science Fiction
- Topics: Book Characters, Robots, Science and Nature, Space and Aliens
- Run time: 125 minutes
- MPAA rating: NR
- Last updated: September 21, 2019
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