China screens its own sci-fi blockbuster The Wandering Earth

BEIJING • A Chinese sci-fi movie featuring Shanghai landmarks collapsing in earthquakes and the Earth about to collide with Jupiter hit China's cinema screens on Tuesday.

The Wandering Earth is China's first big-budget sci-fi film and it has created high expectations for Chinese movie fans who hope it will usher in a new era for Chinese sci-fi. It is adapted from a short story by Hugo Award winner Liu Cixin.

In the film, mankind is threatened by a dying and swelling sun, and giant thrusters propel the planet out of the solar system on a 2,500-year journey in search of a new sun.

It focuses on a Chinese astronaut and his emotionally estranged son, as they join a global mission to prevent Earth from crashing into Jupiter.

Director Guo Fan told Xinhua that the movie was not a "hero movie" but about humanity fighting a crisis "as one community".

"It has little to do with nations, races or languages - at that time (of global calamities) everyone makes the same choice. In our story, there is no superhero who saves the world, but ordinary people united as one to embark on the wandering journey with Earth," he said.

Apart from Hollywood-style visuals, the movie is trying to woo moviegoers with its many Chinese elements, from Chinese New Year (CNY) celebrations in Beijing's underground city and Shanghai in a doomsday scenario to typical Chinese parenting.

As a high-grossing film genre, sci-fi movies in China are mostly Hollywood imports.

The Wandering Earth has received good reviews in previews, including from Liu, who hailed the movie as "good beyond expectation".

"It's hard to believe that this is the first big-budget sci-fi blockbuster done by China," said the author of the award-winning The Three-Body Problem. "If it fares well in the box office, it will set a good start for China's future sci-fi movies."

The film took four years to complete, and Guo, whose previous works include a teen film and a fantasy romance film, said the hardest part was overcoming ubiquitous disbelief that his team could produce a high-quality sci-fi movie.

The film will run into an intensely competitive CNY holiday, a peak movie-going period in China, facing rivals including Stephen Chow's The New King Of Comedy, Jackie Chan's The Knight Of Shadows: Between Yin And Yang and Hong Kong crime film Integrity.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 08, 2019, with the headline 'China screens its own sci-fi blockbuster'. Print Edition | Subscribe