2019’s The Wandering Earth is a banger. Directed by Frant Gwo and adapted from a short story by literary luminary Liu Cixin (The Three-Body Problem), it’s a wildly ambitious Chinese sci-fi epic whose central conceit is that humanity comes together to turn our very planet into a nuclear-powered generation ship for a 2500-year journey to our nearest celestial neighbour in order to escape our own dying sun. My enthusiastic review led me to being accused of being a CCP sympathiser but really, I just enjoy viewing the Bruckheimer/Bay/Emmerich blockbuster paradigm through a different cultural lens, and The Wandering Earth supplies all the spectacle and action you could ask for, but with themes of societal duty and the good of the collective running it through it instead of rote rugged individualism.
The Wandering Earth 2, perhaps inevitable after the first film’s box office bonanza ($700m against a $50m budget), is a lesser effort. It still offers striking images, stirring drama, and some dizzying sci-fi concepts, but lacks its predecessor’s conceptual focus. It’s also a prequel, presented almost as cinematic historical document, taking us through the political, technological, and occasionally military clashes leading up to the United Earth Government sending our Small Blue Marble to a distant sun with a flick of a fusion-powered thumb.