Wandering Earth II review: a sci-fi blockbuster that takes a dark turn

To successfully emulate the worldwide big-budget blockbuster genre associated with Hollywood productions, filmmaker Frant Gwo has truly gone global. 2019 wandering earth, a sci-fi disaster adventure that has become one of China’s biggest box office successes ever, takes place in a futuristic world where Earth is implanted with rockets. ejected and taken out of orbit to avoid a solar catastrophe. Astronauts must steer the planet-spaceship to a new home, while the frozen surface and its dwindling population huddle underground.

The film’s vast reach helped make it a hit in China, though it didn’t become a worldwide phenomenon. (In the US, the film had a limited showing, then premiered on Netflix a few months later.) wandering earthvast, sometimes complex world-building, drawn from a short story by Three-body problem Author Cixin Liu, there’s plenty of room to follow. But Gwo must have grown attached to a less icy version of his home planet, because Wandering Earth IIgiven a broader US release with the film’s release in China, it’s even less likely than a disaster movie sequel: a disaster movie prequel.

Set in the decades before Earth ejected from orbit (triggered by thousands of fusion-powered engines around the globe), the prequel begins with a lot of bag maximalism. of the predecessor. There’s a seemingly mad scientist extolling the virtues of a “digital friend that can live forever” — an artificial intelligence-based scheme seen as an alternative to surviving the apocalypse Upcoming. (Unknown, but it seems the idea was to upload people to a Matrix-style digital world, and let the world actually work.) Pro-digital terrorist groups attack an elevator giant universe, blasting explosions and low-gravity fists, and we know that 91% of Americans oppose moving the Earth out of orbit because they don’t think a problem 100 years ago was worth solving. (“The world is not on the side of reality,” lamented one official.)

A man stands in a dark, cold room in front of a giant blackboard covered with symbols and mathematical formulas, dimly lit by a single light, in The Wandering Earth II

Image: Well Go USA

The initial sprawling results are like a combination of Don’t Look Up and Independence Day: Rise, but as the movie enters its second, then third hour, it delivers even more familiar details from other movies. (The film is 173 minutes long, including attribution and many postscripts.) Yes great number of movie in Wandering Earth II, and lots of disasters, countdowns, and chyrons going around. Movies can set records for the number of locations, timelines, characters, and sometimes even hardware with subtitles. The astronaut of the first film, Liu Peiqiang (Wu Jing) gets a plot. One of the computer systems too. Writing team steals bits of among the stars a moment, and engage in parallel thinking with Falling Moon next. (“The moon disintegrates after 179 hours.”)

But perhaps the dumbest thing about Wandering Earth II is the bulk of it resolutely not how stupid it is. There are absurd moments, but the film is often surprisingly gritty, in a way that feels admirably ambitious but questionably useful. Much of the film has a moon-gray tone, even in scenes that don’t take place on the moon. The saddest plot it weaves in decades is about Tu Hengyu (Deut Lau), a scientist grieving the loss of his wife and daughter, who believes he can fine-tune his child’s digital echo. children into fuller AI consciousness. (Here, there is a thematic similarity with by Yeon Sang-ho JUNG_Ea more fleeting and manageable sci-fi series premiering on Netflix as soon as Wandering Earth II wood into the theater.)

The plot of a deadly family isn’t the only forced pause for pathogens either. Another character has to deal with the impending death of his wife, as cancer cases spike during a period of dangerous solar activity. At the same time, he is trying to grab one of the limited tickets to an underground city.

A man bends over a table to peer into something in a dark futuristic science lab in The Wandering Earth II

Image: Well Go USA

In many ways, the Gwo carries this weight more gracefully than the supposed masters of the modern form. Unlike Roland Emmerich (his work in the Wandering Earth series is generally similar) or Michael Bay (his work Apocalypse feels like part of the DNA of this movie), Gwo isn’t afraid of quiet moments in the midst of bombings. He doesn’t worry about packing his movies with hilarious jokes or brazen tricks to get applause. Some of his images have an eerie, almost dreary beauty — even more so than the previous film, the film finds some of the images dreamily amid the special effects looking more luxurious.

However, none of this prevented the burnout that lasted nearly three hours. Exactly how many countdowns to a possible apocalypse can a movie count, especially since the planet is still intact at the beginning of the next movie? The audience knows the Earth exists, but turns Wandering Earth II into a torture device for its new characters: The planet will continue to function, but these poor bloodsuckers can still be drained.

That was clearly not Gwo’s intention, and what is remarkable is his three hours wandering earth the prequel is at the same time more alien and emotionally grounded than the previous film. Yet even at this length, even with its eye-popping moments and believable characters, some important humanity still feels missing. Classic disaster movies feel similar to a horror movie: the horror of destruction and the thrill of survival, but spread out over a larger landscape. Maybe that model doesn’t work anymore. Skillfully crafted as it is, Wandering Earth II feels more like immersion therapy to the modern onslaught of apocalyptic news from around the world. Like the franchise, the global catastrophe is no longer truly over.

Wandering Earth II in theaters on Sunday, January 22, the first day of Tet. Check out the movie’s website for locations.

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