The Wandering Earth: Not Bad, But Not Quite Badass.
In my ongoing quest to define what constitutes Badass Sci Fi; I read, research, search my feelings, and watch movies. The more I investigate, the more I define exactly what it takes for Science Fiction to be Badass.
So, as I post reviews, points are given for desired elements and points are deducted for the absence of said elements. Still, what are the elements? Let’s review China’s mega-blockbuster; The Wandering Earth, and find out.
Netflix recently acquired the rights to this epic film and plopped it in their queue without fanfare. It grossed over $700 million dollars in China.
Based on Liu Cixin’s (The Three-Body Problem) best-selling novella of the same name, the story envisions a future Earth where the Sun is expanding into a Red Giant and threatening to devour the solar system.
On future Earth, ten thousand Earth engines have been built not only to stop the planet’s rotation, but propel it to Alpha Centauri using Jupiter as a slingshot. When they halt Earth’s rotation, worldwide tsunamis kill off half the human population. The survivors are located to the ten thousand underground cities below the Earth engines.
To spare you further synopsis, we’ll just skip to the main event. As wandering Earth passes Jupiter for the gravity assist maneuver, it gets sucked into gas giant’s gravity spike. Epic adventure ensues. It’s pretty Badass.
So, what makes it Badass?
Epic scale and effects- It does a great job immersing you in an Earth that’s rocketed from the habitable zone into deep, dark, cold space. Most of it takes place on the surface, and I loved the icy, raw aesthetic.
Badass Vehicles- I’m a sucker for cool trucks, cars, tanks, and other big, bad vehicles. This movie has an abundance of them, reminiscent of Aliens and Avatar.
Gadgets- There’s a few cool devices and hardware, but none more Badass than the rescue bubble; a pocket sized module that blows up into a giant Zorbing bubble ride. It’s awesome.
Main antagonist- It’s friggin’ Jupiter!
The score- You already know I’m a super-sucker for epic music and soundtracks. The Wandering Earth soundtrack, composed by Roc Chen and performed by the British Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, nails it. It combines elements of ominous trailer music and traditional orchestral score. I think it’s the best part of the movie.
What prevents it from being Badass?
The protagonists- A pretty run of the mill crew. I’d go into more detail, but they’re boring, so I’ll spare you.
The dialogue- Okay, I’ll cut it a little slack here. I think any dubbed movie suffers from translation. You gotta anticipate the dialogue will be cheesy, and not just at face value, but because it’s up to interpretation. Hell, in China, Guardians of the Galaxy is either Interstellar Different Commandos or Interplanetary Unusual Attacking Team, depending on who’s translating.
Intense action and/or violence- Pretty tame. There are a few harrowing moments, but they’re too often interlaced with awkward drama or poor attempts at humor.
Final verdict? Negative, but just barely. Throw in some exploding heads and F-bombs, and I’m all in. Until then, I cannot in good faith let it join the pantheon of Badass Sci Fi.
Shameless plug time. Opposable; true Badass Sci Fi, is fast approaching. Sign up to get the prequel; Patton’s Sad Tail, free!
Until next time, don’t bother me. I’m trying to kill Jupiter with a chain gun.