'The Wandering Earth': A love letter to our planet
Updated 20:07, 09-Feb-2019
Li Zheng

Editor's note: Li Zheng is an associate research fellow at the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations, Institute of American Studies and director of the American Security Center, Institute of American Studies. The article reflects the author's opinion, and not necessarily the views of CGTN.

The film "The Wandering Earth" became the hottest movie of the Chinese New Year holiday. The film was adapted from the original work of Chinese science fiction writer Liu Cixin and tells the story of human beings fleeing the solar system with the Earth.

The film's visual effects are impressive and have been called a milestone in Chinese sci-fi films by foreign media. The New York Times said that after years of hard work, China has joined the global competition for sci-fi movies. In the past, Hollywood had an unbreakable leading position in this field.

The sci-fi movie featuring outer space is considered the spire of filmmaking. Such films require advanced visual effects to create realistic space scenes, with grand narrative themes to immerse the audience in the film, and also need to be carefully designed by the manufacturer to avoid logical and scientific mistakes. 

Therefore, such films usually require huge capital investment, the formation of advanced technical teams and excellent management teams. Even if these conditions are complete, accomplishing such movies will be a high-risk challenge.

Liu Cixin said that 75 percent of the special effects in the movie were completed by the Chinese team. From the audience reaction, the Chinese team's work was not inferior to the top team in Hollywood. The film has been released in North America and has an 8/10 rating on movie website IMDb, which is already a good result.

American actor Gary Lockwood on the set of "2001: A Space Odyssey," written and directed by Stanley Kubrick. /VCG Photo.

American actor Gary Lockwood on the set of "2001: A Space Odyssey," written and directed by Stanley Kubrick. /VCG Photo.

Since the release of the film "2001: A Space Odyssey" (1968), space-type sci-fi movies have gone through more than 50 years of history. Almost all of this half-century belongs to the U.S.

From the Star Wars series to the recent years of "Gravity" (2013) and "Interstellar" (2014), Hollywood has always been at the forefront of creativity and technology in this field, constantly shocking the audience.

Today, "The Wandering Earth" marks the all-round progress of the Chinese film industry. Chinese filmmakers have become competitors in the area where Hollywood had a traditional edge, and it will enhance the taste of Chinese audiences. With only digital effects, Hollywood movies will no longer be able to succeed in the Chinese market easily.

In addition to special effects, what is even more surprising is the progress of Chinese film narrative skills. The story of "The Wandering Earth" contains both universal concerns and the characteristics of Chinese culture. Science fiction movies generally require a sudden global crisis and a creative solution. 

A scene from "The Wandering Earth." /VCG Photo.

A scene from "The Wandering Earth." /VCG Photo.

In this film, the sudden expansion of the sun becomes a crisis, and pushing the Earth to escape the solar system becomes a solution. This story contains the elements of the Chinese ancient legends “Hou Yi shooting the Sun,” and also has the unique ambition of the Chinese to conquer nature.

In Hollywood movies, telling such stories often takes the perspective of individualism, which is to show human perseverance and courage from personal self-salvation. 

These kinds of stories are included in "The Wandering Earth," but the main theme of the story is more focused on the collectivist perspective, that is, self-sacrifice for achieving greater public interest and public goals. In fact, personal salvation and self-sacrifice are equally important in the face of disaster.

On a larger level, it shows China's greater global concerns. The disaster-themed sci-fi film has an educational role in educating the audience on how to prevent disasters and how to protect our unique and irreplaceable living environment. 

Since the film “The Ozone Layer Vanishes” (1990), “The Wandering Planet" is another Chinese film with the theme of protecting the Earth. The success of this film in China will change the market orientation of the Chinese film industry.

As one of the countries most closely associated with globalization today, it is not surprising that the Chinese film industry has returned to such topics. The depiction of transcending national great love has become a widely accepted theme for Chinese audiences. 

In this context, China has put forward the idea of a community of shared future to promote international cooperation in solving global problems.

With the success of this film, China is likely to have more movies of the same type. These films will increase the awareness of Chinese audiences about cherishing the beautiful environment and protecting the Earth, and encourage more young Chinese generations to participate in the work of solving global issues.

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