Review of the “The Wandering Earth II” (流浪地球 II), China’s Blockbuster Futuristic Science Fiction Movie

On January 22, 2023, Chinese Lunar New Year, China released a new blockbuster futuristic science fiction movie “The Wandering Earth II” (流浪地球 II), which is a prequel to the record smashing movie “The Wandering Earth” (流浪地球) released in 2019. The earlier movie (流浪地球) has earned nearly 700 million dollars worldwide, making it the fifth highest-grossing non-English film in the world of all time. The prequel “The Wandering Earth II” is also becoming a best seller, especially in the Chinese market.

This article provides a review of the movie “The Wandering Earth II” which revolves around a science fiction theme that in the future an aging sun has become a red giant that will engulf the earth and destroy all the people of the world. The people of the world through the United Earth Government (UEG) is trying to adopt an approach to address this most important problem. In the meantime, the earth has also been undergoing changes experiencing a series of natural disasters that has destroyed much of the population of the earth, and results in a large percentage of the earth’s people moving underground to live and survive. With facing these natural disasters as well as other man-made problems, undoubtedly there is a variety of opinions on what approach or approaches should the UEG adopt to attempt to solve these problems. The approach that the UEG seems to have adopted is called the Move Mountain Project (MMP), which is a plan to make a series of nuclear explosions on the surface of the moon that would move the moon away so that earth is not under the gravitational environment of the moon, and then kick the earth out of the orbit of the sun, and let it travel into another distant sun that could provide a livable environment for the people of earth.

Of course, facing these monumental problems to try to figure solutions that determine the life and death of all the people of this world will undoubtedly generate different opinions.  The approach that the UEG has adopted is called the Moving Mountain Project (MMP).  Not only that there is great opposition to the MMP approach that the EUG has adopted. There are large and violent protests and sabotages around the world against the MMP.  Many people favor taking the approach of the Digital Life Project (DLP) that develops mind-loading technologies into Artificial Intelligent (AI) robots so that humans will be replaced by AI smart robots.  In this approach, although humans will not survive and humanity will only manifest itself in AI robots, but the human minds will continue to exist in the brains of AI smart robots.  Although the DLP was not the approach adopted by the UEG, AI smart robots will definitely be involved in this future society.  At the end of the movie, it mentions an interesting twist indicating that these smart AI robots may have their own malicious intent to take over the world, i.e., these smart robots may not always follow the original commands of their human creators.

The ideas discussed in this movie are all very interesting and soul searching.  The problems facing humanity are complex.  There are no easy solutions.  Independent of the MMP or DLP approach chosen by the UEG, the involvement of AI smart robots will become more and more in the lives of humans, and whether humans can always be in command of AI smart robots, especially in the future when humans may all die out, is an open question.  I must compliment the people involved in making this movie for their valiant and creative attempt to address this problem.  As you can understand, it is not easy to convey this complicated and complex problem for the audience in a movie to understand and be able to follow the different happenings in the movie.  This leads to my most important critique of the movie.  In spite of the movie being almost three hours long, “The Wandering Earth II” just doesn’t provide adequate explanations to help the audience to be able to follow and understand what is happening in front of their eyes.  You need a constant guidebook to explain to you the different twists and developments in the movie.  To be honest with you, at times I felt completely lost in the movie.  For me, this problem was enlarged when all the dialogues are in Chinese Mandarin, and only English is shown in the subtitles.  This reminds me of the feelings I had (and many other people also had) when watching the classic “2001:  A Space Odyssey,” a 1968 epic science fiction film produced and directed by Stanley Kubrick.  I should also add that the involvement of AI smart robots, including their malicious attempt to take over the world, was also discussed in the 1968 classic “2001:  A Space Odyssey.”

“The Wandering Earth II” also offers impressive high-tech scenes that go along with the high tech subject matters, and therefore watching it in a big screen in a movie theater would be better than watching it in a small computer or TV screen.

There are several major characters in the movie.  One is the famous HK actor and singer Andy Lau who plays the computer scientist Tu Hengyu and plays a critical role in the AI-related event at the end of the movie.  The other is Wu Jing, the popular martial artist and the star of an extremely best selling action war movie “Wolf Warrior,” who plays the astronaut Liu Peiqiang.  An actress Han Duoduo (played by Wang Zhi), is the wife of Wu Jing.  Zhou Zhezhi (played by Li Xuejian) is the Chinese ambassador to UEG.  Another actress is Hao Xiaoxi (played by Zhu Yanmanzi), who is the Chinese UEG ambassador’s personal assistant.  The director and screenplay writer is Frant Gwo.  The producer is Gong Ge’er, and the movie is based on the original writing of Li Cixin.

In spite of my earlier critique of this movie, I recommend strongly to people to see this movie, for its soul searching theme, and how humanity collectively mobilizes the world to address the critical end-of-the-world problems.  Let me conclude this review by noting how the movie industry has reviewed this movie.  The Rotten Tomatoes gave it a rating of 70%, a relatively high rating (e.g., the movies “Avatar:  The Way or Water” and “Batman:  The Doom That Came to Gotham” were rated at 76%).  Metascore gave it a score of 56, a reasonably good score.  The movie critic Roger Ebert gave it a score of 75.  But New York Times gave it a low score of 30, but that could be politically driven because it is a blockbuster made in China, and not in the U.S., and it was China who played a major and decisive role in the UEG.

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