‘(This article contains spoilers)

YUXIN ZHOU WRITES — On February 5th, the Chinese sci-fi movie “ The Wandering Earth” was released worldwide. Directed by Frank Gwo, the film is a significant landmark in Chinese cinema, with record-breaking box office success, stunning visual effects, and unique storytelling in the epic science fiction disaster genre.  

The film represents a kind of cultural fusion:  Chinese nationalism in a western-style rescue mission format, somewhat like Black Hawk Down (2001). Gwo explains, “It doesn’t matter if it’s hard for western audiences to adopt the story, Chinese audiences are my priority. ”

This is a trend today—the Chinese often favor local offerings like “The Wandering Earth” over Hollywood films.  Increasing budgets for high production films have made this possible.

The movie is based on a short story by Hugo award-winning author Liu Cixin. Set in the future, a new world order called the United Earth government has built thousands of planetary engines leading Earth and its inhabitants away from the Solar System. Hence, the title “The Wandering Earth,” about planets in search of a new sun that will seal the fate of the human race.

In addition, “The Wandering Earth” puts a new spin on the theme of collectivism; only a united world community can save Earth—goodbye, Chinese nationalism. For example, the protagonist Liu Qi (played by Qu Chuxiao) and his team, decides to repair another planetary engine at Sulawesi, only to realize that an Indonesian rescue team has already done so. Later on, Liu Qi and the rest of his Chinese team come up with an idea to continue their mission, but they recruit help from other national rescue teams. The movie’s main message is clear: only a united international government can allow the mission to succeed. Author Liu Cixin says, “[The film] presents human beings as a whole or a community with a shared future for humanity.”

It’s a novel idea—and perhaps a commercially sound one with real-world practical implications.  “The Wandering Earth,” in addition to being a Chinese blockbuster, is set to be translated into 28 languages and will soon be available to watch on Netflix worldwide.  

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