The Wandering Earth: China’s New Angle on Heroism

Historically, the movie industry in China has focused more on a star-studded cast to draw in audiences than a compelling storyline, so plots are usually inconsistent and the movies are generally bad.

Therefore, a sci-fi movie in Chinese is almost impossible to make since producers spend most of their money on actors.

The Wandering Earth, which opened on Lunar New Year and has been filling theaters to capacity since then, challenges, not just what Chinese movies can be, but the entire science fiction/fantasy genre, including in the United States.

The movie was based on the novel of the same name by Liu Cixin, the winner of the 2015 Hugo Award, a prestigious science fiction award, and a nine-time winner of the Galaxy Award, a Chinese award similar to the Hugo Award.

China’s first space blockbuster scored a 7.8 on IMDb. It easily broke the Box Office in China, making more than 4.1 billion yen (approximately 600 million US dollars) over the course of two weeks.

The Wandering Earth tells a simple story: As the sun expands and the apocalypse looms, natural resources are waning, and humanity forms the United Earth Government, which initiates “The Wandering Earth,” a protocol that launches thrusters that propel Earth to the nearest habitable solar system. When the gravitational pull of Jupiter threatens to destroy Earth, the main character, Liu Qi, saves the world by igniting the air of Jupiter while escaping from its gravitational pull.

While this story may sound cliched to American audiences, The Wandering Earth demonstrated a completely different approach to heroism and the sci-fi genre than most American books and movies.

Many of the apocalyptic films coming out of Hollywood have an idealistic approach to sci-fi, where everyone lives at the end. In The Wandering Earth, the government is forced to leave half the population of the Earth to die when the expansion of the sun threatens Earth.

Furthermore, many American sci-fi and fantasy films focus on individualist heroism, with a single “Chosen One” who saves the world.

Though The Wandering Earth focuses on a single hero, there are over a million other people throughout the world who are working as a team to save the world.

When the astronaut Liu Peiqiang realized the problem of the space station, he was not the only one who tried to solve the problem. By the time the main character reports his proposed solution to Jupiter’s gravity, another group in Israel had already reported the same solution to the government.

The reason why Liu Qi got to be the main character is that the story is from his perspective. He is nothing more than one of the many observers and participants in the apocalypse.

The Wandering Earth is not just a blockbuster for the Chinese sci-fi movie, but also a blockbuster for a new theme of the sci-fi and “saving the world” movies. The characters did not just ignite Jupiter’s atmosphere, but also the hope for the future of Chinese sci-fi movies.