Director: Frant Gwo
Cast: Andy Lau, Wu Jing, Li Xuejian, Sha Yi, Wang Zhi, Zhu Yan Man Zi, Wang Zhi Fei, Wan Qian
Runtime: 2 hrs 53 mins
Rating: PG13 (Some Coarse Language and Violence)
Released By: Shaw Organisation
Opening Day: 22 January 2023
Synopsis: The sun is about to be destroyed, and humans have built huge engines on the Earth’s surface to help them find a new home. However, the road out into the universe is perilous. In order to save the Earth, a group of young people once again stepped forward to begin a battle against life and death.
The Wandering Earth II in actual fact is a prequel to the 2019 hit. Thus to benefit those who missed the first, here’s a brief recap. Earth is facing a global doom when the sun is expanding and will soon kill everyone unless humans move the Earth to another solar system. While the problem is temporary resolved, earth is soon going to be destroy by Jupiter. In comes a young man named Liu Qi who defied all odds to save humanity with the guidance of his estranged father, Liu Peiqiang (Wu Jing), a space pilot stationed in an outer space station.
Frank Gwot returns to helm The Wandering Earth II which tells the origin story of Peiqiang and how the moving mountain project comes to fruition. You know the part where the UEG (United Earth Government) comes together to build a gigantic space station, put a bunch of accelerators on one side of the globe and move Earth out of Sun’s way.
Thus, the first 40 minutes unabashedly showcases the insane CGI quality which is a notch higher than the original and non-stop barrage of information which includes the time crunch faced by the UEG, protests and sabotages by terrorist groups against the project and laughingly, a clumsy setup of a romance subplot involving Peiqiang and his wife-to-be, Duo Duo (Wang Zhi).
In short besides the harrowing plot of Earth going kaput anytime soon, the movie is seen through the eyes of three individuals. First up is of course Liu Peiqiang who volunteers for the potentially deadly space program because he wants to leave a slot for his young son to stay safely in the underground bunkers. Why and how the people go about in their lives below ground, you need to watch The Wandering Earth.
Anyway, the second belongs to Tu Hengyu (HK superstar Andy Lau in a “special appearance”), a system engineer in charge of an advanced computing system in the lunar system. But Tu has an ulterior motive of his own, he wants his mentor to restart the digital life project in order to let his late daughter continue to live her life “virtually” in the online world. How and what on earth a digital life ought to be is never elaborate further in the movie. In any case, we need to move on.
The third, Hao Xiaoxi (Zhu Yan Man Zi), is a protégé under the wise and relentless Chow, the UEG rep for China. Through Hao and Chow, we see how China save the world just like how we are so use to watching America saving the world from being destroyed in Independence Day, Deep Impact and The Core. No doubt, it’s mere typical Chinese propaganda material at least the grandeur speech made by Chow about human survival and civilization is pretty admirable.
The Wandering Earth II works best when it comes to portraying the flaws of an ordinary human. What’s missing here is a well-known star playing the perfect hero which ironically plays much to the movie’s strength. Both Liu Peiqiang and Tu Hengyu are doting fathers and family men. But they are men with real human flaws. Wu Jing fortunately is not putting on his Wolf Warrior persona instead he is a fumbling soldier fighting for his son and his supposedly intended sacrifice is more to ending his own misery due to his wife demise than for the nation. Lau should be commended for playing a selfish scientist who very much puts the Earth at risk with his continual mumbo-jumbo about resurrecting his daughter who died in a tragic traffic accident.
Still, to put it delicately, The Wandering Earth II is by no means a casual viewing experience for movie goers looking for an enjoyable, leave-your-brains-at-the-door time in the cinemas during the festive season. Most of the time, it’s brooding and brimming with talking heads from scientists to political figures. The story based on a novel by Liu Cixin has no lack of scientific jargons, facts and big ideas. However, it barely scratches the surface despite being close to three hours as it’s overcomplicated with unnecessary chaos and developments, running from one set piece to another. In other words, be prepare to go in with a clear mind and attention to be fully immerse in Gwo’s world.
Lastly, most impressive we must add is the visuals and production values which is on par with any major Hollywood productions out there. Every second onscreen consists of one or many beautifully rendered or CGI enhanced images. Even the late Ng Man-Tat is recreated onscreen for a brief cameo as Peiqiang’s father-in-law and we suppose Lau is also subtlety digitally de-aged in the finale.
And there’s also a mid-credits so don’t go rushing to the restrooms.
(An uncompromising sci-fi extravaganza bogged down by an extreme long runtime)
Review by Linus Tee