Wandering Earth is a Chinese sci-fi epic movie released in 2019. I finally watched it on Netflix. The movie is based on a novella of the same title. It tells a story of a time when the Sun for some reason has speed up its aging process. It rapidly turns into a giant red star that will envelope Earth in its current orbit.
As a counter measure, national governments unite and embark on the Wandering Earth project. As one, mankind embarks on building thousands of large fusion engines. The engines can generate enough thrust to stop Earth’s rotation and push Earth out of its orbit.
The final destination is somewhere within the Alpha Centuri system. It is some 4 light years away, and 2,500 years by the combined fusion propulsion. In order to build up sufficient momentum for the trip, a slingshot manoeuvre around Jupiter is necessary. The manoeuvre will allow Earth to steal energy from Jupiter. During the approach to the Jupiter, a gravitation anomaly from Jupiter captured Earth and forcing Earth into itself.
The movie focuses on a family separated by duty, father in the navigation space station, son on Earth sheltered by his grandfather.
The rebellious son steals his grandfather’s truck for a joyride alongside his foster sister, and ends up in an holding cell. After a failed bribing attempt, his grandfather joins them in the cell before being sprung free by an earthquake, with a Caucasian looking mixed blood inmate. They soon find themselves being pressed into delivering essential firestarter for the engine. In the meantime, the AI on board the space station decided to take plan B and absconds away from the struggling Earth with the now hibernating crew.
The father manages to break free of his hibernation chamber and makes his way to the navigation module together with his Russian buddy. Unfortunately the Russian sacrificed himself along the way to ensure that the father made his way to the module. Thinking that the AI has gone rogue, the father is presented with official secret documents signed by the heads of nations to invoke plan B if the initial Wandering Earth project fails.
Cutting back to Earth, they realised that Earth is being captured by Jupiter’s gravitational pull and does not have enough thrust to resist the pull. A last moment inspiration strikes the son and together with a scientist/computer programmer they draw up a plan to fire up Jupiter using the hydrogen on Jupiter and the oxygen in Earth’s atmosphere that is being captured by Jupiter with a modified firing sequence from the fusion engine. Not wanting to give up, the father gets permission to allow a planet-wide transmission to rally mankind. The plan fails as there isn’t enough energy in the hydrogen-oxygen mix.
Failing to override the AI, the father whips up a bottle of Russian vodka, given by his Russian buddy as a farewell gift as he is supposedly due for retirement, and throws it onto the AI’s mainframe. That sets the mainframe on fire, allowing him to take manual control. A spokesman for the United Earth Government wished him good luck in his endeavour in French. The father and son pair has one last heart-to-heart conversation before the space station enters the heated atmosphere with its 40,000 tons of fuel. The resulting shockwave from the explosion breaks Earth free. The son lives on to be a hero among the ordinary folks working as a truck driver, just like his grandfather as before.
If you like movies like the 1998 film Armageddon, you will like this. In reality, the giant red Sun won’t happen in millions of years. There are also many tropes, most of which already caught by the guys at tvtropes.com. The emotional parts are when familial connections are strained, whilst the funny ones are seeing the goofy foreigners on screen. The foreigners this time round are Caucasians. There are plenty of self-sacrifice bits as well.
However, character building is limited to the main family. The dynamics between the father and son; grandfather and foster sister were touched on. By the end of the movie, I still haven’t figure out the dynamics of the rescue squad that requisitioned the truck and the cast on Earth. What drove Zhou Qian to destroy the initial firestarter apart from forcing her squad leader to the reality that the initial engine they meant to save gotten destroyed?