A new trailer for The Wandering Earth — described as China’s biggest science fiction movie ever — landed earlier this week, showing off an ambitious adventure that follows the efforts to save Earth after scientists discover that the sun is about to go out.
The movie is based on a story by Chinese author Cixin Liu — who’s best known for his Three-Body Problem trilogy and last year’s Ball Lightning. While those books are huge, epic stories, The Wandering Earth is no less ambitious: when scientists realize that the sun will go out in a couple of decades, they hatch a desperate plan: to move the planet to Proxima Centauri. The construct thousands of giant engines to move the planet out of orbit, where it can then slingshot post Jupiter and out of the Solar System.
This new trailer shows off some of the drama midway through the project: The engines have malfunctioned and Earth misses its exit window, and will collide with Jupiter in a matter of hours. To save the Earth, a crew of astronauts hatch another desperate plan to reactivate the massive Earth Engines to avert disaster. The film’s design looks good, with decent costumes, props (WETA of New Zealand produced the costumes and weapons) and special effects.
Make no mistake: this movie looks bonkers and over the top. There’s desperate rescue missions, trucks dodging huge blocks of falling ice, astronauts escaping from damaged spaceships, and a guy shooting the Jupiter’s great Red Spot with a machine gun. But it also looks like it could be a really fun film.
Another trailer hit back in December, showing off the giant engines that are set up across the Earth to push the Earth out of its orbit, and teases that their failure that will doom the mission.
The film has been hailed as the biggest science fiction film produced in China, and is a good signal that the local film industry is maturing, and is capable of producing high-budget thrillers. Speaking with The Verge last year, Chinese screenwriter and author Anna Wu said that the genre was a “challenge for the Chinese film industry,” noting that audiences really demand a high level of special effects, and that prior high-profile examples have failed — like another adaptation of a Cixin Liu novel, The Three-Body Problem, which was filmed but never released. The Wandering Earth could be the country’s first big breakout hit.
Because of that, there’s a lot riding on The Wandering Earth for the country’s film industry when it’s released on February 5th. With its growing middle class, China has become an important stop for most Hollywood films, sometimes making or breaking a film — Venom went on to pull in a massive $243 million from the Chinese box office, while Solo: A Star Wars Story earned a measly $9.62 million. The Wandering Earth certainly won’t pull in huge numbers from the US box office — it’s only slated for a limited release starting on February 8th, but it’s a good indicator that we could see more in the future.