Blasting Off Into Adventure: The Wandering Earth II Review

Richard Zhuang

The Sun will engulf the Earth in about 7.5 billion years. 

Luckily, this is more than a few lifetimes away from happening to us. However, what if the Sun were to engulf us in around 100 years? Should we gracefully accept our death, or should we attempt to find a solution to preserve our beloved planet and its people? 

Chinese Director Frant Gwo explores this conflict in The Wandering Earth movies. In 2058, the sun is set to engulf the Earth in just 100 years. To save Earth, humanity banded together to build 10,000 jet engines on the surface to propel Earth out of the solar system and towards the Alpha Centauri system, 4.2 light years away, which would become the Earth’s new solar system. Essentially, the Earth would be “wandering” for a new home. 

The Wandering Earth II came out on January 22, and is a prequel to the original movie, which was released in 2019. The second installment in the franchise discusses the key events leading up to those of the first movie, focusing on how humanity built the engines that would be used to build the Earth and exploring the different crises that they had to overcome along the way. 

The Wandering Earth II is extremely enjoyable with fast-paced action and incredible visuals. However, I was most fascinated with its takes on very complex and nuanced themes; the movie focused more on the drama and interactions between the people as they attempted to save Earth. While the overarching conflict is the issue of the Sun’s expansion, the film uses this  conflict as a vehicle to explore human behavior and actions in times of crisis. 

One core idea of the movie is collectivism vs individualism. While building the engines that propel Earth requires a collective worldwide effort, many people opposed the idea of sacrificing their livelihood for the sake of the future. Instead, they preferred to participate in Digital Life, which was a project that would preserve the consciousness of humans into technology so they could “live forever.” The opposition was very strong, with frequent terrorist attacks that halted the progress of the Wandering Earth Project. The movie raised very interesting questions about the project: is it better to pour all of our resources and efforts into pursuing a plan to save the Earth that might not work, or is it better to enjoy the last few years that we have and merely continue a digital existence afterward?

Additionally, a distinct characteristic of the movie was its strong sense of diversity and unity. Typically, most blockbuster disaster films feature the US single-handedly saving the world from imminent disaster. However, The Wandering Earth II explores a more collective and unified perspective by showing the world banding together to overcome the issue. Since the movie uses subtitles, the characters all spoke their own languages. The movie featured many countries working together to solve the conflict, which helped make the film more realistic and down-to-earth compared to the typical trope that one individual or country saves the entire world.

It is important to consider that the movie does contain some political subtext showcasing China’s power and influence: throughout the film, China is portrayed as the leader of the Wandering Earth Project and makes many, if not all, of the crucial life-saving decisions. In one scene, an object even flies across the screen to intentionally display the words “Made in China,” once again emphasizing China’s manufacturing and technological strength. However, I personally believe that these images do not interfere with the enjoyment of the movie, nor do they feel overbearing or obvious. It’s no different from America saving the entire world in a flick like Independence Day; a Chinese movie inherently will feature China as the centerpiece. Additionally, the plethora of nationalities and languages in the movie makes up for this fact and helps create the sense that this project was a collaboration among many countries, not only China. 

The movie does clock in at nearly three hours, but there are many storylines and action scenes that keep it interesting throughout. While it is not currently available on any streaming services, the first movie is available to watch on Netflix if you want to catch up on the overall story. The Wandering Earth II is an entertaining film with stunning visuals and a thought-provoking plot, and I highly recommend that you watch this movie in theaters if you can.