Monday 3 July 2023

REVIEW: The Wandering Earth 2 - Starring Wu Jing and Andy Lau

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Review by Jon Donnis
Recently I saw the 2019 film The Wandering Earth, yes, I actually watched a film for fun, and not just to review it! Well, I loved that film, so thought I would check out The Wandering Earth 2, which is actually a prequel to the first film. The first film, set in the future tells the story of a group of astronauts and rescue workers who are guiding the Earth away from an expanding Sun, using 10,000 "earth engines", while also attempting to prevent a collision with Jupiter. The Wandering Earth 2 tells the story of how the Earth got to that point, and all the disasters that humanity had to overcome before they could even begin the journey. I will say this now, I would probably advise you to watch The Wandering Earth 2 before watching The Wandering Earth, and although it does "spoil" a few covert plot points, I think it is preferable to watch in that order.

In the face of the Sun's inevitable expansion into a red giant, posing a threat to Earth's survival within a century, the United Nations undergoes a transformation, rebranding as the United Earth Government (UEG). Determined to save humanity, the UEG initiates the ambitious Moving Mountain Project. This program aims to construct a multitude of massive ion engines capable of propelling Earth out of the Solar System towards a new habitable star system. Simultaneously, the UEG takes the controversial step of shutting down and outlawing the Digital Life Project (DLP), a radical faction advocating for digital immortality through mind uploading technology, basically what Elon Musk is planning. Despite public scepticism, increasingly violent protests ensue as the UEG stands firm on its decision.

The initial phase of the Moving Mountain Project focuses on building and testing an ion engine on the Moon. However, in 2044, a series of terrorist attacks orchestrated by well-armed supporters of the banned DLP target UEG facilities. These extremists hack into the space elevator system, unleashing a coordinated drone assault and infiltrating the elevator vehicles. Their ultimate goal is to destroy the Ark Space Station, a vital supply hub for the lunar operation. Although UEG trainee astronaut Liu Peiqiang (Wu Jing) and his comrades manage to thwart the hijackers, they are too late to prevent the detonation of one elevator. This destructive act, facilitated by counterfeit passes, causes irreparable damage to the top of the space elevator, leading to the catastrophic crash of both the elevator and the Ark Space Station back to Earth.

To restore public trust in the Moving Mountain Project, Liu Peiqiang and a team of UEG engineers are dispatched to the Moon. Their mission is to complete the construction of three lunar engines, which serve as prototypes to demonstrate the technology's viability before implementing it on Earth. Meanwhile, computer engineer Tu Hengyu (Andy Lau), who had previously worked on the now-forbidden Digital Life Project, undertakes the task of integrating the cutting-edge 550 Series quantum computer into the project. This original edition of the 550C computer is responsible for overseeing the highly efficient automated construction of the engines and subsequently controlling their operation during testing. In his spare time, Tu indulges in viewing a simulation of his deceased daughter, whose digital consciousness can only exist for two minutes before restarting due to the limitations of the 550A computer. However, as the 550C sustains damage, Tu reluctantly resorts to using the 550A for the upcoming tests. Nevertheless, he appeals to Ma Zhao, urging him to invent future iterations of the 550 series.

Over the following 14 years, the UEG quells the DLP supporters, mobilizes resources, and constructs over 7,000 engines designed to halt Earth's rotation. The Moving Mountain Project officially undergoes a rebranding, becoming the Wandering Earth Project. As the three completed lunar engines commence their work, propelling the Moon away from Earth, Tu Hengyu makes a life-altering decision in 2058. He opts to upload his deceased daughter's recorded consciousness into the latest supercomputer, the 550W. However, immediately after this upload, a catastrophic event unfolds, the lunar engines ignite and explode, abruptly sending the Moon on a collision course with Earth.

Now this is a near 3-hour film, and usually at this point I will start moaning about the length of the film, but this time I won't, this is a very epic feeling film, and as such the long run time is needed to tell the story. This is a truly incredible film with a very international flavour, the film is very much a story about humanity coming together as one to overcome all obstacles and ultimately ensure the survival of the human race. Throughout the film you will hear different languages spoken, so you will need to keep up with the subtitles. Now I have to admit some of the dialog of the non Chinese parts is a bit ropey, but it doesn't really matter in the grand scheme of the story.

This film features plenty of sub plots, and covert plots, the covert ones I won't even mention as they are major spoilers, but some of the subplots really bring the humanity to the main characters. And definitely helps you as the viewer have that emotional investment, especially in the Tu Hengyu character.

It seems that these days China is making the big epic disaster films that Hollywood used to make. And I have to say China does it better. The film is patriotic, but at no point did I ever think it was pushing a pro China propaganda message, of course the Chinese characters are the central ones, this is a Chinese film after all, but their success is not at the detriment of other countries. Russia also gets strong characters. You also have characters from the UK, USA, South Africa, France, and so on.

This is exactly the kind of film Hollywood should be making if it wasn't so entrenched with its ridiculous woke agenda, affirmative action hires, and ticking all those diversity boxes. This is a disaster film that brings humanity together and the world as one is the hero.

I loved this film, more so than the first one, in fact I want to rewatch the first one again, now I have a bit more knowledge on some of the covert plots.

The visual effects are perfect, no dodgy or rushed CGI here, hey Marvel and Disney! You should pay attention to what can be done if you just give the visual effects guys a bit more time and money to do their work properly.

I enjoyed the sub plots, the characters are all fleshed out well, and as the film takes part across a number of decades, it is great to see the evolution of those characters and how their stories continue or conclude.

There are plenty of heroic moments throughout the film, tear jerking moments, all out action, there is even a pretty cool kung fu scene early on in the film with half of it taking part in zero gravity!

From start to finish I was hooked, I never looked at my phone, I was never distracted, and by the end I was satisfied that I had watched something special. There is even a mid credits scene which covers part of the main covert plot which is hinted at throughout.

The Good
Truly epic film, from start to finish it will have you hooked. A true international feeling film, perfect visual effects, CGI, sound effects. The acting of the main Chinese characters is fantastic, and there is even a few humorous moments in the film which got a proper laugh out of me.

The Bad
Some of the Non-Chinese speaking parts are a bit ropey, some dodgy dubbing and emotionless dialog.

As disaster films go, they don't get much better than this, one crisis after another, humanity pulling together against all the odds. Everything you could possibly want in the genre. Hollywood needs to pay attention, as China are doing big action epics better than anyone these days.

I loved this film, I want to watch the first one again and then watch this once again, when you feel like that you know you have watched something special.

I score The Wandering Earth 2 a near perfect 9.5/10

Stop what you are doing and go watch this now! -