The 2019 epic picture THE WANDERING EARTH was a flat out blockbuster from China that was a smash success internationally (it even had a terrific release here in Canada, even taking over some of the IMAX and premium format screens) with many parallels to all of the issues we face on our planet taken to the nth degree. Frank Gwo’s massively budgeted movie was so eager to please in many areas and hit all of the marks of a big screen epic, even when we were seeing the preposterous image of man-made rocket boosters pushing the entire planet into another solar system to avert global annihilation. That mere image alone caused a worldwide sensation at the box office, and it was only a matter of time until a sequel was going to hit theatres.
To my complete delight WANDERING EARTH II is, believe it or not, a prequel to the first movie as we get the origins of the society collapse and the original reasons of having to save the world. It’s that pesky Moon of ours that is the main star here, and a whole lot of nuclear bombs (all of the existing ones on Earth in fact) must be detonated on the moon’s surface to help push Earth into an outer orbit. This of course is such a complicated idea and it requires using every nuclear device on the planet AND the entire bandwidth of “The Internet” in order to make it work. It’s a legit race against the clock, with a timer that the camera keeps cutting to and a LOT of conflicting opinions from its many characters.
That is a VERY brief description of the setup because as always I want you to experience the pleasures of the storytelling and pyrotechnics. The payoff here is one incredible sequence after another involving many characters of different ethnic and backgrounds. It’s subtle but all walks of life are featured here, and as a usual with Chinese cinema the non-Asian actors come off a little stiff. It’s forgivable, but some foreign produced movies (even my favourite movie of 2022, RRR, is guilty of this) could work on this a little bit more. A VERY slight quibble, of course.
Filmmaker Frank Gwo returns to the helm here and it’s pretty evident that he has an even bigger budget and expands the storyline to near epic running time (it’s listed at 173 minutes, but about 12-13 minutes of that is end credits as opposed to the 130 minute run-time of the original). It’s a visual overload that is completely unapologetic about going for broke and in that respect I admired a lot more in this one. I sat dumbfounded, in a good way, at an early elevator sequence dubbed the “Space Elevator” that nearly is a character on its own and I applaud all of the filmmakers and VFX artists for such imagination. A following drone attack sequence is another example of something that words can’t describe. Throughout it has computer graphics work that is so pleasing to the eye and I admire all of the visual effects teams for really going above and beyond, even in a harrowing final sequence both involving a dire mission to detonate nuclear bombs on the moon, all the while a lone man is in control of “the internet” and is drowning. Hold onto your popcorn bucket, seriously.
Many running storylines and characters are all here but all of it makes total logical sense in the end, and it’s wonderful to see THE WANDERING EARTH II turn into a unique approach to a continuing storyline instead of just being a typical sequel. We’ll see you all for WANDERING EARTH III down the line. Oh, it’s going to happen. This is a 2500 year journey, after all!
Boring Tech notes: As this movie didn’t open in the city I live in, I had to resort to a high quality screener and while THAT experience was totally fine in high-definition, I can only imagine seeing this in a top of the line cinema. THE WANDERING EARTH II will be available in virtually every premium format, so if you are near one that has a proper wide screen and a good sound system, don’t hesitate.
THE WANDERING EARTH II is now playing in theatres. A special thanks to the publicity team at WellGo USA for sending us a screener for review.