How does one manage to make a movie that is fundamentally terrible but is somehow overwhelmingly entertaining? Learn from the makers of The Wandering Earth, a film that has made $700 million in China but is entirely built on terrific special effects and massive heaps of utter rubbish.
Directed by Frant Gwo, The Wandering Earth is a singular vision of disaster movie clichés and sci fi optimism with such a ludicrous amount of naiveté you almost want to treasure it. No doubt about it, this is an idiotic behemoth of a film that is deliberately gigantic in scope and budget just so that we’re cajoled into giving all its stupidity a pass. Gwo, a sort of an avante-garde Uwe Boll, sets up this cinematic catastrophe with vaguely plausible sounding science rigmarole.
The Sun has become too big, so the entire world unites to form a single government to propel the Earth far away from it. The planet is turned into a space scooter, Jupiter’s gravitational force is mentioned at one point and carnage inevitable ensues. By the time an estranged father emotionally navigates an entire space station by himself like some sort of a motor boat, all sense of plausibility has fallen by the wayside and it is time to stop taking the stuff seriously and accept its unintentional hilarity.
Like a stereotypical Chinese product that borrows just enough from the West but somehow becomes its own thing, this film puts together all the big beats of Pacific Rim, Sunshine, Gravity, and many more known tentpole blockbusters – but it is closest in narrative quality to Geostorm. Director Gwo and his team, of no less than seven writers, place soap-opera-style family drama at the centre of the pyrotechnics, just so that the estranged and dissimilar people involved are placed in the situation for the specific and inevitable purpose of the apocalypse bringing them closer together.
At no point, however, does the human interaction take priority over the CGI. That is because the human elements are comprised of ear piercingly bad dialogue, conflicts that range from daytime TV drama to just flat out atrocious, and gloriously crude resolutions to said conflicts. The sight of a man firing a gun at Jupiter and yelling ‘fuck you Jupiter’ without a shred of irony, and a moment where a grandpa cuts to an emotional flashback right before his death in the midst of a mission where the world is at stake, are two of the highlights.
Also worth noting are all the heroic deaths calibrated to occur every fifteen minutes so you could get into a drinking game of who’s next.
The Wandering Earth may have moments to top the absurdity of the worst disaster movies, but it also, with a full blooded rigor, indulges in awkward eco-preaching. There are valiant attempts at acting from the ensemble, notably by Wu Jing from the Wolf Warrior movies who plays a stoic astronaut stranded in space with an AI ripoff of HAL from 2001.
This is of course a spectacular looking film and the action never lets up. Think the intensity of Black Hawk Down, but in space and completely meaningless. The assault on our senses with the CGI mayhem is not always convincing, but they are enjoyably over-wrought and gaudily exploitative – you see, it’s not enough to watch one beam of light shooting from the ground to the sky, there must be two. A space car from Aliens barely outrunning a space law enforcement gang is so exciting to see, it is offered for our viewing pleasure a bunch of times. And this is before the completely inconsequential action sequence set in an elevator where a key member is killed and never brought up again.
Just when you think it’s all done and everybody is safe and snug, a whole new batch of problems poke their head up, extending the film by that extra 15 minutes and giving the biggest cast member a chance to show us why he’s in the film, who like every stock heroic character in cinema gets an applaud-worthy speech. Everything else essentially is about humans scrambling to fix problems that they created.
This is, without a doubt, the worst good looking movie and the best bad movie in recent times. It is no surprise that it was lapped up by the same folks who gave the majority box office to the Transformers films. Given a choice, I’d rather see the world end than see a pattern of these kind of films becoming pop culture anywhere on the planet.
Updated Date: May 15, 2019 14:32:41 IST
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