The Wandering Earth 2 (流浪地球2) – Film Review

Prepare to say “Goodbye Solar System” once more in this follow up to 2019s sci-fi epic The Wandering Earth 2 (流浪地球2).

In the not-too-distant future, mankind faces annihilation from our Sun’s expansion as it dies out. The newly formed United Earth Government (UEG) have a desperate and unprecedented plan to save the world. Using thousands of giant thrusters, they intend to propel our planet out of its orbit and into that of the relatively nearby Alpha Centauri system.

This massive undertaking will take thousands of years and 100s of generations to complete. Chinese UEG ambassador Zhou Zhezhi (Li Xuejian) sees it as our only hope, but it is not without opposition. The outlawed ‘Digital Life’ initiative spearheaded by Tu Hengyu (Andy Lau) feels like a more realistic goal to some, and they will stop at nothing to see it carried through. Liu Peiqiang (Wu Jing), an astronaut in training, witnesses the clash of these ideologies first hand. Over years, we see the many trials mankind face to make ‘The Wandering Earth’ a reality.

This prequel is an epic in the fullest sense of the word. The previous film was itself a grand production following the spectacle of a race against time to stop Earth’s collision with Jupiter. However, The Wandering Earth 2 is massive not just in spectacle, but in the story that it wishes to tell. Here, we witness just how insane an undertaking it would be for mankind to even begin such a journey.

An issue many prequels struggle with is how to maintain drama when the audience already know how your story ends. The Wandering Earth 2 tackles this issue head on never shying away from the idea certain events are destined to happen. Countdowns such as “72 hours until Moon Base incident” display prominently throughout heightening tension as this backstory unfolds.

As a fan of martial artist star Wu Jing, I was slightly disappointed with his smaller role in the previous film. He played a key role in both the film’s story and its production but still felt like a side character at times. Here, he is allowed much more room to breathe showing off not just his physical prowess but his ability as a dramatic actor as well.

Andy Lau is a fine addition to the cast playing a conflicted scientist dealing with the death of his daughter. The ‘Digital Life’ concept is something that has been popping up more and more in science fiction films and video games lately, and Lau adds credibility to this side of the plot which otherwise could have been a train wreck.

The expanding on the UEG politics is something I greatly appreciated also. In the previous film, the UEG was a monolithic, although underdeveloped, phantom entity in the shadows. Here, it is presented as central to the overall storyline. 

I was taken aback by the sheer number of different visual effects companies listed in this film’s end credits. Their work was noticed as the CGI and special effects on show in The Wandering Earth 2 are leaps and bounds ahead of the previous film. Where vehicles and other more ambitious shots there were almost cartoonish, in The Wandering Earth 2, the line between CGI and reality is successfully blurred. 

With jaw-dropping visual effects and an ambitious story of global proportions The Wandering Earth 2 is a must-see for all sci-fi fans. Director Frank Gwo and his team have managed to make a follow up which not only lives up to the original but surpasses it in many ways. The only downside is with the limited cinema release. Many western audiences will not be able to witness it on the big screen as intended and it is not to be missed.

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