The Dark Recommends: The Wandering EarthThe Dark Herald
The Wandering Earth is based on a collection of short stories by Hugo-winning (and Puppy-approved) author Liu Cixin.
I’ll be dropping my Book Discussion of the anthology tomorrow. This review is about the movie of the same name.
The premise for the film is big but perhaps a little ridiculous but I can accept it for a couple of reasons. One, you have to start a story somewhere and two, Liu Cixin, has a good track record for taking science seriously which we will go into later. the movie is significantly different from the book. In fact, the only thing they share is the setting.
The setup. The new Solar Maunder Minimum we are entering is actually quite a bit worse than the Sun going quiet for a bit. It turns out that Sol is running out of hydrogen. It will belch out a helium flash and will start drastically expanding soon. Within 500 years it will engulf the Earth. Not that that matters because the helium flash will fry the whole solar system.
So the question is, how does the human race rescue itself?
Build spaceships and takeoff? No good. In this universe, we haven’t licked the problem of FTL so it will have to be slower than light travel. Besides, Man is mass-produced by unskilled labor and there are billions of us. There is also another bigger problem. We have found a few candidates exoplanets that might have liquid water and be capable of supporting us. But so far as we know for certain, this is the only planet that can sustain terrestrial life. And we have to deal in certainties if the survival of our species is at stake.
The solution decided upon is to take the whole planet with us.
That is the pill you have to swallow.
Gigantic thruster engines and underground cities are built. The Earth’s rotation is stopped and then the human race sets out for the nearest star available. Leaving the Solar System will require a close flyby of Jupiter to make use of the slingshot effect.
There was a series of disasters when the rotation of the Earth was stopped. Every tectonic plate and known faultline gave out at once. Furthermore, population was strictly regulated because everyone was heading down into underground cities.
So from a science fiction narrative standpoint, this is a universe ship story except it uses a whole planet as a ship, which may be unique, I’m not sure.
From a screenplay standpoint, it’s a disaster movie.
So anyway, the principal characters are three generations of one family. Grandpa, who drives trucks on the now completely uninhabitable surface of the Earth. Father, who is an important astronaut serving on a space station in orbit around the Earth. Then there is the Son who is kind of a juvenile delinquent. There is also the Son’s “sister,” (watch the film if you want the details). A lot of the film revolves around the inter-generational conflict between these three men.
The external conflict is provided by Jupiter.
During its slingshot orbit, there is a gravity spike from the gas giant. The Earth starts to orbit in toward its destruction. This sets off massive earthquakes that disable a huge number of the mountainous thruster engines.
The day this happened the Son, stole his grandfather’s driving pass (Grandpa is the ultimate Ice Road Trucker) and went joyriding on the surface. Grandpa catches up with the kid just as the SHTF. Grandpa his truck and the kid are soon conscripted by the Army for a mission to help save the planet.
‘There were several elements that I found interesting. First there was the old-timey Communist saw about the Workers and the Soldiers being at first in conflict and then banding together for a common good. Second, was the White people in this flick. There was one half-Chinese, half-Australian blond kid that provided the slapstick comic relief. There was also a Russian Cosmonaut who was the Father’s closest friend on the space station. One French woman on the Station as a background extra and no Americans at all. It’s the Russians and the Australians that really matter to the People of the Han for… reasons.
I liked the gimmick with the Station’s AI basically being sendup of HAL.
I also rather liked the scene where they are driving through the frozen ruins of Shanghai and Grandpa is reminiscing about his late wife’s bad cooking and how much he enjoyed eating it. What sold that scene was the Army Colonel, who had been the Heavy up until that moment, half closing his eyes and smiling dreamily about a world that is now broken and gone forever. That moment really worked for me because I’m getting crotchety, old, and wistful myself.
The pacing is slow by American standards but the special effects are good enough for the small screen.
Cataline Recommends with Confidence