Looks like we’re all going to have to accept that it’s a “Netflix thing to do” now – surprising audiences by dropping some huge movie or series that nobody saw coming. To be fair, these are the days of fire-breathing dragons, Avengers and basketball playoffs. Everybody’s a little busy now and so, it’s understandable that we all missed it. Still, Netflix could have at least hinted to us it was going to start streaming one of the biggest films of 2019 – The Wandering Earth. “What’s that?”, I hear you ask. Allow me.
The Wandering Earth is a Chinese science fiction disaster epic, directed by Frant Gwo (or Guo Fan). It was produced on a budget of $50 million and is based on a novella by Liu Cixin. To date, it has made over $700 million at the box office in China, making it the second most commercially successful film to come out of that country. What is perhaps more interesting is that Netflix bought the rights to the movie and is now streaming it, thus allowing a wider audience to enjoy it.
The basic story-line, as Rotten Tomatoes puts it, is that “the sun is dying out [and so] a group of brave astronauts set out to find a new planet for the whole human race.” This new safe place will be found by building thousands of propellers in different strategic places around the planet and launching Earth out of its current solar system. The Wandering Earth is a hero movie told very intentionally within the cultural context of modern China, though it contains elements we’re familiar with in big American (read, Western) blockbusters. The premise itself, while pretty interesting, is not new. What is perhaps more interesting is to see a filmmaker from the world’s 3rd largest economy telling a story of scale in a genre that’s largely been the protected territory of big Hollywood studios.
To be clear, you likely won’t see anything in The Wandering Earth that you haven’t seen a dozen times before, as far as spectacle is concerned. In fact, even by the director’s own admission, you’ve probably seen it done better. Still, this is an important film – a picture of the future, if you will. Watching the movie certainly won’t be time wasted. It’s a foretaste of the exciting future that awaits us as the streaming giants keep marching on!