A Visual Delight
From alien invasions and earthquakes through to volcanoes and sharknados, disaster movies have been about since the 70’s and yet continue to draw mainstream appeal. Chinese blockbuster The Stranded Earth is the next in this long line of disaster movies, mixing a heady blend of gorgeous visuals, simple storytelling and a sci-fi aesthetic to great effect.
The film itself begins with a brief prologue showing the Earth on the brink of devastation in the face of a disaster with our Sun. Thankfully, humanity has a plan to move the earth 4.3 light years away to safety. We then cut forward 17 years to find the initial plan going awry when we learn the Earth is on a collision course with Jupiter. Split between two predominant locations – Earth and a space station just outside the atmosphere – the film follows a dysfunctional group working together to save the Earth from impending disaster. As everyone rushes to save the day, a shocking plot revelation midway through the film turns things from bad to worse.
For the most part, The Wandering Earth stuffs its 2 hour film full of big action set pieces and impressive CGI effects to hide the simple plot and storytelling. These special effects are outstanding though and really help elevate this one. It really is a visual treat too and everything from the costume design, art, aesthetic and lighting are on point, with reds and blues used thematically throughout the film. This clever consistency with the colour crops up time and again in increasingly creative ways and really helps add an extra dimension to this one.
The characters are good too. Gone are the Clooneys, Brosnans or countless other stock hero characters, and in their place are very ordinary, simple misfits that band together for the good of humanity. Whether it be a 70 year old truck driver or a student, the array of diverse people brought together to try and save Earth does add some depth to this one. However, with this simplicity comes a lack of charisma and enigmatic personalities and unfortunately, The Wandering Earth suffers from a lack of real memorable characters. At the heart of this one is a simple message about family though and no further is this exemplified than with a Father and Son, separated across the two different locations, who ultimately wind up being the best characters here.
Of course, with this being a disaster film all the usual tropes you’d expect show up here and for the most part these are handled well. It’s actually quite refreshing to see a film like this done from a completely different perspective and the Chinese slant to proceedings really does help this stand out next to so many others. There’s only so many times you can see New York or California as a desolate wasteland, and seeing Beijing and the Chinese on the other side of the world given this treatment breathes some life into this over-saturated genre.
The Wandering Earth is an aesthetically beautiful film, one of the better ones in this genre and an enjoyable thrill ride too. Although the story is a little basic and the characters ultimately forgettable, there’s enough here to make for a really enjoyable film. For the visuals alone, this is well worth your time, even if it doesn’t quite shine as brightly as it perhaps should.