From sci-fi smash hits to lowkey LGBTQ dramas, here’s our pick of Netflix’s Chinese-language offerings to get you through those long summer nights.
Since curating my last movie list, Netflix has expanded its offering of Chinese films and TV shows — and continues to do so, with six more Chinese-language licensed titles due on the streaming platform before the end of 2019. Netflix has finally acquired classics such as Kung Fu Hustle and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon as well as more star-studded blockbusters and the likes of I Am Not Madame Bovary to round out its collection. And as of tomorrow, that list of Chinese-language content will include celebrated noir Cities of Last Things.
But with all these options, choosing how to spend those free two hours has become a lot harder. While we continue to wait for the launch of Chinese content-focused platform Bambu and with more Mandarin-language entertainment undoubtedly to come on Netflix itself, we’ve curated a new list of recent releases we think are worth watching this summer.
THE WANDERING EARTH (2019)
For China’s first sci-fi blockbuster, The Wandering Earth has box office results that are out of this world, earning 699 million USD globally and securing a spot at No. 2 on the country’s list of highest grossing films (after war flick Wolf Warrior 2).
Set in the year 2061, a dying sun forces the nations of the world to unite and launch “The Wandering Earth” project, a 2,500-year long journey to propel the planet into the nearest solar system. However, when a gravitational spike on Jupiter disables many of the planetary thrusters and threatens to pull Earth into its orbit, a rescue mission sets out to repair the giant engines and preserve the human race.
Directed by Frant Gwo and loosely based on a novella by Liu Cixin, the movie offers an exciting, post-apocalyptic take on the future, from subterranean cities to sub-zero surfaces enveloped in ice. Beyond the CGI magic and meticulously constructed sets, The Wandering Earth’s global disasters could be interpreted as an analogy for the current environmental issues we’re facing. While The Washington Post has deemed the work “a prototype for exporting an image of China as the leader of the future,” there is a strong emphasis on international collaboration, especially at the end. In fact, noticeably absent are the Americans, which Vice points out is a refreshing change from “the Western superhero trope of one man, one country saving Earth” and possibly commentary on the US pulling out of the Paris Climate Accords.
The film isn’t without its flaws: the apathetic artificial intelligence plot is clichéd, the drama doesn’t merit tears, and the characters, especially the females, lack depth and purpose — the most memorable of the ensemble is Tim, the biracial jokester used as comedic relief. Despite this, The Wandering Earth is an accomplishment for Chinese cinema and a taste of what’s to come, so well worth watching for that at least.