What ‘The Wandering Earth’ Says About Chinese Sci-fi

‘The Wandering Earth’ is one small step for Chinese cinema, and one giant leap for sci-fi.

The hit Chinese science fiction film “The Wandering Earth” dominated this year’s Lunar New Year box office, raking in over 2 billion yuan ($296 million) in less than a week. Audience reactions to the movie, which is based on a short story by Liu Cixin, have so far been largely positive, and the movie currently has a score of 7.9 out of 10 on the review site Douban.

Although “The Wandering Earth” is not China’s first attempt at producing a sci-fi blockbuster, there’s no doubt that the genre has traditionally been dominated by European and American productions. And while several Chinese sci-fi authors, including the Hugo Award-winning Liu, have made names for themselves in recent years, many feel that the country’s film industry has lagged behind. The success of “The Wandering Earth” is therefore an important step toward challenging the notion that China is incapable of producing popular or good sci-fi fare.

As a sci-fi author myself, I have particular reason to be excited about the film’s box office — not to mention the filmmakers’ success in condensing Liu’s labyrinthine plotting into a compact sci-fi disaster story peppered with Hollywood-quality visual effects. More than that, however, I hope “The Wandering Earth” finally signals the global arrival of truly “Chinese” sci-fi. Indeed, in my view, director Guo Fan’s greatest achievement lies in how he solved a problem that has plagued Chinese science fiction movies for years: how to naturally integrate Chinese culture and sentiments into a genre that has been dominated by the West for over a century.

The plot of Guo’s “The Wandering Earth” adaptation is, like many of Liu’s stories, complex, broadly imaginative, and stuffed with extreme scenarios and existential choices. Read the full article here.


– This article originally appeared on Sixth Tone.