In many – even most – space-themed films, whenever Earth faces a disaster, the solution is always fleeing the planet in spaceships.
But the latest Chinese sci-fi movie, The Wandering Earth, offers a different and more ambitious idea.
In the film, based on a short story by Chinese sci-fi writer Liu Cixin, Earth is in danger of being destroyed by the dying sun. In response, humans around the world work together to build a giant engine system that will push Earth away from the sun. Instead of abandoning Earth – again – this time we’re taking it with us.
This “ambition” didn’t come from nowhere. For thousands of years, “homeland” has had a soft spot in the hearts and minds of Chinese people. One old idiom is luoyeguigen, which means returning to one’s homeland in old age, like fallen leaves returning to the roots of their tree. Or look to an ancient verse : "The season called the White Dew begins tonight/Nowhere as in our native place is the moon so bright". These both show the tight bond that Chinese people have had with their homeland.
This special cultural background is probably what sets The Wandering Earth apart from Hollywood-style space films.
“What is Chinese sci-fi?” Guo Fan, the film’s director, said in an interview. “A vehicle that can really express our cultural and spiritual core can be called Chinese sci-fi. Otherwise, we’re just imitating others and telling the same American stories.”
And the makers of The Wandering Earth may have chosen the best time to tell its Chinese sci-fi story. The film was released on Feb 5, the first day of Chinese New Year. It was a time when many people had just made the hard journey back to their hometowns.
So to them, there is only one possible way to tell the story: Earth goes wherever humans go, because it’s our home.