Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Movie Review: The Wandering Earth

I'm 40 years old, and this is the first time I ever regretted watching a foreign film subtitled.

I wouldn't swear that I'd have been happier watching the dub, but I honestly got dizzy looking back and forth between the constant dialogue and even more constant visual effects. Everything in this movie is thrown at you at an unbelievably high speed, it'd be exhausting trying to keep up even if you weren't simultaneously trying to read along.

And when I say things come at you quickly, I mean really quickly. This thing is Armageddon cranked up to 11. It's like the platonic ideal of Michael Bay was handed a trillion dollar budget and there was no studio oversight.

Is that a compliment? An insult? Damned if I know. The Wandering Earth is a bizarre science fiction film recreating the best and worst aspects of American cinema for a Chinese audience. It clearly deserves to be seen on the big screen, but chances are you either missed your chance or never had one - it only received a limited release in the US, despite currently being the third highest grossing movie of 2019 worldwide. Fortunately, Netflix grabbed the rights, so you can stream it on whatever inadequate screen is handy.

The movie is at its best when showcasing gorgeous, inventive visuals, which isn't too surprising given its premise. It's at its worst when it focuses heavily on its story, which also isn't surprising given the premise.

That premise, incidentally, is that the governments of the world united and built giant rockets on the surface of the planet to fly it out of the solar system to a replacement star. If that sounds ludicrous, rest assured the movie is mostly aware. Does that make it better? I'm still trying to sort that out.

I will spend the rest of my life trying to sort that out.

The Wandering Earth is weird, exhausting, fun, absurd, dumb, and all the other adjectives (except boring - it is never boring). It's good, it's bad, it's so bad it's good and so good it's bad. It's too much, too fast, and too unrelenting. It's the movie Michael Bay wishes he could make - hell, I half expect him to try and remake this in English.

That would never work, incidentally. If anyone ever tried to recapture this, they'd just end up making Interstellar, and we all know how tedious that was (don't bother denying it - I'll know you're lying).

I'm still no closer to being able to say whether I liked this, but it's an impressive piece of cinema regardless. It's worth seeing for the scale alone, to say nothing of the visuals. I won't promise you'll like it, but if you're a fan of genre, this is destined to be remembered as one of the most significant films of the decade. This is the moment Chinese productions proved they could be as awesome and as stupid as anything coming out of Hollywood.

And, unlike 90% of what America produces, this certainly won't bore you.

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