Netflix Dystopian Sci-Fi Epic Thriller Is One Of The Biggest Interstellar Blockbusters Ever Made

By Charlene Badasie | Updated

The 2019 Chinese sci-fi film The Wandering Earth is streaming on Netflix. Directed by Frant Gwo, the movie is based on Liu Cixin’s short story of the same name. The story follows a group of astronauts as they guide the Earth away from an expanding Sun and prevent a collision with Jupiter. The goal is to move Earth to the Alpha Centauri star system.

Unique Solution To The Apocalypse

The Wandering Earth begins in the year 2058 when a red giant Sun threatens to engulf Earth. To save humanity, a world government builds 12,000 fusion-powered engines to propel the planet out of the Solar System. Chinese astronaut Liu Peiqiang (Wu Jing) leaves his son Qi (Liu Qi) in the care of his father-in-law Han Zi’ang (Ng Man-tat) before leaving for the Navigation Platform International Space Station.

A Race Against Time

Half of humanity moves underground, while the rest perish due to the cold and various weather-related disasters. Years later, an adult Qi gets fake IDs and stolen thermal suits to take his foster sister, Han Duoduo (Zhao Jinmai), to the surface. They are arrested for their transgressions. While attempting to bribe officials for their release, Zi’ang is also jailed.

A gravitational spike causes earthquakes that put Earth on a collision course with Jupiter, setting the stage for The Wandering Earth. The group escapes and tries to reach another underground city but is forced into an emergency mission. Facing various obstacles, the film’s protagonists race against time to save everyone who calls Earth home.

A Smash Hit

The Wandering Earth received a positive response from critics and viewers who praised its special effects, grand scale, and ambitious storytelling. However, some critics pointed out flaws in its pacing and character development. The film currently holds a 70 percent critics rating on review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes alongside a 51 percent audience score.

The Wandering Earth was released during the Chinese New Year holiday and earned over CN¥2 billion in just six days, setting a new record for a Chinese film. The movie also topped the global box office, earning $172,718,000 in its first three-day weekend. The film has grossed $693,371,204 in China, $5,875,487 in North America, and $1,575,366 in other regions, for a worldwide total of $699,992,512.

A New Standard In Chinese Filmmaking

Netflix acquired the global streaming rights to The Wandering Earth, making it available to a broader international audience. The move was part of the streamer’s strategy to expand its catalog with diverse, high-quality content worldwide.  The film’s production design and visual effects drew comparisons to Hollywood standards, showcasing the rapid advancements in Chinese filmmaking.

The Prequel Was Less Successful

Due to the success of The Wandering Earth, a prequel, The Wandering Earth 2 was released in 2023. The story takes place shortly when the Sun is rapidly burning out and will eventually destroy the Earth. To prevent this, enormous engines are built to propel the planet to a new solar system. However, the journey is complex, and the young people must work together to ensure the survival of humanity.

The response to The Wandering Earth 2 from viewers and critics has been mixed compared to the original film. Sci-fi fans can check out the flagship movie, The Wandering Earth, on Netflix.