The Wandering Earth 2 (2023)
Director (and co-writer): Frant Gwo
Cast: Andy Lau, Jing Wu, Zhi Wang, Yanmanzi Zhu, Xuejian Li, Ning Li, Sha Yi, Zhang Yi
Humans built huge engines on the surface of the earth to find a new home. But the road to the universe is perilous. In order to save earth, young people once again have to step forward to start a race against time for life and death. – IMDB
Following 2019’s The Wandering Earth based on novel of the same name by Cixin Li who is also involved as co-writer on the screenplay, The Wandering Earth 2 is a sequel but a prequel story as the story dials back to how the Earth started wandering and all its hoops that it had to go through giving purpose to the father character in the original film and what happened to create the separation. Dedicated to Man-Tat Ng who has unfortunately left this world (but was added in two scenes with what I expect is some computer magic) but was a huge part of The Wandering Earth, this sequel involves many layers which builds a foundation of both the history but on the many angles of science, astronomy and engineering, the world and the politics. On many levels, the concept and premise is a good angle. It definitely feels like a trend to build a story and to create a sequel that acts as a prequel. While the detail and the depth of every element of The Wandering Earth 2 is very much appreciated, the 3 hour runtime does feel like it ends up losing its footing somewhere in the middle for a little bit before going into its big finale and could have benefited from a tighter edited film.
Looking at the story as a whole, there are many elements because of its phase by phase approach in its history and recount of events that make it very memorable especially since it follows Jing Wu’s character Liu Pei Qiang from both his work and how he meets his family and how the main character of its first film comes to be. The other side is Andy Lau’s character Tu Heng Yu who is a supporter of the other project Digital Life Project because of the loss of his daughter and the desire to be able to give her a complete life but is restrained to follow with the new orders. On the other side is the political showrunner as the representative of China who is an elderly gentlemen Zhou played by Xuejian Li and his assistant Xiao Xi played by Yanmanzi Zhu who backs strongly the Moving Mountains Project despite its strong disapproval from the public including some extreme efforts to destroy what is already built in one part which is one of the best scenes as it allows Jing Wu to show off some of his martial arts. The different characters reveal a different angle of the situation and they all come together in the end in probably one of the most touching scenes when the older crew takes on the dangerous mission to defend the younger generation. The idea of the premise is definitely commendable and honestly, it does stand well and I wouldn’t even know what to edit out but perhaps some of the little moments here and there could be more condensed.
Despite the pacing suffering because of the long runtime (which in my opinion happens a lot with lengthier films), there are still a lot of well-executed elements. Much like the icy landscape in the first one which builds up its world, this future of Earth is still a rather grim place but the big operations and leaps in engineering development is another level of creativity especially with its incredibly visually stunning scenes with the space elevators. The imagination and perspective of the world building is truly astounding and its what made its first film so good since the suspension of belief and using our minds to imagine this future is really amazing even if its also conflicting. It is also supported by an engaging score and the cast is pretty decent as well.
As listed above, the cast is a group of veteran actors from Hong Kong actor Andy Lau who has done an extensive list of films of all genres. This role actually feels very good for him and fits his older and more mature self and almost in some parts becomes a rather selfish person even if he redeems himself in the end in a rather bittersweet ending. Jing Wu is best known for his role in SPL and Wandering Earth 1 and 2 has truly shed a new light of a more emotional character. However because this is a prequel, his character loses the overall surprise element as we all know he makes it out in the end or else he wouldn’t be in the first film. This is also a key issue with making prequels after their original films. While I haven’t seen Xuejian Li in anything else as Mainland China cinema is still rather new to myself, the actor is incredible as the firm political leader who has full faith in his decisions. His assistant however is an underrated actress from her previous roles in the main female lead in Unrequited Love (currently available on Netflix Canada), and the much more conflicting role in River Flows To You and here even as the assistant, she shines as her character goes through character development where as her boss gets older, her confidence also builds by the end where she can handle the political scene on her own. The character designs are all really good including Sha Yi who previously I’ve only seen in Chinese variety shows but delivers a very nice side of his story both as the mentor of Jing Wu’s character but delivers that breath of fresh air needed between the increasingly tense and dangerous situation.
Overall, The Wandering Earth 2 is pretty decent. It keeps a lot of the strengths of its first one from world building, visuals and its imagination for the future of Earth. Its a grand idea to move Earth around in the solar system and to make the elements work, its pretty thought out (at least for myself whose forte is not in engineering). The characters are pretty well-strctured and has a lot of room for development which is a benefit of the long runtime. Its only fault is the almost 3 hour runtime which makes the whole affair feels dragged out in the middle especially when things slow down to the more melodramatic moments which could have been more condensed. If you enjoyed The Wandering Earth, this one should still be a fun time.
*The Wandering Earth 2 is exclusively in theatres and IMAX since January 22nd*
*Screener provided by Well Go USA*