This week for my senior project, I will be talking about the wandering earth sequel and its relation to state propaganda.
The movie follows The Wandering Earth (2019) though it is actually a prequel to that movie. It follows the main characters through a timeline: 2044, 2058, 2065…, and displays the world’s, more specifically China’s reaction to the crisis of the Sun’s expansion into a red giant — on its way to destroy the Earth in 100 years. The film is nearly three hours long, and contains an easter egg which is central to the plot.
The plan the government officials of each state shown in the movie — Russia, America, China, ultimately agreed on, was to launch Earth out of the solar system by means of numerous propellers in order to save the human kind. Some of the characters we follow are Liu Peiqiang, who is an engineer and Tu Hengyu, who is a computer scientist. One step of this plan is to launch the moon away from the Earth, so that it does not become an obstacle in the process of launching Earth from the solar system; this actually fails and results in the moon being imploded into bits. This is one part of the many science fiction plots in the film, and one of the many opportunities the producers have seized to use luxurious panoramic graphics and expensive special effects.
Behind the special effects, common themes such as man versus machine (as mentioned by the New York Times), the extent of the ability of machines, dystopia and individual sacrifice also appeared. The easter egg revealed that the artificially intelligent MOSS, a supercomputer that was used in almost every engineering process shown in the film, was the cause of every crisis that occurred, and its motivation was to unite human kind through such disasters.
More relevantly, the political message was also clearly displayed. An important subplot was Tu’s attempt to save his daughter’s last bits of consciousness within a supercomputer, to develop “digital life”, as in that way his daughter could live out the life that a car accident took from her based on a computer. However, this ultimately fails, as there came a point when Tu was forced to sacrifice the remaining bits of his daughter and himself in order to aid state efforts. Another scene involved a mission which needed hundreds of soldiers to sacrifice their lives to set off bombs on the Moon. This scene was packed with nationalist calls of duty and the praising of these heroes who have chosen to sacrifice their lives, but also the expectation and glorification of such deed, similar to the overall sentiment of Top Gun Maverick. The film received mixed reviews across, though generally positive reviews in China, with many exclaiming how emotional the movie made them feel. specifically those scenes of personal sacrifice. This marks another period of state propaganda in movies which differs from the ones which appear in movies like Amazing China or films where the fact that it is propaganda is blatantly obvious. In comparison to movies mentioned in my last blog post, the regulations have again tightened — forcing movies and any sort of media to undergo state inspection in order to be aired. While the plot of such a movie remains around the science fiction, the state backed nationalist message remains clear, which in relation to my last blog post, gives up all ability of the film to critique its culture.