Story: Humanity does not have much time left. The Sun has reached the end of its life cycle much earlier than expected and will devour the Earth in 100 years. The countries of the world are working together to find a solution. The "Moving Mountain Project" arranges to build huge rockets that are able to move the Earth away from the Sun. However, the United Earth Government (UEG) wants to test the engine system on the moon first. Liu Peiqiang (Wu Jing) and Han Duoduo (Wang Zhi) are among the team of astronauts who are being trained for this mission. When a gigantic elevator transports them to the space station, they are attacked by terrorists. There is not a lot of support for the project amongst the population and many prefer the idea of the "Digital Life Project", in which people's consciousnesses are supposed to be uploaded to a virtual reality. Extremist supporters of this project manage to give the Moving Mountain project a setback. But with the development of the quantum computer and the AI 550C, the construction of underground cities and the rocket engine makes faster progress than expected. Tu Hengyu (Andy Lau) is one of the scientists who has a special interest in the Digital Life Project, as he has stored the consciousness of his little daughter, who died in a car accident along with his wife, but he can only communicate with her in a two-minute loop. He hopes to be able to give his daughter a long life via 550C, but in doing so he also endangers the Moving Mountain Project...
Review: The enormous success of "The Wandering Earth", a textbook example that proves Chinese disaster movies no longer need to hide behind their Hollywood role models, has made a sequel inevitable. The only tiny problem was that, before arriving in the new solar system 1500 years in the future, there was actually no new story to tell, because above all, space is primarily one thing: incredibly empty. So, if the gravity of a planet used as a slingshot can't become a problem, you just have to tell the prequel to the disaster blockbuster. This is quite well done, because we are told the backstory of Moss, the AI, which will cause some difficulties later on, as well as the background to Wu Jing’s ("Wolf Warrior 2") character, who won’t have an easy relationship with his son in the future. All in all, this makes the movie seem a bit more grounded character-wise too.
"The Wandering Earth 2" starts off strong. The world is doomed to the underground, but there are still about 100 years to go. So why even care? A solution to the problem will entail a great deal of sacrifices, which will mainly affect the poor and the middle class. That's why we get some demonstrations, police brutality and terrorists. Intentionally or not, China is not creating a lecturing allegory here, the West, on the other hand, would certainly not have been able to avoid it. You can draw your own parallels here. While there are advocates who declare that climate change can only be stopped by reversing it with new technologies (filtering and storing greenhouse gases from the atmosphere, etc.) and that in order to make the necessary progress you should not sacrifice energy for short-term theoretical successes, there is actually no alternative in China's blockbuster: The sun will inevitably devour us, there is no doubt about that.
What is fascinating, though, is that there is also the solution of transferring our consciousness into a virtual reality and with that continuing to exist as a civilization. The sci-fi movie therefore also works with a parallel storyline about a scientist, played by Andy Lau ("Shock Wave 2"), who, after losing his daughter, cannot stop thinking about bringing her back to life in a virtual world. The viewer already knows from the first part that the evolving AI will become a big problem later on. Watching how that comes to pass is pleasantly exciting, especially since the movie and its story about the scientist and Liu, whose wife suffers from cancer and who wants to give her and his son his place in the underground city, is astonishingly human and therefore creates a good contrast to the effect-driven thunderstorm of action and pathos. There is even a pretty touching scene with Liu and a supporting character, which is quite surprising because in such a movie you would only expect overdramatic sacrifices and similar stuff.
In terms of dramatic elements, this prequel clearly does a better job than the first part. The action is also quite convincing, but apart from the beginning, it seems a bit less bombastic than in the predecessor. However, this could also be purely subjective, because for example, back then it was more impressive to see the engine that pushes the Earth through space for the first time. Moreover, it is also a positive thing that this time, there is not so much chaotic action spoiling the fun instead of increasing it. Director Frant Gwo has come a long way here. Nevertheless, I still felt like the two main storylines and the political chitchat in the background could have been packaged a bit tighter and more coherently. At least, the sci-fi flick does not get an episodic touch here. But with its 172 minutes, the movie is simply a bit too long, even though it admittedly doesn't feel like almost three hours. There are countless scenes in which we see people frantically operating buttons at some desks, or we are presented with people being united by misery all over the world, although acting-wise, there are no award-winning performances here (the English, which was dubbed in post and is often out of sync, is particularly irritating). A lot could have been cut in these scenes.
Of course, the director wants to work out what humanity means, and that we all (have to) pull together in a crisis. The fact that China and, to some extent, Russia have a special role to play here does not have to be made into a political issue. Normally, the American flag constantly flies in the background. In terms of pathos, the two countries are operating on the same level anyway, and generally "The Wandering Earth 2" hardly seems like a declaration of love to its homeland. Despite some nice backstories, it would have been nice, though - especially in contrast to the overpowering AI, which often conveys the threat of Big Brother, but at the same time seems to be our only salvation - if the movie would have sacrificed more of the effects and the excessive display of sets in favor of a story that deals even more with the nature of being human. So, in the end, this prequel is still the kind of action blockbuster you would expect.