China’s mega projects and advanced equipment highlighted in blockbuster
Heavyweight hit
Published: Feb 01, 2023 12:03 AM
The space elevator in <em>The Wandering Earth II</em> Photo: Courtesy of Maoyan

The space elevator in The Wandering Earth II Photo: Courtesy of Maoyan

Space elevators, Earth engines, digital life, exoskeletons... Would you believe it if someone told you that these incredibly advanced equipment and mega projects featured in the sci-fi blockbuster The Wandering Earth II were not completely fictional concepts used only in movies, but actual workable concepts designed and modified based on actual cutting-edge technology in China? This fact has not only amused moviegoers both in China and abroad, but also magnified China's improved comprehensive strength, especially in the area of high technology.

"The film draws inspiration from the real world. Only a strong country can support a strong science fiction industry," director Guo Fan wrote in a People's Daily article on Tuesday. 

The film had grossed over 2.8 billion yuan ($414.6 million) in the Chinese mainland as of Tuesday night, while also entering the weekend top 10 list of highest-earning films in North America. 

Chinese film and cultural critics told the Global Times that the success of sci-fi films like The Wandering Earth II could not have been achieved without China's high-tech development, adding that sci-fi creations, be they works of live action or literature works, are pioneering a unique path full of Chinese characteristics and values. 

"The film draws inspiration from the real world. Only a strong country can support a strong science fi ction industry," director Guo Fan wrote in a People's Daily article on Tuesday.

From sci-fi to reality

Compared to The Wandering Earth (2019) that mainly relied on technological support from overseas, the prequel is very impressive since 90 percent of the VFX and props seen in the film were inspired by and based on China's domestic technology, Fu Changyi, president of the Jiangsu Science Fiction Association, told the Global Times on Tuesday.

For example, the Xuzhou Construction Machinery Group, one of China's largest companies in the construction machinery industry, provided a lot of technological support to the film, including 61 pieces of construction equipment and more than 400 sets of parts and workshop props.

In a Sina Weibo post on Monday night, the China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC) wrote in support of the film, "Whatever you imagine, we'll make it real." 

The post showed a poster that featured the Earth planetary engine and China's new "artificial sun" device, as well as the China Circulator II A device, with the caption "We are committed to turning science fiction into reality."

A pioneer of China's nuclear technology, CNNC recently saw a breakthrough with its new generation of "artificial suns," whose HL-2M plasma current managed to exceed 1 million amperes, creating a new record for the operation of controllable nuclear fusion in the country. CNNC was the source of inspiration for the heavy nuclear fusion engines seen in the movie. 

A number of high-tech companies such as the China Aerospace Science and Industry Corporation, China Shipbuilding, and China Energy commented on CNNC's post, noting that they too wanted to sign up for "turning science fiction into reality."

Experts say that The Wandering Earth II conveys an important message to the audience - nuclear energy is a more suitable high-energy source for the future.

MOSS, the AI commanding the space station in the film, drew inspiration from the Chinese quantum computer built by a research center in East China's Anhui Province. According to media reports, China is the third country to put a quantum computer into operation.  

Guo wrote that thanks to China's powerful manufacturing industry, especially the application of 3D printing and CNC (computer numerical control) machine tools, the level of detail of the special props made for the film has reached the most advanced level in the world, offering audiences a vivid visual feast. 

"The Wandering Earth II could not have been made 30 years ago as investors would have said the movie lacks believability. How could the Chinese save the world? How could China send a spacecraft into space?... But now we don't have this feeling. China's development and modernization have allowed us to appreciate science fiction," Chinese sci-fi writer Liu Cixin, the creator of the story upon which the films are based, told China Central Television in an interview.

"The high level of development of modern Chinese technology and the modernization of the film industry contributed to the huge success of this Chinese sci-fi movie," Ambrosia Chan, a manager at Morning Light Film Wuxi, told the Global Times on Tuesday.

Shared future 

The part of the film in which a Chinese spaceflight squadron gives their lives to save Earth has moved many moviegoers. The Chinese values emphasized in The Wandering Earth II, like the concept of "a community with a shared future for mankind," shows China's unique take on the sci-fi genre, many Chinese film critics have noted.

Li Yan, an aassociate professor of sci-fi literature at Shandong University, told the Global Times on Tuesday that science fiction is a genre of self-construction, self-assemblyand self-realization. Therefore, Chinese sci-fi is providing a new order for human society full of Chinese characteristics.

Chen Yi, one of the VFX directors for The Wandering Earth II, told the Global Times on Tuesday that Chinese sci-fi works must be rooted in the foundation of Chinese civilization and combine the characteristics of current technological development in China and the values recognized by audiences in the country. He noted that this foundation was the key to the success of the The Wandering Earth II.

"The Wandering Earth II shows the spirit and courage that truly belongs to the Chinese people, which makes it equal to Hollywood sci-fi blockbusterslike Interstellar," Yu Jinlong, a cultural critic based in Beijing, told the Global Times. 

"We see responsibility, hope and unity of all mankind in the film, which is different from Hollywood's individual heroism. With the development of China's strength, more novels and movies that epitomize Chinese values, like The Three-Body Problem and The Wandering Earth, will reach all corners of the globe," Ding Yaping, a professor in Beijing Film Academy, told the Global Times.