Something both odd and extremely relevant to the world of international film happened on Netflix this weekend, and to our surprise … almost no one noticed.
Over the weekend, Netflix apparently made the odd decision to surprise release The Wandering Earth, a science fiction blockbuster for China that made headlines earlier in 2019 for absolutely obliterating the Chinese box office. To date, The Wandering Earth has taken in more than $700 million in theaters, almost all of it in the Middle Empire, which makes it currently the #2 Chinese film of all time, trailing only Wolf Warrior 2—although look out, because Avengers: Endgame is coming up hard on its rear. Regardless, the film was a spectacular triumph for Chinese blockbuster filmmaking, referred to by many as the country’s first true, big-budget science fiction epic. So why did Netflix not bother to note, or even reveal, its arrival on the service?
It’s especially odd, given that Netflix announced it had acquired The Wandering Earth back in February, but then never gave a release date for it. The film wasn’t included in Netflix’s monthly list of additions for May, either—it simply appeared on the service this weekend, and it was days before anyone really noticed. It’s almost as if Netflix didn’t want people to be aware of The Wandering Earth at all, but how does that make any sense?
The film is an adaptation of a short story by author Liu Cixin, and imagines a scenario where the planet Earth is fleeing its dying sun via huge rocket engines that are intended to propel our planet through space. The surviving vestiges of humanity live in cities underground as the Earth embarks on a journey to a new star that will take 2,500 years. But when technical issues erupt during the passing of Jupiter, the survival of Earth is thrown into doubt. International reviews for The Wandering Earth have actually been pretty solid, currently hovering at 78% via Rotten Tomatoes.
At the very least, this represents an intriguing chance to experience a bona fide pop cultural sensation that was entirely conceived and produced in China. Check out the trailer for The Wandering Earth below, and catch it on Netflix here.