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6 Feb

Why should the Americans have dominance over end-of-the-world blockbusters? Time for China to take their shot at the crown! And they’ve made a hell of a film with their biggest blockbuster yet, cribbing from ARMAGEDDON, 2012, INTERSTELLAR, 2001, and even SNOWPIERCER. It’s absolutely bananas.

The sun has decided to evolve to its next form, a red giant, which makes life on earth, well, unlikely to continue, so everyone bands together to build massive thrusters to move the whole damn thing out of the solar system and over to Proxima Centauri in… 2500 years. And that’s just the setup. Our main story takes place 17 years into the journey, on the way to Jupiter to slingshot out into deep space when Jupiter itself throws a curveball with a gravity spike that pulls the earth into its loving embrace. Scientifically speaking the whole thing seems fairly, I don’t know, loose? But hey, we’re here for global destruction, right?

Hang on, there are actual people here too. A father and son, separated by an advance mission, an old man and his adopted daughter, saved from the tsunamis that followed when they STOPPED THE EARTH’S ROTATION, which is casually dropped into conversation, a rescue team of soldier types, some ne’er do wells with hearts of gold, a rogue AI, and a whole lot of cannon fodder. Honestly, the emotional stuff is really well put together, thanks to some solid performances There sure aren’t many women present, the sister is largely played as a spoiled brat along for the ride for most of the film, and there’s one badass solider but that’s it.

But how are the visuals? For the most part, they’re very well executed with some truly epic scenes throughout the brisk 125 minute runtime. Sure, there’s a few video-game level renders here and there but I got what I came for: destruction on a global scale. Bonus points for a frozen post-tsunami Shanghai with ice hundreds of feet thick. The concepts for the underground cities under the world engines is crazy but fun, and workers travel across the -80 degree surface in massive trucks and colossal aircraft. Plus there’s a very realistic space station as well, run by an AI called MOSS which just BEGGED to be voiced by GLADOS from Portal.

So is it worth seeing in the theatre? Well, it’s in IMAX 3D, which is a shame since I’d have loved a 2D version and the 3D doesn’t add much. It also makes reading the subtitles difficult. I’d suggest a good 2D showing if possible. I can’t help but think the 3D is to avoid piracy as much as anything, but I saw someone on Twitter show their favourite scene which was a phone recording of the 3D version in all its blurry glory.

In the end, it’s a fascinating production. Crazy, but not stupid, with lots of heart. The concept, though utterly impossible and totally insane, makes for a very entertaining film, and it didn’t descend into Chinese Exceptionalism either, which surprised me. Definitely worth seeking out.

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