Details are trickling out about the sequel to China’s first true sci-fi blockbuster, director Guo Fan’s “The Wandering Earth.”
Registration records on the National Film Bureau’s website revealed this week that censors have approved “The Wandering Earth 2” for production. It plans to shoot in Qingdao and Haikou, the capital of the island province of Hainan, from October 2021 to March 2022.
Although the rest of the cast remains a mystery, “Wandering Earth” star and financier Wu Jing is confirmed to appear again alongside an unexpected newcomer: Hong Kong megastar Andy Lau. Lau has made frequent appearances in the past year to bolster Communist Party messages, making him appear a strong and political unproblematic candidate to help anchor the film. Given that Wu’s character died in the first movie, however, fans are speculating about his potential role, with some wondering whether the sequel may in fact be a prequel.
The film bureau record offers a brief plot summary for “Wandering Earth 2” that sounds like it could easily describe the first film as well, unveiling few new details. It reads: “The sun is about to be destroyed, and humans have built huge engines on the earth’s surfaces to help them find a new home. However, the road out into the universe is perilous. In order to save the earth, a group of young people of the wandering earth era again stepped forward to begin a battle against life and death.”
Guo will return to direct from a script he co-wrote with Gong Geer, a producer on the first film. That title was a loose adaptation of a novella of the same name by Chinese sci-fi giant Liu Cixin, whose trilogy “The Three-Body Problem” is now being adapted in the U.S. for Netflix.
Guo first publicly announced that he was planning this sequel in the fall of 2019. “Wandering Earth 2” is currently targeting a Chinese New Year’s release on January 22, 2023, allowing it to debut at the crest of China’s biggest box office week of the year.
The film should have strong prospects, since the original was itself an unexpected 2019 New Year’s hit that went on to earn $691 million. It remains China’s fourth highest grossing film of all time.
Beijing Culture, the main backer of the first “Wandering Earth” film, is not listed on the sequel’s registration record as one of the firms that submitted the application for approval. The companies named are Guo’s own studio Guo Fan Culture and Media and China Film Company.
An earlier registration record shows that the sequel passed script approval, the first hurdle of Chinese censorship, on Feb. 3.
In a past interview with local media, Guo has said that the series will likely continue as long as the franchise isn’t loss-making.