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The world’s biggest movie isn’t ‘Infinity War’ – or anything else you’ve heard of

Published Feb 16th, 2019 9:01AM EST
Wandering Earth movie
Image: Marvel Studios

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If any of you were scratching your head as to why DC’s Aquaman actually started showing to moviegoers in China before hitting US cinemas, maybe this will help put things in context.

As a testament to the size of the box office there and the scale of what a successful movie looks like in the country, the biggest film in the world right now is actually a Chinese picture. It’s bigger than Infinity War, bigger than anything Marvel — indeed, than anything you’ve heard of. The movie we’re talking about is The Wandering Earth, a sci-fi flick based on work by novelist Liu Cixin with a story that’s built around Chinese astronauts trying to keep earth from being destroyed by the sun.

The film opened in China earlier this month and raked in an insane haul of $2.7 billion yaun (equal to $405 million) in a little more than a week. Compare that to Infinity War, which hauled in $338 million domestically during its first week. The Force Awakens? $390 million. Black Panther? $291 million. The Wandering Earth did better than all of that, despite also competing against more than half a dozen new films that were opening against it at the same time.

Per a CNN report: “Reaction has been startling. ‘I didn’t expect China could make such a large-scale science-fiction film,’ said one of the top comments on Chinese film review site State-run news agency Xinhua, meanwhile, described it as a ‘new dawn for China’s sci-fi filmmaking.'”

Cixin has attributed the film’s blockbuster status in China to the country’s “rapid modernization.” Along those same lines, another interesting fact about the movie is that China’s censors allowed the filmmakers to depict the destruction of two Chinese cities — Beijing and Shanghai — which is something a movie there has never been allowed to do before.

Director Guo Fan told CNN that the reason The Wandering Earth has been so well received is because of the humanity at the heart of the story. “I made the lead role in memory of my father,” Guo told CNN. “It tells the story of a typical Chinese father’s love. It’s always forbearing and without too many words, but it’s so powerful. That’s my understanding of a father’s love.

“I liked watching sci-fi films when I was very young. One of the major reasons that I wanted to be a director was because I wanted to make sci-fi films. So this film is a process of realizing my dream.”

Andy Meek Trending News Editor

Andy Meek is a reporter based in Memphis who has covered media, entertainment, and culture for over 20 years. His work has appeared in outlets including The Guardian, Forbes, and The Financial Times, and he’s written for BGR since 2015. Andy's coverage includes technology and entertainment, and he has a particular interest in all things streaming.

Over the years, he’s interviewed legendary figures in entertainment and tech that range from Stan Lee to John McAfee, Peter Thiel, and Reed Hastings.