We can learn from blockbuster, end-of-world films

By Daniel Jin, Columnist

Usually, science fiction movies belong to the West, particularly the United States. “The Martian,” “Ready Player One,” “Pacific Rim” and many other great movies — you name it.

However, a brand new Chinese science fiction movie, “The Wandering Earth,” breaks into this field and initiates society-wide discussions. Even though not everyone loves science fiction movies, this movie definitely deserves your attention.

“The Wandering Earth” tells us an unbelievable story: The sun is going to explode in a century, threatening billions of lives on earth. The so-called “United Earth Government” has a bold plan that aims to push the earth away from the sun. However, this plan needs thousands of giant nuclear engines and will sacrifice half of the global population when earth’s rotation stops.

To save the rest of the population, people accept the plan and the earth starts wandering.

To be frank, such disaster will never happen during my lifetime and many of yours. But that is exactly why science fiction movies are so attractive. When human beings are put into such desperate situations, wisdom, courage and the need to save civilization arises.

Just like what we could see in this movie, people are no longer eager for what they could gain from society, but instead try to figure out what they could do for social welfare. They put down disagreements, anger and fear. Instead, they become more united than ever before, fighting for the survival of the earth.

We could get a lot more accomplished if we thought in the same way, too.

Even now, without any immediate global disaster, we should strive for unification. Things like the current Virginia Governor’s photo and what it implies behind the event should not tear us apart. The governor is guilty, and so is the person who makes the photo public, since such behavior will merely open up old wounds. We should not be affected by it and we need to rise above it.

Besides unity, there is a question that deserves an answer: should we trust the government without any reservation when disasters come?

Many of you might disagree. You might still remember Hurricane Katrina in 2005. It is somewhat widely acknowledged that inefficiency of administrative branches (instead of the hurricane itself) caused huge damages.

In “The Wandering Earth,” though, all people listen to what the government orders, which is difficult to imagine in the free world. Or, they are forced to do so, just like what is happening in China. The result of this is striking: The government decides to give up on saving the planet since it is way too close to Jupiter. Everyone on earth is fooled.

As what Alexis de Tocqueville wrote in his book, citizens should always be alarmed and cautious when it comes to enforceable orders from the government. Individual judgement needs to be utilized so that democracy, autonomy and even human lives will not be ruined.

“The Wandering Earth,” as well as the rest of these global disaster movies like “The Day After Tomorrow” and “Knowing,” might seem a bit overbearing with the CGI and grandiose plots. But if anything, it’s these movies that show us, briefly, how much society can accomplish if we all actually listened to and believed in one another.

Daniel is a graduate student in LAS.

[email protected]