BEIJING, Feb. 5 (Xinhua) -- Shanghai landmarks collapsing in earthquakes, extreme weather and tsunamis that reduce world's population by half, Earth about to collide with Jupiter, a Chinese sci-fi blockbuster with daunting and unusual settings hit cinema screens Tuesday.
"The Wandering Earth," China's first big-budget, hard-core sci-fi film, adapted from a short story by Hugo Award winner Liu Cixin, has created high expectations for Chinese cinema fans who hope it will usher in a new era for Chinese sci-fi.
In the film mankind is threatened by a dying and swelling sun, and giant thrusters propel the planet out of the solar system on a 2,500-year journey in search of a new sun. It focuses on a Chinese astronaut and his emotionally estranged son, as they join a global mission to prevent Earth from crashing into Jupiter.
Director Guo Fan told Xinhua that the movie was not a "hero movie" but about humanity fighting a crisis "as one community."
"It has little to do with nations, races or languages -- at that time (of global calamities) everyone makes the same choice. In our story, there is no superhero who saves the world, but ordinary people united as one to embark on the wandering journey with Earth," he said.
Apart from Hollywood-style visuals, the movie is trying to woo moviegoers with its many Chinese elements, from Spring Festival celebrations in Beijing's underground city and Shanghai in a doomsday scenario to typical Chinese parenting.
China has the world's second-largest film market, with a box office reaching 55.9 billion yuan (about 8.05 billion U.S. dollars) in 2017. As a high-grossing film genre, sci-fi movies in China are mostly Hollywood imports.
"The Wandering Earth" has received good reviews in previews, including from Liu who hailed the movie as "good beyond expectation."
"It's hard to believe that this is the first big-budget sci-fi blockbuster done by China," said the author of the awards-winning "The Three-Body Problem." "If it fares well in the box office, it will set a good start for China's future sci-fi movies."
The film took four years to complete, and Guo, whose previous works include a teen film and a fantasy romance film, said the hardest part was overcoming ubiquitous disbelief that his team could produce a high-quality sci-fi movie. "It was a long process for us to win trust."
The film will run into an intensely competitive Spring Festival holiday, a peak movie-going period in China, facing rivals including three high-profile comedies "Crazy Alien," "Pegasus" and "The New King of Comedy," Jackie Chan's "The Knight of Shadows: Between Yin and Yang" and Hong Kong crime film "Integrity."
The film is also scheduled to hit theaters in the United States, Australia and New Zealand on Tuesday.