Chinese sci-fi film industry to embrace brighter future

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By Liu Yang, People’s Daily

The Chinese sci-fi blockbuster “The Wandering Earth II”, which hit the cinema during the Chinese New Year holiday, presented a feast of science and technology to the audience – blue-fire-blowing earth engines, a quantum computer that knows everything, a space elevator rising up to the sky…

Sci-fi movies and dramas became sensational in China over recent years. Apart from “The Wandering Earth II,” sci-fi comedy “Moon Man” and the television series “Three-Body” also sparked wide responses across the country.

In 2020, the China Film Administration (CFA) and the China Association for Science and Technology (CAST) jointly released a guideline on promoting the development of sci-fi films. The guideline lists 10 policies and measures to better support and guide the production, screening, special effects and talent training for sci-fi movies.

Later, the two departments led the establishment of a consulting organization for sci-tech movie-making, which invites academicians, experts and outstanding sci-tech workers in aerospace, astronomy and physics. The expert group provides professional opinions and technical support for scriptwriting and filming, so as to make Chinese sci-fi movies more charming and logical from a scientific standpoint.

In the process of creating “The Wandering Earth II”, director Guo Fan placed a lot of emphasis on the authenticity and integrity of the scientific theories and practices presented in the film. Many scientists from the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) served as scientific consultants for the movie to help improve its worldview and visual performance.

Wang Yuanzhuo, a researcher with the CAS Institute of Computing Technology, was a consultant for the movie who laid a scientific conceptual foundation for the super artificial intelligence in the movie.

“A good sci-fi work must be rooted in realistic scientific cognition,” Wang said, adding that a believable and complete worldview should be designed in the movie that gives the audience the impression that it may actually happen.

According to Yang Lei, director of the TV series “Three-body,” the creation team spent more than three months interviewing scientists in such fields as radio astronomy, astrophysics, nanotechnology, and particle collision.

A commentator said professional advice from scientists is like a pair of wings for sci-fi movies and dramas, making them more realistic.

Chinese sci-fi movies and dramas were once made at low cost, with simple conception and limited influence.

After “The Wandering Earth II” hit the cinema, Guo said he became more confident in shooting blockbusters at a high industrial level.

The confidence came from the development of China’s aerospace technology, the improvement of the manufacturing industry and the application of new technologies in recent years, which have brought new technical methods for the creation and production of sci-fi movies and dramas.

“The Wandering Earth” learned from foreign teams in the making of many special props, but over 95 percent of the props in “The Wandering Earth II” were made by Chinese teams, Guo said.

“Our progress was based on the technological development of China,” he remarked.

Sci-fi movies and dramas are not scientific documentaries. The imagination serves for better storylines.

Guo told People’s Daily that he hopes “The Wandering Earth II” to showcase Chinese people’s aspiration for and adherence to “solidarity.”

“This movie, as a sci-fi work, conveys the value of the Chinese people. Chinese sci-fi movies should start with the Chinese culture and tell Chinese stories with modern technologies,” Guo said.

An expert noted that China is still in an early stage of sci-fi movie creation, and the sector still sees room for large-scale development.

Given the improving national strength, sci-tech development and prospering movie market, it is believed that Chinese sci-fi works will embrace a blooming future.