Restart the Earth (2021) poster

Restart the Earth (2021)


China. 2021.


Director – Lin Zhenzhao, Action Director – Yao Gaofeng, Screenplay – Lin Zhenzhao & Zhang Shengfan, Producers – Lin Xuejian & You Wei, Photography – Xia Xiao-Ming, Music – Jim Pieda & Qi Yanfeng, Special Effects Director – Wu Shangbin, Art Direction – Yang Shuai & Zhong Weixi. Production Company – Zhong Lele Pictures/TVZ One.


Mickey He/He Shengming (Yang Hao), Zhang Ming-Can (Yuan Yuan), Mi Luo (Li Mo), Li Ning (Fang Yong), Tang Xin (Twenty-One), Naomen Eerdeni (Lao Gui), Ruoxi Li (Xu Jing), Huang Kai-Lun (Stone), Ye Xin Yu (Lao Lei), Yu Rongguang (Senior Officer), Michelle Ye (Ye Yan)


It is three years since plants have gone wild and overrun eighty percent of the Earth’s surface. Yang Hao survives in the ruins with his young daughter Yuan Yuan. His botanist wife Ye Yan was responsible for unleashing the plants while attempting to find a means of accelerated plant growth to deal with desertification, but was killed in the process. They are able to keep some of the plants at bay with the use of ultraviolet light. Yuan Yuan is snatched up in her bed by plants. In racing to save her, Yang Hao is saved by a unit of soldiers who are part of a team around the globe planning to release a reagent that will drive back the plants. When the group’s scientist is killed, Yang Hao reluctantly agrees to join the team. However, they are facing a green tide that has accelerated well in advance of predictions and is threatening their plans.

There are not many science-fiction films to have emerged from Chinese Cinema. In genre material, there are plentiful Wu Xia fantasies, ghost stories and assorted thrillers but not much has emerged from the science-fiction genre. However, that has started to change in the last few years with the likes of Shanghai Fortress (2019), The Wandering Earth (2019), Mutant Ghost Wargirl (2022), Warriors of Future (2022) and the tv series The Three-Body Problem (2023- ).

Restart the Earth is the Chinese equivalent of a Michael Bay film. To this extent, the film is often constructed around spectacular set-pieces – in particular, the tension-laden traversal across a bridge between two skyscrapers at the same time as the surrounding buildings are collapsing around them and the daughter (Zhang Ming-Can) falls and is caught on the end of a rope. As with much Chinese drama, there is a focus on the tragic sacrifice for the common good and the unquestioning certainty of the government forces, which all come in big simplistic and emotive arcs.

We have had assorted killer plant films before, ranging from the various versions of The Day of the Triffids (1951) to The Little Shop of Horrors (1960) and Little Shop of Horrors (1986) to the more recent likes of The Happening (2008), The Ruins (2008), Splinter (2008) and Gaia (2019). However, this most count as being the most epically scaled of them all – we even get plant tsunamis and see plants covering the Earth and trees reaching into orbit. (For a more detailed listing see Films About Plantlife).

The team make their way across a bridge between skyscrapers Restart the Earth (2021)
The team make their way across a bridge between collapsing skyscrapers

One of the big unfortunates of the film is rampant Bad Science. It is stated the plant life now covers eighty percent of the land area of the Earth. I am not a botanist but I do know that this amount of plant life would have serious effects on the atmosphere. For one, with so many plants converting all the carbon dioxide, the atmosphere would become much more highly oxygenated. At some point, this would become too high for humans to be able to breathe any longer. One of the absurdities that the writers throw in is having one character who is constantly trying to light up a cigarette – this would be a near suicidal action as in such a highly oxygenated atmosphere this would make the surrounding area go up in a massive conflagration. Although you also suspect that with plants covering so much of the planet. there wouldn’t be enough carbon dioxide for the plants to process, let alone fresh water for their roots, and all this rampant overgrowth would eventually kill most of the plants off. One of the upsides of this however would be that this would clear up the entire issue of Global Warming.

One of the other scientific absurdities is having plants that can be held off with ultraviolet rays. I am not sure if the writers realise this but plants subsist on sunlight and sunlight is ultraviolet rays. Another absurdity is having plants that are so large they stretch into orbit – the Earth’s stratosphere reaches up 31 miles, while the exosphere goes up several hundred miles. Any tree that high would simply collapse under its own weight. Not to mention the physical difficulty there would be delivering water and nutrients up to such a high level by osmosis – in Earth’s atmosphere, water can only rise to 33.9 feet above ground level without any artificial aid like a pump.

One of the most absurd pieces is the climactic scenes trying to inject the reagent into the Earth’s crust, which is treated as akin to a human body receiving an injection into the bloodstream from a syringe where the assumption is that it will spread and clear out the infection. In actuality, the Earth’s crust is a lot of rock that keeps going down to the point where the pressure of all the ground above turns it molten.

The film is available on Netflix in a dubbed version. I make a point of trying to watch a film in its original language and had to download a Chinese-language version. Unfortunately, the Chinese version seems designed to make it as difficult as possible to watch for any English-language viewer with the subtitles printed in tiny font at the bottom of the screen and, even though I am a fast reader, rushing by so fast it was hard to keep up.

Trailer here

Actors: , , , , , , , , , ,
Themes: , , , , , ,