Film Reviews

Restart the Earth – Film Review

Humanity is at a strange point in its history. We’re facing the point of no return in regards to the destruction we’ve caused to our planet, with less and less time to do something about it every single day. It feels almost certain that we’ve engineered our own end, and that our future generations are going to be living in every increasingly dire circumstances as the planet suffers.

As such, eco-disasters have slowly been on the rise. When you’re living in a time when forests are burning, the seas are rising, the ice-caps are melting, and entire species are going extinct, it’s hard not to incorporate the extreme shifts in our planet into fiction. Restart the Earth, written and directed by Chinese director Zhenzhao Lin, is the latest piece of fiction to cash in on this growing trend.

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Restart the Earth begins a few years after the end of the world, but quickly catches us up through a series of flashbacks across the first fifteen minutes or so. Faced with increased global extremes, a group of scientists got together to try to improve the ability of various flora to survive in harsh conditions, hoping that it would help combat global warming. Unfortunately, the experiments resulted in the plants becoming both sentient, and hyper evolved. The now predatory, interconnected flora turned on every living thing it could find, using any animal (including humanity) as a food source.

Two years later, the world as we know it is gone, plants have run rampant, destroying entire cities and covering every inch of the planet. Those that have survived the initial ‘green wave’ are surviving in small pockets, using UV lights to keep the monstrous plants away, hoping that one day things can improve. One of these survivors is Yang Hao (Mickey He) and his young daughter YuanYuan (Zhang Mingcan). When YuanYaun is captured by one of the plant tendrils that breaks its way into their small home, Yang goes after her, and the two of them discover a special unit of soldiers from the Joint Command Centre who are part of a global mission to beat back the super plants before a second Green Wave hits and destroys the surviving members of the human race.

Restart the Earth is very much a B Movie, and I say that with the greatest of affection and respect. The plot is very ridiculous, and the set pieces that the characters go through feel like an attempt to out-do the previous ones, and to compete with the wildest big budget video games. There are a number of points in the movie that feel like they’ve been lifted out of other similar projects, and one of these in particular strikes me as the reason the film has been marketed as being similar to The Last of Us. Despite this, the actors play it completely seriously throughout, and it stops the film from veering too far into the ridiculous and keeps things feeling somewhat grounded.

That being said, the film absolutely has a propensity to embrace self sacrifice and heroic moments, as is popular in big blockbusters (and Chinese blockbusters especially). There’s more than one moment of ultimate sacrifice across the course of the film that you begin to suspect that every single character is going to throw themselves into a fiery explosion at some point. However, it is nice to see a global fight back against extinction where it’s not an American giving the stirring speech that gives humanity the push it needs to save the day.

The film’s effects are mostly decent, though there are a number of times when you can see where a bit more money could have been spent in order to bring certain moments up to scratch. These moments aren’t that common though, and the film sits nicely in the mid-budget range where you expect some shakiness, yet it can still pleasantly surprise you. For example, some of the monster plant designs are really pretty good.

For the most part the survivors are dealing with masses of vines that are tearing up the ground or bringing down buildings, but there are also snake-like tendrils that slither around the place hunting for humans to eat, that have a design that evokes images of dragons and fantasy serpents. There’s also a horrific plant creature at the start of the film that’s feeding on multiple people at once, which has a mass of vines that look almost like a hanging brain that evokes nightmarish imagery. Sadly, this level of creativity doesn’t appear all that often, and much of the plants end up being unmemorable.

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It does manage to pace itself pretty decently though, and it manages to pack a decent amount into its relatively short run time. It sets up the entire scenario, and gives a few scenes of flashback character motivation for the central characters before most movies have even introduced the leads. It keeps things moving briskly from there, throwing the characters from one set piece to the next without much chance to stop and take a breather, and by the time the film reaches the point where it feels the finale will happen you realise there’s another twenty minutes or so to go, and the movie throws some even wilder stuff at you. It ends up feeling like you’ve had a two hour plus movie crammed into a smaller package, without feeling like you’ve missed out on anything.

Restart the Earth might not be the most creative movie around, and it borrows heavily from other places, but it at least tries to be a bit different. It might not succeed at being totally unique or memorable, but the attempt makes it enjoyable to watch, and there’s nothing hugely egregious here to put you off or stop you from recommending it. If you’re looking for something a little schlocky to pass the time this film will probably be entertaining enough to dedicate 90 minutes to.

Restart the Earth is available now on DVD, Blu-ray, or Download-to-Own from Dazzler Media.

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