Daily Drip

“Monkey King” Director Set to Helm New Live-Action “Three-Body Problem” Movie


Plans for a big screen adaptation of China’s most famous work of science fiction, Liu Cixin’s Remembrance of Earth’s Past trilogy (often referred to by the name of the first book in the series, The Three-Body Problem), were announced earlier this week.

Liu’s famed trilogy has long been the subject of fevered speculation when it comes to both movie and TV adaptations, with so many projects having stuttered and stalled over the years that fans have jokingly referred to a curse. Yet the huge success of blockbuster The Wandering Earth — based on a short story by Liu — has triggered a rush to try again with adapting the books for both the big and small screen, including a major animated series for streaming site Bilibili.


First Look: Bilibili’s Animated “Three-Body Problem” Teaser

The complexity of the tale has led many to believe that an animated adaptation is really the only way to capture The Three-Body Problem, but this week’s announcement specifies that the new film will be live-action. The news came from a post on social media site Weibo under the official account for the Journey to the West-inspired animated film Monkey King: Hero is Back. The post stated that the director of that film, Tian Xiaopeng, had agreed to helm a live-action version of Liu’s novels.

That project would join not just the aforementioned (and delayed) Bilibili adaptation, but also at least two other ongoing attempts to create TV series from Liu’s works (including one of Three-Body-related novel Ball Lightning). Recent months have also seen a line of Three-Body comics from Tencent and the acclaimed return of a Three-Body show that was originally animated within the game Minecraft.


How a “Minecraft”-Animated Adaptation of “The Three-Body Problem” Became a Smash Hit

Tian’s Monkey King epic was released in 2015 and his directorial follow-up Deep Sea was slated for release this year, though its future currently seems unclear given the ongoing closure of China’s cinemas. That, and the story’s reputation for being “unfilmable,” mean a Three-Body adaptation from the director is unlikely to be hitting screens any time soon.

Cover photo by Greg Rakozy on Unsplash

Jake Newby
Jake Newby is a Shanghai-based writer and editor with more than a decade's experience living and working in China. Previously managing editor of RADII and Time Out Shanghai, he's also written for the Associated Press, The Wire, the Financial Times and more.
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