It seems like there’s a new adaptation of Liu Cixin‘s famous series of science fiction novels, Remembrance of Earth’s Past — more commonly referred to by the title of the first book, The Three-Body Problem — every week. But this is a big one.
Netflix have announced that they’ll be turning the Hugo Award-winning trilogy into a brand new series. Not only that, but they’ve signed up Looper and Star Wars: The Last Jedi director Rian Johnson, and Game of Thrones co-writers David Benioff and D.B. Weiss as executive producers. Alexander Woo, whose credits include HBO drama True Blood, is also on board.
Liu — whose Wandering Earth short story was adapted into a massively successful blockbuster in 2019 — described the new project as “a great honor” in a press release from Netflix. “I have the greatest respect for and faith in the creative team adapting The Three-Body Problem for television audiences.
“I set out to tell a story that transcends time and the confines of nations, cultures and races; one that compels us to consider the fate of humankind as a whole. It is a great honor as an author to see this unique sci-fi concept travel and gain fandom across the globe and I am excited for new and existing fans all over the world to discover the story on Netflix.”
First Look: Bilibili’s Animated “Three-Body Problem” Teaser
Liu Cixin will be joined as a consulting producer by Ken Liu, the science fiction writer whose translations brought The Three-Body Problem and The Wandering Earth to English language audiences.
No solid timeline has been attached to Netflix’s project publicly for the moment, but it joins a crowded field — not to mention one that can sometimes seem cursed. Chinese sci-fi fans have grown used to adaptations of Liu’s work being announced, only for the productions to be beset by delays. Streaming platform Bilibili’s ambitious animated version of the The Three-Body Problem was initially due out this year, for example, but is now set for release at an unspecified time in 2021. (That same platform at least has a Minecraft-animated version of the tales, however.)
Part of the problem with creating a version of the novels for TV or film lies in their scope. The stories deal with humanity’s first contact with alien life, but cover numerous eras and an expansive universe. As Benioff and Weiss put it: “Liu Cixin’s trilogy is the most ambitious science-fiction series we’ve read, taking readers on a journey from the 1960s until the end of time, from life on our pale blue dot to the distant fringes of the universe. We look forward to spending the next years of our lives bringing this to life for audiences around the world.”
How a “Minecraft”-Animated Adaptation of “The Three-Body Problem” Became a Smash Hit
Netflix is partnering with Chinese production company Yoozoo — who also have a hand in most of the other major Liu Cixin adaptations currently in the works — at a time when science fiction in China is attracting serious attention from authorities. Just last month, an official document encouraged science fiction creators to “study and implement Xi Jinping’s ‘socialism with Chinese characteristics,’ establish a humanity-centered creative direction […] highlight Chinese values, pass on Chinese aesthetics, establish the present age of Chinese innovation,” and “promote a scientific consciousness.”
Presumably Netflix’s project will be able to sidestep this — something noted by Chinese commenters online. “Not giving this to a domestic company to produce makes sense,” argues one user on microblogging platform Weibo. “Once it’s finished it’d just be randomly cut and edited by the authorities.”
Overall, reaction has been mixed on Chinese social media. One of the most liked comments about the news on Weibo states: “I was originally excited when I heard about Netflix’s adaptation, but the directors of Game of Thrones season 8?! Can we have the Chinese and international adaptations film at the same time now?”
Another highly-upvoted comment asks whether the directors of German Netflix drama Dark are available instead, while another simply reads: “Shame!”
Cover image: Filip Filkovic Philatz via Unsplash
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