Movies

Another Three-Body Problem Adaptation is On Its Way

Netflix has some competition.

Netflix
Jess Hong as Jin Cheng in '3 Body Problem'

The coming of the aliens known as Trisolarans (or the San-Ti, as they’re known in Netflix’s 3 Body Problem) will take at least 400 years, but within just a few short years on Earth, there will be at least four different interpretations of how that glacial alien invasion unfolds.

As David Benioff, D.B Weiss, and Alexander Woo mount their plans to adapt the next two volumes from the trilogy of books that began with The Three-Body Problem, another movie version of Cixin Liu’s epic is in the works. And, it’s possible that this new Three-Body movie will be out before Netflix completes its full version of 3 Body Problem.

Mild spoilers ahead for all three novels from the Remembrance of Earth’s Past trilogy.

As reported by Variety and other outlets, a new film version of The Three-Body Problem is set to be directed by Zhang Yimou, the director renowned for his films like Raise the Red Lantern and Hero. This announcement came out of the Shanghai International Film Festival, directly from Wang Changtian, the CEO of Enlight Media. In essence, this Chinese-language feature film has absolutely nothing to do with Netflix’s 3 Body Problem, and will likely stick closer to the characters from the first and second novels. As many readers noticed, the Netflix version took the character of nanotech expert Wang Miao, and essentially split his story into three different people: Jack Rooney (John Bradley), Jin Cheng (Jess Hong), and Auggie Salazar (Eiza González).

“We hope that director Zhang Yimou can grasp the essence of The Three-Body Problem novel and make some breakthroughs and innovations,” Wang said, adding that he hoped the movie would “gain something in the international market.” This seems to mean that on some level, this version of the story could directly rival the Netflix show. If Zhang Yimou’s take on the story goes on to garner global acclaim (which has happened with his movies before) then, suddenly, in a few years, audiences around the world may be seeing two contradictory versions of this story.

How many 3 Body Problem adaptations are there?

Zhang Yimou in 2024.

Anthony Kwan/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

Oddly enough, this has happened before, though, not on the same scale. Prior to the Netflix launch of 3 Body Problem in March 2024, fans of the book series could already see two different TV adaptations, both of which were made in China; the 2022 anime series The Three-Body Problem (sometimes called San Ti) and the 2023 live-action series Three-Body. The live-action series (which hit Peacock in the U.S. in 2024) focused on only the events of the first novel, while the anime series is mostly an adaptation of the second book, The Dark Forest. Technically, Season 1 of the Netflix show adapts aspects of all three books, though the majority of the action sticks with the main events of the first book, and the beginning (ish) of the second book.

The film rights to Cixin Liu’s books have been owned by Yoozoo, a Chinese gaming company, but previously owned by Lin Qi, who, bizarrely, was fatally poisoned by one of his colleagues in 2020 and never lived to see the Netflix version in 2024. As of this writing, it seems that Yoozoo is legally able to commission multiple adaptations of the 3 Body novels simultaneously. Notably, although there are three TV versions — an anime series, a Chinese-language TV series, and the Netflix show — there has never been a feature film adaptation.

As of now, there’s no set release date for the new movie version of The Three-Body Problem.

Could this be the best 3 Body yet?

How big can a 3 Body movie get?

Netflix

A rival Three-Body movie could hypothetically be in theaters worldwide at the same time as one of the upcoming seasons of the Netflix show. But this might not be a bad thing. In fact, it seems possible, and even likely, that this bigger-budget Three-Body movie could capture the ethos of the novel in a way that the Netflix series sometimes falls short. One microcosm of the limitations of the Netflix show is arguably in the detective character of Da Shi. While Benedict Wong plays him brilliantly, the writing of the Netflix show declaws this character a bit. In the novel, he’s much more hard-edged and ruthless. In the series, he’s mostly grumpy.

While the Netflix 3 Body takes some big swings with the source material, it's hard to call those changes risky. For the most part, the characters tend to be safer, TV versions of their novel counterparts. This isn’t to say that Wang Miao is particularly interesting, or Luo Ji is likable. But, the Netflix series essentially doesn’t have these characters at all. This means Zhang Yimou has a unique opportunity that the Netflix version hasn’t even touched: to actually take the characters from the book and make them into movie stars.

3 Body Problem Season 1 streams on Netflix.

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