Three Body Trailer

Here's the first teaser for Netflix's adaptation of Cixin Liu's novel

Three Body Trailer
Image: Netflix 

Over the weekend, Netflix held its big Tudum event – a showcase of its upcoming original movies and shows. Amongst the reveals was a first glimpse of 3 Body Problem, its adaptation of Cixin Liu's science fiction novel, The Three-Body Problem.

The book is widely credited with bringing the world of Chinese science fiction to western audiences. Originally released in China in 2008 and translated by Ken Liu (Grace of Kings) in 2014, the book has earned considerable acclaim for its epic, time-and-space-bending story, one that runs (over the course of the trilogy) from the Chinese Cultural Revolution all the way up to the heat death of the universe. It starts off when a woman named Ye Wenjie is imprisoned in a labor camp in Mongolia in the midst of the Cultural Revolution. She had studied astrophysics, and because of her skills, she's brought into a secretive governmental program called Red Coast, ostensibly an anti-satellite program, but one in which the Chinese government is looking for extraterrestrial life.

When she receives a message from a planet called Trisolaris – and a warning not to respond to it – she replies, inviting the alien civilization to Earth. The message will have devastating consequences for the future of humanity, and kicks off the events of the novel.  

Netflix announced the series back in 2020, and it has a huge number of names behind it: David Benioff and D.B. Weiss (of Game of Thrones fame / infamy), Rian Johnson (Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Knives Out/Glass Onion) and his producing partner Ram Bergman, as well as Alexander Woo (The Terror: Infamy). The series is due out in January 2024.  

The trailer features a voiceover from Carl Sagan: "There are those who say we should not inquire too closely into who else might be living in that darkness." It's an apt quote, given one of the major themes in Liu's books: the galaxy can be a frightening place. The trailer showcases a bunch of the major things from that first book: scenes from the cultural revolution, first contact, and some of the problems that crop up as the story picks up speed and as humanity begins to become aware that they're about to be invaded. I don't want to give out too much of the plot, but it's a pretty thrilling ride, and I'd recommend picking it up if you haven't yet.

Narratives of modernization
A history of Chinese science fiction Image: Andrew LiptakIn 2015, author Ken Liu stepped up to the podium at Sasquan,the 73rd World Science Fiction Convention, to accept the Hugo Award for BestNovel on behalf of Liu Cixin, author of The Three-Body Problem. It was ahistoric moment: Liu

What's interesting about this is that it isn't the first adaptation that we've seen of this story, not by a long shot. There was a film that was produced in China that's apparently still sitting on a shelf somewhere, there were a bunch of animated projects floating around, as well as another live-action version that came out last year in China (you can watch that on YouTube).

I've been looking forward to the series, and I'm interested in seeing how Netflix treats it: given its scale (especially after the first book), it'll be a formidable challenge.