Netflix Vs. Tencent with Rival Adaptations of “The Three-Body Problem”

Two adaptations of “The Three-Body Problem” are in the works, with both Netflix and Tencent taking a stab at the sci-fi epic

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7:26 PM HKT, Sat November 6, 2021 1 mins read

On October 28, Netflix announced 12 actors set to appear in the TV adaption of the award-winning Chinese sci-fi novel The Three-Body Problem, the first book in Liu Cixin’s Remembrance of Earth’s Past trilogy.

The TV series will be run by David Benioff and Dan Weiss, the duo who launched the HBO epic Game of Thrones.

The recently named actors are: Jovan Adepo (Watchmen), John Bradley (Game of Thrones), Tsai Chin (Shang-Chi), Liam Cunningham (Hunger), Eiza González (Baby Driver), Jess Hong (Inked), Marlo Kelly (Dare Me), Alex Sharp (The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time), Sea Shimooka (Pink Skies Ahead), Saamer Usmani (The Mauritanian), Benedict Wong (Dr. Strange in the Multiverse of Madness), and Zine Tseng (On a Whim).


Image via Netflix

Netflix seems to have put some effort into finding actors with Asian heritage, who make up 33% of the recently announced cast members, but Chinese netizens are not overly impressed.

Several accounts reported the cast announcement on Weibo, and the commenters are all asking the same question: Why aren’t all of the actors Chinese?

The novel’s story is primarily based in China and set during the Cultural Revolution in the second half of the 20th century — a time when there weren’t many foreign faces in the country.

One netizen commented: “[if the show is not based in China,] it’s impossible to show the situation of Ye Wenjie (the protagonist) when she was young.”

Netflix hasn’t disclosed where this new series will be set, leading Chinese netizens to suspect it will occur outside China. “I think they are changing most characters from Chinese to people from other countries,” one complained.

Another chimed in, “It’s so strange. So, no Chinese people are making the show, huh?”

Six days later, the Chinese technology giant Tencent released the trailer for its version of The Three-Body Problem on November 3. So far, all the cast members announced on the project’s Douban (China’s IMDb) page are Chinese.

Tencent announced it would create its own version of the celebrated novel last year, and the trailer’s release has been met with considerable fanfare.

Netizens quickly began celebrating Tencent’s trailer, with the most popular comment on Weibo reading: “Do the series well! Don’t lose to Netflix, which will make up a different story.”

The Three-Body Problem by Liu Cixin is probably the most loved sci-fi novel in China, and the English-language version (translated by another sci-fi writer Ken Liu) won the prestigious Hugo Award in 2015. Obama told The New York Times in 2017 that he was reading the book, which he later hailed for its “immense scope.”

This article was updated at 10:51 AM on November 25, 2021, to clarify that all the cast members announced on the Douban page for Tencent’s “The Three-Body Problem” are Chinese.

Cover image via Tor Books

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