3 The creators of Body Problem want to talk to books
3 The creators of Body Problem want to talk to books

Between its expanded, more ethnically diverse cast and more advanced take on virtual reality gaming, the new Netflix 3 Body problem the series takes place very differently from the book it adapts. Cixin Liu’s novel is so dense and driven by internal dialogue that it is thought to be unadaptable for the screen. Changes are almost always necessary when translating stories as complex as 3 Body problemin different media (and in this case also languages). But when I recently spoke with executive producers David Benioff, DB Weiss and Alexander Wu before 3 Body problemat the premiere, they said that while they always knew their story needed to be different, when they started rethinking the narrative beats, they realized “there’s going to have to be some back and forth” between the show and Liu’s book.

In Liu’s book, a very small number of brilliant Chinese physicists are left to their own devices to find out why the world’s scientists are killing themselves and what causes the world’s particle accelerators to malfunction in inexplicable ways. Although the characters in the book start out working in isolation, the arrival of a mysterious VR game gradually draws them into each other’s orbits. And as they grow closer, the terrifying truth of what the entire world is facing becomes all too clear.

The Netflix show tells a much similar story, but its relatively larger cast of main characters comes together much more quickly than their book counterparts—so much so that you don’t have to spend as much time watching them figure things out for themselves. Liu uses the inner thoughts of the characters to help readers understand the book’s more abstract ideas about technology and how societies can be organized differently, with more focus on the fates of future generations.

Internal dialogue doesn’t always make for the most interesting viewing experiences, and one of the biggest challenges for Benioff, Weiss and Wu as they begin to disrupt the scripts of 3 Body problem was figuring out how best to draw these scenes from the book in ways that would make for good television. In many cases, the answer turned out to be simply doing things in a completely different way.

“Some things work great on the page because I’m in that person’s head and I know exactly what they’re thinking,” Benioff said. “But when I take that scene off the page and put it on the screen, I have no way of knowing what he’s thinking. I have to find some other way to get into his mind and his motivations other than just putting them in writing on the page.

Liu uses characters like Wang Miao – a professor haunted by visions of a glowing countdown that only he can see – to explore the feelings of fear and confusion that would grip people when faced with a threat like the one at the center of his novel . on Netflix 3 Body problem reworks Wang into five different characters whose shared friendships are a big part of what makes them start solving problems together basically from the first episode. Interpersonal relationships were also part of Liu’s story, though to a much lesser extent. But Wu explained that the decision to split Wang’s character was also motivated by a desire to give viewers an emotional foothold to cling to.

“In the case of these books, the main characters often don’t cross paths,” Wu noted. “They have their own independent storylines and sometimes they just disappear and never come back. But from all our experience adapting books to television, the one thing we think is at the heart of any great series that gets under your skin is the characters. It’s what makes you want to watch the next episode and make sure you’re counting down the days until the next season.

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Wu reasoned that it was important to get all the players on the board “because that’s what’s going to drive us throughout” the series as it gets more sci-fi and fantasy 3 Body problem does.

“And when all these crazy things happen, you’re emotionally involved with them,” Wu said. “So instead of just looking at a ton of amazing effects — of which there are a lot — you get it from an emotional point of view as well.”

Because on Netflix 3 Body problem spends so much time fleshing out the characters and their dynamics, it almost feels like the show’s real story — one that reaches much further into the future and beyond planet Earth — is only just getting started at the end of the first season. Netflix has not yet announced whether it plans to renew 3 Body problem for more seasons that would delve deeper into Liu’s A memory of Earth’s past trilogy. But Benioff says he and his collaborators are ready if it does happen – “[we] we want to spend the next five or six years of our lives working on bringing them to the screen. It’s a pretty strong feeling.”

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