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Guess how Netflix made “Three-Body”?



As early as 2015, the “Three-Body” movie started, directed by Zhang Fanfan, starring Feng Shaofeng and Zhang Jingchu. I don’t know what the film will look like. Except for a few stills and posters, it was originally scheduled to be released in July 2016, but the ticket was eventually skipped. Ming Youzu Films CEO Kong Xiangzhao clamored when he first signed the copyright of “Three-Body”, “The Chinese must shoot themselves, and if they are destroyed, they must be destroyed by us Chinese.”

After turning around, he sold the overseas copyright of the film and television series to Netflix. Last week, Netflix officially announced that it would make “Three-Body” into an English series, and also invited David Benioff and DB Weiss of “Game of Thrones” as screenwriters (fans jokingly called them 2DB).

Guess how Netflix made "Three-Body"? 1

The movie poster of “Three-Body” movie, which has built up a high momentum of public opinion, and finally failed to stop | Official image

Netflix is ​​full of sincerity. In addition to 2DB, the main creative team also has Alexander Woo, the writer and producer of “True Blood” and “Dangerous”. He is good at handling those extremely ambitious legends. At the same time, executive producer Rian Johnson and his partner Ram Bergman (“Knife Out of the Sheath”, “Star Wars: The Last Jedi”, etc.) are also among them.

These big shots are all fans of the original work. Peter Friedlander, vice president of Netflix’s self-produced drama business, recalled that when I first started discussing this project together, I would frequently receive emails from everyone. As long as I had time, I would enjoy it. The chat was endless.

This time Da Liu (a fan’s nickname for the original author Liu Cixin) and Liu Yukun, the translator of the English version of Santi, are also in the main creative team, and they will assume the role of consultant. This may provide a little extra guarantee for the presentation of the final episode.

It’s just that the film and television of “Three-Body” has almost become a “wolf is coming” story, and many book fans say that they don’t have much hope.

But if you think on the bright side, the luxurious line-up of screenwriters from Quan You and the birth of “House of Cards”, “Kingdom”, “Black Mirror”, “Stranger Things”, “Super Feeling Hunt” and other popular self-produced dramas Netflix should still give people some expectations.

Even from behind the birth of Quan You, we can also guess how Netflix will make “Three-Body”.

You might as well use Quan You as a ruler

Although no one knows how Netflix will shoot “Three-Body”, if we hope it will eventually become a magnificent sci-fi world, then we might as well refer to “Game of Thrones” to see how Quanyou was born. .

After George R.R. Martin left Hollywood, he devoted all his energy to the creation of “A Song of Ice and Fire.” “I don’t have to worry about the budget, nor do I have to worry about what the current special effects are.” So “A Song of Ice and Fire” has a lot of magnificent scenes, and Martin wrote this series without thinking about being adapted for film and television.

After the release of “Lord of the Rings 1” caused a sensation, Hollywood film studios began to seek more fantasy novels on the big screen. “At first I had a meeting with some filmmakers. They said I like your book, but I can’t make it like that.” Martin said. They said there are too many characters and story lines. If they follow their ideas, it might be a good movie. , But it’s not my story.

Benioff and Weiss later suggested that Martin make “A Song of Ice and Fire” into an HBO series. “It’s difficult to devote myself to one thing like I did when I was a kid, reading eight hours of books without any distractions. I haven’t done this for several years, but this book made me feel that way again.” Benioff said. .

Later, the success of Quan You’s first few seasons also proved that 2DB has a very deep understanding of the original work.

“Game of Thrones” was produced in January 2007. Due to the American Screenwriters Association’s general strike, the pilot series “Winter is Coming” was not filmed for the first time until 2009. After the poor ratings in private viewing, HBO requested Large-scale re-shooting (about 90% of the plot, and director changes).

In the script accidentally discovered by the reporter of the Huffington Post, the content of the pilot episode has indeed changed greatly from the first episode of the first season that was officially aired. Including the scene where the Night King appears, the dragon mother is not even Emilia Clarke (Emilia Clarke).

From the perspective of production costs, the production cost of Quanyou is around US$590 million in seasons 1-8. Generally, the production cost of each episode of the American TV series is 2 million US dollars, but the first season of “Game of Thrones” single episode investment has reached 6 million US dollars, and this figure has risen to 8 million US dollars by the fifth season, and the eighth season even more. The price of a single integration is as high as 15 million US dollars.

Of course, because of the huge worldview involved, Quan You’s cast is estimated to be the largest in the field of TV production. HBO also announced the pay of several starring actors. In the eighth season, among the 8 starring actors, there are 5 starring actors who paid as much as $500,000 for an episode, namely Snow, Dragon Mother, Cersei, Little Devil, and James.

It’s just that no amount of production investment can save Quan You’s unfinished ending. Although some netizens are washing the ground for 2DB, it means that the original story is too grand. But it is undeniable that since the fourth season, without the support of the original work, screenwriters have begun to not be good at writing. Even the foreshadowings laid down by Mr. Martin in the previous four seasons have been dealt with across the board, so this is why there have been a large number of fast-moving characters since the seventh season.

In terms of character portrayal, maybe 2DB does not have as thorough understanding of the medieval history, politics, tactics, and human nature as the old man Martin, leading to the lack of coherence in many character changes, and it is so fast that everyone can’t recognize it. Of course, some netizens complained that the two screenwriters had a second-degree thinking. They were not as big as Martin’s father, which caused the final plot to completely collapse, which made people unbearable to look at it.

But for “Three Body”, although this is a work with a relatively large span of time and space and the same magnificent theme, the background of its occurrence is at least the modern world we are relatively familiar with, and there is a completed original work for reference. Can you say that it is better than Quan You?

Actually not necessarily.

So… how is Netflix going to do “Three Body”?

If Netflix has anything, it must be abundant funds and mature film and television industry standards.

So, what scale of production investment might “Three Body” have?

“Three Body” has three original works. If you refer to Quan You, “Three Body” will be presented in at least six seasons, with 10 episodes per season.

The production cost of the pilot episode may not be less than US$5 million. However, the production cost of the official drama series will not be too high at the beginning, and may remain at around 2 million to 3 million US dollars in the initial stage. It is estimated that the total cost of completing the six seasons should be around 120 million to 180 million US dollars.

However, with the emergence of the Three-body World and the unfolding of the subsequent plot, the investment in special effects is bound to rise, but it should not be possible to exceed the cost of 15 million US dollars in the eighth season of Quanyou. However, the extension of the filming cycle in later seasons will also increase the actors’ pay.

When will we see “Three Body” on Netflix?

Judging from the difficulty of adapting the script, the main creative team of “Three Body” may take more time to polish, considering the review after submission of the first draft, the shooting of the pilot episode, and subsequent feedback, revisions and even re-shooting It is possible to conservatively estimate that the broadcast of the first season of “Three-body” will not be possible in the next one or two years.

Because “Three Body” is a hard science fiction novel. Therefore, how to present the obscure technical concepts of the original book and how to express the grand narrative of the original book has become the primary problem for the creative team.

Guess how Netflix made "Three-Body"? 2

“Three Body” Animated Trailer Poster | Official Picture

The American media The Ringer commented that, unlike “Game of Thrones”, which focuses on the depiction of human nature, “Three Body” is based on a large number of physical settings. After filming, it is difficult for ordinary audiences to understand it.

In a sci-fi story, it is necessary to create a character that can give the audience a sense of substitution. This character must lead the audience to grasp all the information the screenwriter wants to convey. For example, when a character like Ye Wenjie is finally presented on the screen, the characterization needs more Substantiated and full, the screenwriter’s inclination to the role cannot lose the grand theme that the original book wants to express.

Who is likely to get a contract to star in “Three-Body”?

The relatively simple narrative background means that the scale of the characters in “Three Body” will certainly not reach the level of Quan You.

There are only 11 main characters in the original work, and Ye Wenjie, Wang Miao, and Shi Qiang are the permanent characters among them. But considering that Netflix will make “Three-Body” into an English drama, it may choose from the more popular Asian or English-speaking mainland Chinese actors.

For example, Liu Yifei, who recently appeared in the Disney movie “Mulan”, Wu Tianmin in “Golden Romance”, Wu Shanzhuo in “Kill Eve,” and Wen Mingna in “S.H.I.E.L.D. Agents”, as well as Michelle Yeoh, Gong Li, Zhang Ziyi, Liu Yuling, etc. These Chinese actors, who are well-known in Hollywood, may become candidates for Ye Wenjie.

And the Korean American actor John Zhao (Sulu in the “Star Trek” movie series), who is famous for his campus comedy debut, and Donnie Yen, and the Japanese actor Ken Watanabe, who has appeared in “Inception”, in “Travel to Busan” Ma Dongxi could be candidates for other male roles.

However, considering the schedule and remuneration and other reasons, it is not ruled out that Netflix will use foreign actors to complete the shooting of “Three Body”, or even some new generation stars that we are not familiar with, or active on TikTok, Instagram, YouTube Internet celebrities on the traffic and so on.

The casting of “Three-Body” shouldn’t be a big problem, and it can definitely save at least half of the cost of paying actors than Quan You. Perhaps Netflix is ​​more concerned about how to better visualize these sci-fi elements such as Sophon, water drop, and two-way foil.

Will “Three Body” still follow the background of the original work? Will the correct values ​​advocated by Americans violate the core ideas of the original work?

The previous English version of “Three-Body 2: The Dark Forest” had to modify more than 1,000 changes to cater for “cultural differences.” The American publishing house believed that words like purity (pure, kind) and angelic (angelic) should be limited in number. To say that the Secretary-General of the United Nations is a beautiful woman and that the four wall-facers are all men involve gender discrimination.

In fact, the English version of “Three-Body” has also been spotted by demanding fans with many translation faults. To a certain extent, the adaptation of film and television dramas certainly cannot present 100% of the original content. There is no problem with the portrayal of key characters and the construction and promotion of the key plot. In fact, even if it is a qualified work, this may require more understanding from the audience and the three-body fans. Considering that there are Liu and Liu Yukun as consultants in the main creative team, there should be no mistakes in the general direction.

Is it possible to be unfinished like Quan You?

I’m afraid Netflix is ​​not sure that it will succeed the moment it decides to buy the copyright of the script.

What may be different from “Star Wars” is that the universe shown by “Three-Body” is slow, lonely, and breathtaking. Even in space, “Three-Body” still focuses on humans and the new environment. And how extreme socio-political changes affect people. It just so happens that “Game of Thrones” is also a film and television work that reflects the rules of the real world.

It’s just that the main creative team headed by 2DB may not be easy at all. Even if the original author, Liu, stays for long-term guidance, there may be differences in Eastern and Western cultures and some unpredictable physical principles, three-body world, dimensionality reduction and other plots. It will make the adaptation of the script even more difficult.

Netflix is ​​not Hollywood

Liu Cixin said before that he would not hand over “Three-Body” to Hollywood because he believed that “Three-Body” violated the fundamental principles of Hollywood science fiction films. The story and background can be complicated or tortuous, but the theme cannot be complicated. , Must be black and white. “Three Body” violates this most fundamental principle. This is too risky for high-cost blockbusters.

The reason why Netflix was handed over to create English drama series was largely because the creative team given by the other party had a very strong lineup. In addition to 2DB, you can also see big-name producers such as Wu Yusen and Brad Pitt who are familiar to domestic audiences. At the same time, Netflix and Hollywood’s distinct creative, marketing and distribution ideas are also provided to “Three Body”, which tells a story that transcends time and crosses national, cultural and ethnic boundaries, and a broader, more inclusive, and accessible audience group. .

“Netflix gives the creators full freedom” was affirmed by Bauer Willimon, the screenwriter of “House of Cards”. Respect is two-way. Only when the creator is given the opportunity to create, trusted, allowed to take risks and break boundaries, and even if someone is willing to share the risk with them, can they deliver good works.

Guess how Netflix made "Three-Body"? 3

“Kingdom” stills | official photo

In 2019, Netflix invested 15 billion U.S. dollars in the production of original film and television, becoming the streaming media most willing to spend money on content. “Kingdom” director Kim Sung-hoon also said that because Netflix technically requires “The Kingdom” to be produced in 4K, it took 2-3 times more effort than before. However, Netflix has undertaken the technical control work, which also allows the creative team to have more Concentrated creation.

From the past original series, we can see that Netflix is ​​good at IP adaptation, especially when Netflix is ​​conquering the global market, without exception, it is not to explore localized themes, and then find a local team to adapt and create. For example, the political theme “House of Cards” was filmed in the UK, the zombie theme “Kingdom” was filmed in South Korea, and adult and horror themes were filmed in Japan, such as “Naked Director” and “The Grudge: House of Curses”.

The “Three Body” became an exception. In addition to considering the universality of the subject matter and the target audience, there may not be a creative team that can undertake the important task of adaptation. This is the key.

In fact, no matter how Netflix’s “Three-Body” will be presented in the end, since the “Three-Body” won the “Hugo Award” in 2015, Liu’s three-body world that has integrated into the Eastern worldview has successfully penetrated into the mainstream Western culture. market.

Now that this story that transcends time and crosses national, cultural and ethnic borders can reach the world through the combination of China and the West, it is already worth looking forward to.