Zhang Yimou to Direct Chinese Film Adaptation of Three-Body Problem Novel

Legendary Director to Offer New Take on Celebrated Sci-Fi Novel After Netflix's Divisive Series

Zhang Yimou

The beloved science fiction novel The Three-Body Problem is headed for another major screen adaptation, this time hailing from one of China’s most renowned filmmakers. Zhang Yimou, the legendary director behind classics like Raise the Red Lantern and Hero, has signed on to helm a Chinese-language feature film based on Liu Cixin’s celebrated first book in the Remembrance of Earth’s Past trilogy.

The project was announced over the weekend at the Shanghai International Film Festival by Wang Changtian, chairman of Beijing Enlight Media. The studio is in the early production stages on the film, which will offer a new cinematic take on the mind-bending sci-fi saga after its source material was recently adapted into a mega-budget Netflix series.

That controversial Netflix production, retitled 3 Body Problem and led by showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, earned global viewership but a more mixed response in China. While some celebrated the grand scale and overall spirit of the adaptation, others criticized the lack of Chinese representation among the core cast and creative liberties taken with Liu’s revered story.

Zhang, a two-time Golden Lion winner at the Venice Film Festival, now has the daunting task of bringing an authentically Chinese vision of the sci-fi epic to the big screen. The 72-year-old master filmmaker has built a legendary career with sweeping dramas like Raise the Red Lantern, Hero, and House of Flying Daggers. However, he has yet to truly dive into the futuristic sci-fi realm until now with Three-Body Problem.

In recent years, Zhang has focused his efforts on all-out crowdpleasers catered directly to the domestic Chinese audience. His last three films alone – the period action comedy Full River Red, the crime thriller Under the Light, and this year’s Lunar New Year comedy Article 20 – have collectively grossed over $1.15 billion in China.

With the arrival of Zhang’s take on Three-Body Problem, Chinese audiences will finally get an adaptation they can fully embrace as their own. And global sci-fi fans should also be eager to see what unique perspective the iconic director brings to one of the genre’s most celebrated and challenging properties.

While plot details are still under wraps, Zhang’s film could offer a counterpoint to the Netflix version’s tone and vision. One thing is certain – he’ll put his own indelible stamp on the material when he brings Liu Cixin’s mind-bending universe to Chinese cinemas in the coming years.

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