A nanomaterials expert sees a mysterious countdown superimposed in his field of vision and finds himself under military investigation. To unravel the mystery, he enters the VR game "Three-Body" developed by a secret organization ETO and discovers the truth behind the deaths of dozens of scientists and a tragedy from the days of the Cultural Revolution. ~~ Adapted from the novel "The Three-Body Problem" (三体) by Liu Ci Xin (刘慈欣). Edit Translation
Where to Watch Three-Body
Cast & Credits
The bugs will inherit the earth.Three-Body is Tencent's adaptation of the first book of Liu Cixin's award winning sci-fi trilogy Remembrance of Earth's Past. It is an immense, mind-bending and terrifying book that explores the dark corners of humanity and our place in the universe. The narrative is concept-driven and lacking in terms of both characters and plot. This drama adaptation fleshes out the characters and plot while staying largely true to the original works.
An alarming number of leading scientists around the world die mysteriously. One of them, Yang Dong is a friend of nano-scientist Wang Miao. This seems oddly linked to an ominous countdown that only he can see and a virtual reality Three-Body game developed by ETO, a secret organisation. He gets roped into the murder investigation by an irreverent cop Shi Qiang. With the help of Yang Dong's mother Ye Wenjie, they start to pull at the threads that go back to the Cultural Revolution to reveal a conspiracy with existential implications. Rather abruptly, Shi Qiang gloatingly blurts out what is coming before we are are even half-way through the drama! This monumental conclusion is so matter-of-factly accepted without debate that it adds to a sense of anti-climax. Then we get an extended flashback to a brutal, frank and scathing depiction of the Cultural Revolution that unflinchingly exposes the loss of common humanity, the utter despair and loneliness of the period and the rage that must lurk beneath the surface.
The drama does a fantastic job bringing Wang Miao, Shi Qiang and Ye Wenjie to life. They are far better fleshed out in the drama than the book and all three anchor roles are deftly articulated by veteran actors who can convincingly navigate difficult transitions over time periods and into virtual reality. Yu Hewei's sarcastic and badass Shi Qiang is by far the most engaging and hilarious character. I didn't love Zhang Luyi's Wang Miao at first but he grew on me as his rapport with Shi Qiang grew. Unfortunately the other roles are not well written and made worst by vapid (Shen Yufei, Pan Han) or annoying (Mu Xing) performances by mediocre actors whose shortcomings are glaring up against the seasoned main cast. I wouldn't have minded if they got little screen time but unfortunately they featured prominently in extended largely drama-invented sub-plots that were barely touched upon in the book. I had to grit my teeth through the coma inducing preaching with the nationalistic subtext on monotheistic religion and environmental extremism.
High concept hard science fiction stories like this are difficult to adapt because the plot is driven by exposition and there is a lot of that in this drama. These concepts are conveyed creatively in a visually engaging manner to be easily accessible to layman. I enjoyed many of the analogies such as the Turkey/Farmer and the Shooter. However, the production tends to over-explain and tediously repeat the sci-fi aspects. Some judicious editing and higher confidence in audience intelligence would have gone a long way toward making this drama less draggy.
Even though this is shot in movie aspect ratio and a lot of care went into the props and the staging and lighting very artistically captures the bleak and portentous tone of the story, the production values overall are only of average quality. The background music is simply dreadful - jarringly loud and tries too hard to conjure a sense of dread or suspense that is at odds with the dry sci-fi plot points. The use of a difficult to understand and cliched artificial voice over an entire episode made my head throb. But what I was most dismayed by was the virtual world of the Three-Body game. While there is quite a bit of cool stuff like the dehydration and rehydration process, the overall effect is like stepping into a cartoon-like animation. It is just not at all scary. There is no sense of chaos or the searing intensity of the huge atmospheric variations and that gripping fear of what comes next that is described in the book.
The penultimate episode if you can make it that far is the best and only truly thrilling and epic episode in the entire drama. The wrap up is good in the sense that it is faithful to the novel even though the main antagonist is a bit whitewashed and not remorseless enough. This narrative takes over twenty hours to tell you something you already know; that the bugs will inherit the earth! The book covers it in about five hours and there is hope that the movie will be able to do it in under three. This is a good watch if you are in a contemplative mood and wish to indulge in a bit of history, philosophy, math, physics, speculative hard sci-fi and ponder the future of humanity. And if you have time and patience. I only rate this 7.5 because I feel the story could have been much more compellingly told in about half the episodes and not in a way that was a chore to watch.
Right or wrong is only a matter of perspective.I love a show that makes me engaged. That makes me think and question presented topics. That makes me want to think how I would react if I was presented with the same ideas, what would be my questions and doubts, and who would I side with. That makes me analyze the statements of the characters trying to figure out what flaws they might have, and in what aspects they are correct. Three-Body is all that.
I saw quite a number of people say that you need to be patient with this show to enjoy it. I would honestly disagree. Being patient means you need to tolerate something negative, and I see no such a thing in the show. Slow pace? For me it added to the charm of it. The even pacing, how each time they dropped a new hint, they added a few more questions, the mystery of it all, the lack of answers - for me, these are exactly the things I loved about it. So if someone finds these annoying, I don’t think any level of patience will make them like Three-Body in the end.
My favorite aspect of the drama was how it exposed the limits of human’s perception and cognition. How limited we are by our beliefs, hopes, motives, experiences and even biological aspects. We are painfully biased towards our own species. But it also shows how normal that is and that it can be, at least to some extent, overcome.
Not to mention the diversity of the characters in terms of their personalities, motivations, moralities. It’s truly an art how they slowly showed all the layers of the characters, their perspectives and plans. It was a perfectly crafted journey. They knew exactly when to disclose different information to keep the interest of the viewers.
How hard is it to understand the show? I’m not gonna lie, it’s not an easy watch, but that comes from someone who knows exactly nothing about physics. I had to rewatch a few scenes to understand the theories, some google searches also helped. All that is not needed to get the big picture, but it adds to the viewing experience.
Were there any things that bothered me or could potentially bother others? Yes. Since the drama invites you to analyze everything and pay attention to all the details, it’s also easier to pick up some inconsistencies. That said, a lot of them can be excused by the unreliable narrator at any given moment and their own goals in sharing some, but not all information, and at times even distorting it.
What’s more - we don’t get clear cut answers for a lot of questions asked. Some of it might be the result of the drama being based on just the first book in the trilogy, but some seem to be left vague with no hope for solid answers even in next installments. I can clearly see how this could piss off many people, me being weird, I actually enjoyed it. The fact that I had to form my own theories on why some things happened based on the hints and bits of information was an additional entertainment for me.
There were two moments in the drama that made me go: okay, that’s dumb. That said, two scenes in 30 episodes is a ration of dumbness I can easily ignore.
Last criticism I have is the whole existence of Mu Xing - she did not bring anything new or important to the table. She did not offer an interesting perspective nor a unique take on the events happening. She was there as a plot device and I find it a bit disappointing.
For the performances - some were better than others, but all were great. Chen Jin and Wang Zi Wen did an amazing job portraying the same characters in different moments of her life. You can see the changes in her, but she still seems like the same person. I loved Yu He Wei as Shi Qiang and he easily became my favorite character. I loved his bond with Wang Miao, and even though they could not exist in more different worlds, they formed a perfect partnership.
One performance that seemed a bit flat was Li Xiao Ran as Shen Yu Fei - she was supposed to be this driven woman with a mission, but she overall just seemed numb and detached.
The production value was perfection. I truly have zero complaints. I loved the small animation bits explaining the Farmer and Shooter theories, I loved the game graphics, I loved the set designs. I especially loved everything about how the past story was presented. So many aesthetically beautiful moments.
Talking about Three-Body, I need to mention the soundtrack. I was in awe from the first seconds of any of the songs and even just the ambient sounds used for many scenes. It added so much to the storytelling and perfectly built the atmosphere.
Overall, I could not recommend it more if you like complex stories that require full attention and some additional brainpower for theory making, since they don’t really spoon feed you all the answers. How much you can enjoy the show depends on how much you are motivated to figure out the mystery and story behind the characters.
Ps. Can it be viewed as stand alone? Kind of. Depends on how much of a closure you are expecting.
Ps 2. I need 2nd season yesterday.