"Three-Body Problem" IP Development Why is it so difficult?

  The movie version has been difficult to land for many years, the animated version has finally collapsed because of the "magic reform", and the TV series version has significant highlights but is difficult to call it satisfactory... The adaptation process of "The Three-Body Problem", the top IP of Chinese science fiction, is full of difficulties and ups and downs.

  Why is the adaptation of "The Three-Body Problem" so difficult? How does "The Three-Body Problem" really form its own "universe"? What is the future of Chinese science fiction IP? Let's take a look at the disclosure of the parties involved in IP development.

"If you like it, you can shoot it well"

  "I don't understand science fiction, this is the fundamental problem we encounter in developing the IP of "Three-Body Problem" at present." Xiaomo (pseudonym), an industry insider who has been deeply involved in the development of the IP of "Three-Body Problem", commented.

  In the early days of reform and opening up, China's science fiction literature ushered in an era of ruins and flowers, but a few years later, it was wrongly attacked and criticized, and was actually in a state of "banning". Although this policy was soon corrected, it greatly damaged the vitality of Chinese science fiction literature, making it very difficult to produce excellent works for a long time. Without literature as a foundation, science fiction movies and television cannot be talked about.

  The result of this is that the people who have become the backbone of the domestic film and television industry are young at the trough of Chinese science fiction, and they are generally very unfamiliar with science fiction literature, science fiction film and television, and have no understanding and no feelings.

"Three-Body Problem" IP Development Why is it so difficult?

Above: The English version of "The Three-Body Problem" translated by Liu Yukun successfully promoted the "Three-Body Problem" to the world.

  In Xiaomo's view, a successful sci-fi film and television needs screenwriters, directors and producers who love sci-fi. "If you don't talk about exclusive interests, there are no directors who can make good films of any type, but that is a rare outlier and is not the norm in the industry."

  The reality is that at present, there are very few people who understand science fiction in the domestic film and television circle. During the film development of "The Three-Body Problem", there was a situation where a certain main person in charge of the creative team was already filming in the film, and had not seen the original work of "The Three-Body Problem" at all; And such a person in charge is unwilling to delegate power to the executive staff in the team who understand science fiction better. In this way, the quality of the adaptation can be imagined.

  Xiao believes that the current scarcity of domestic science fiction film and television soil is also related to the orientation of domestic film school education in those years. "At that time, education was to exclude genre films, and some directors who were trained looked down on genre films. But science fiction films are originally strong genre films, which are the framework of mainstream commercial films. ”

  He explained: Genre films have a certain framework, which is to make the film easier to make, more likely to be accepted by the audience, so as to achieve both artistic and commercial success. For example, police and bandit films have good and bad people, and there are gunfight scenes, speeding scenes and action fight scenes; martial arts films have the routine of "the protagonist learns martial arts, fights bad guys to upgrade, and takes revenge"; How many minutes should comedy make the audience laugh, and how often should romance be romantic. This is the same for science fiction films, which must have big scenes, special effects, and so on. Of course, genre films are also mixed, and science fiction and suspense can be combined, but it always has a framework.

  "If you want to make a science fiction film, you have to accept its genre and study the genre, rather than wanting to make something called 'anti-genre' from the beginning." If you don't respect the type, that's not 'anti-type', it can only be 'random shooting'. ”

  Compared with "The Three-Body Problem", the filmization of Liu Cixin's other science fiction novel "The Wandering Earth" has achieved a "breakthrough in Chinese science fiction blockbuster zero" 4 years ago to the success of the sequel to the Spring Festival in 2023, a very important reason is that director Guo Fan himself loves science fiction and has a heartfelt love for such a theme; At the same time, respect the genre rules of science fiction films, and constantly learn from the production experience of international counterparts.

  Therefore, many fans of "The Three-Body Problem" called for "asking Guo Fan to take over the movie version". Zhao Jilong, CEO of "Three-Body Universe" company, the owner of the "Three-Body Problem" adaptation IP, recently expressed his "very welcome", and he hopes that more and more sci-fi film and television production talents can join the content project of the "Three-Body Problem" IP.

  "Guo Fan and I have been friends for many years, and we have many common ideas in the industrialization of film and television production. We all hope to use the current project experience to create a new system of more standardized domestic sci-fi film and television production. ”

It took a lot of effort to adapt "The Three-Body Problem"

  In addition to the background of the science fiction field, returning to the original book itself, there are still many difficulties in the adaptation of the "Three-Body Problem" IP. "I never felt that the difficulty was in the shooting or visual presentation of these techniques, the actual difficulty was in the screenwriting technology."

  Xiaomo said: The story of the original trilogy of "The Three-Body Problem" has a long time span and is not coherent; Moreover, the theme of each film is actually different. The first is to encourage humans to fight against the alien invasion; The second part exposes the cruel "dark forest" law of the universe, believing that all civilizations are suspicious of each other in order to survive; The third part is even more pessimistic, the entire universe is heading for destruction, and "death lives forever".

  In contrast, the same sci-fi trilogy, the story of "Dune" is also cross-generational, but it is a "father to son" family evolution, and the story is within a certain range; The time span of the "Base" series of stories is also very long, but its context is clear, it is how human beings can keep the fire of civilization when the galaxy empire is about to collapse, and go through countless tests. But The Three-Body Problem lacks this clear consistency.

  How to solve this problem in adaptation is a key to determining the success or failure of film and television works. In addition, "great film and television works are ultimately positive, not hopeless, dark, which is a topic of values." Then how to adjust the theme of the last two parts of the original "Three-Body Problem" is also very difficult."

  The imagination of the original book "The Three-Body Problem" is breathtaking, but it leaves behind a lot of very abstract concepts. For example, the "enemy" trisolarans in the book, whose image is not described in any way in the novel; As for the later more advanced "singer civilization", there is no setting from the author. These are not necessarily obvious obstacles in the novel, and even allow readers to have space to use their imagination, but are a plus; However, in film and television works, it is impossible to avoid these key issues.

  These ethereal concepts in the original work must become specific images, how to set and implement, whether they are in line with the spirit of the original work, and whether they can have ideal visual effects. These challenges cannot be described as daunting.

  "There are actually quite a lot of plot bugs in the original book of "The Three-Body Problem". We call it 'idea novel,' and it sacrifices a lot of rationality to satisfy ideas. Xiaomo gave an example: Why was Wang Miao, the male protagonist in the first part, able to successfully infiltrate the "Earth Tribody Organization"? Zhizi sent by the Trisolarans knows everything, obviously knowing that Wang Miao is a spy, why did he let him go? The "absorbing Wang Miao to your side" said in the TV series is also unreasonable, because according to the setting of the original book, the trisolarans do not care about human resistance, so what is the value of the technology Wang Miao researched, and is this person worth being wooed?

  A similar, larger problem occurs in the second part of the original book. Although the trisolarans do not know how to deceive but are not fools, from the perspective of rational analysis, even if Luo Ji makes the trisolarans feel no threat, they should still directly eliminate all human "wall-facers" to ensure safety, so why don't they do it, causing their own "colony ball plan" to ultimately fail? Is it just so that the author can write the story well?

  Solving these obvious bugs must be the proper meaning of the film and television version in the adaptation process. Without this effort, it will only damage the quality of the work.

  The reason why the TV series version of "The Three-Body Problem" was complained by some viewers as "picking books and shooting" is because its screenwriters did not improve the contradictions and deficiencies of the plot in these original works, but moved them to the screen almost unchanged.

  The animated version of "The Three-Body Problem" went to the other extreme. The grand narrative in the original work, from the exploration of alien civilizations to the competition for space resources, was changed by the animation to the "Luo Ji cultivation plan of the wall-facing person".

  Liu Cixin once said at the press conference, "As a work that uses pictures to express science fiction, I hope that it can exceed the imagination of the original author, so that the author can see it and gasp." As a result, the animated version made many viewers believe that Liu Cixin would really be scared to "gasp for air" after watching it.

  In addition to the characters, plot magic changes, and product placement advertisements are pervasive, at the same time, the technical level is also a point that has been criticized by the animation "Three-Body Problem". The audience found that the protagonist Luo Ji's fingers extended in the film had four joints; The opening Panama Canal looks more like a small ditch in the village; Unreality of light and shadow abounds...

  "It's really not easy to solve these problems, maybe the TV series producers didn't have time to come up with a better plan, so they chose to follow the setting of the novel completely, so that at least they didn't offend the original fans." However, the opportunity to improve the quality of IP was just abandoned. The animated version, just using B-level resources to develop an S-level IP, cannot have good results. Xiaomo said.

"Three-Body Problem" IP Development Why is it so difficult?

Above: Because director Guo Fan (center) likes science fiction, the adaptation of Liu Cixin's (right) "The Wandering Earth" movie is very successful.

Focus on "Big IP Management"

  How does the "Three-Body Problem" IP really become a "universe"? In Xiaomo's view, it is necessary to have talents who truly understand IP management and have experience to manage and operate, in order to achieve such a goal.

  "We can see how Kevin Feige, the great film and television producer in the world today and president of Marvel Studios, built his IP universe."

  Kevin Feige planned the movie development plan of the Marvel Universe very early, and then went to the director he cooperated, showed them the sequence, communicated the time node, and then asked the interested director to hand over the proposal. If the director's thinking is consistent with his overall structure and the quality is passable, then proceed according to plan. All important decisions in the development of Marvel IP were made by Kevin Feige, and the quality was checked by him, which gradually built the Marvel Universe today.

  The development plan of "Iron Man" is 17 years, while Xiaomer's original planning for the development of "The Three-Body Problem" is 15 years. He said: In these 15 years, 6 films can be made. The story of the first part of the original book itself is relatively compact and suitable for presentation in a movie; The content of the second part can be divided into two episodes, each telling the story of two wall-faced people; The content of the third part is very grand and can be split into three episodes to produce.

  In the years between the release of the films, viewers will see episodes of The Three-Body Problem. TV series and movies must be complementary, and the content cannot be the same. TV series have the advantage of total duration, which is especially suitable for completing and enriching elements that are not in the original work. For example, what kind of experience did Wang Miao have after completing the "Guzheng Action" in the first part? What is the story of the struggle between the three factions in the "Earth Trisolaran Organization"? Starship Earth drifts in the universe, what adventures do you have? "Sometimes, it's really a sentence from the original book that can be adapted into a drama. ”

  He said: There is a simple principle in film and television IP development, that is, all characters and objects must be able to be drawn and can be presented concretely. "When you think of any superhero in the Marvel Universe, you immediately think of him; Seeing an ornament, a mug, on a friend's table, you can blurt out: Ah, this is Thor. This is successful development. ”

  In his opinion, making such a plan and realizing it step by step is the real "big IP development" and can form a "universe". IP owners can bring in a talent with the right concept and rich IP management experience to control the overall situation stably, and then patiently find the producer of each work.

  "IP owners should be true partners with the producers of each work and grow with them sincerely. Instead of thinking more about profiting from high licensing fees, a cut is a knife. In his opinion, an excellent IP development like "The Three-Body Problem" cannot produce works with the idea that "talk is better than nothing". "Not planned, not prepared, rather not move."

  The current situation is obstructed and long, so is there hope for the development of Chinese science fiction IP represented by "The Three-Body Problem"? Xiaomo gave an affirmative judgment.

  In his view, the improvement of China's comprehensive national strength and continuous breakthroughs in the field of science and technology have stimulated the enthusiasm of the people for science. Especially in the field of education for the next generation, science fiction is a good bridge for children to get closer to science, which brings a large and continuous audience base to science fiction IP.

  At the same time, China's film and television industry has entered the era of commercial blockbusters, and among many types of films, it is easier to succeed more than the works that contain large scenes, and the big scenes in science fiction films are too common. This is the result of the inevitable outbreak of the development of China's film and television industry to a certain stage.

  Moreover, sci-fi films have real scarcity in China, so they have great development potential. Whether in terms of film and television art or commercial achievements, science fiction will have a more exciting future. Written by | Phoenix

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