Chinese audience has the right to objectively comment on Netflix's adaptation of 'The Three-Body Problem': Global Times editorial
Published: Mar 25, 2024 09:35 PM
Photo: VCG

Photo: VCG

The series The Three-Body Problem, produced by the American streaming platform Netflix, was recently officially released, receiving mixed reviews from fans both domestically and internationally. As the saying goes, "there are a thousand Hamlets in a thousand people's eyes." It's normal for a work with international influence like The Three-Body Problem to sometimes face harsh scrutiny from global fans when adapted for the screen. However, some foreign media outlets have deliberately highlighted and exaggerated negative reviews from Chinese audiences of Netflix's adaptation, blowing them out of proportion and labeling them as "online nationalism," and even dragging geopolitical factors into the discussion. This deviates from normal film review and falls into ill-intentioned stirring up of trouble.

Once a literary work is completed, it detaches from the author and becomes a separate entity. The same applies to television and film productions - once completed, their reputation is entirely up to the audience. Even a well-written review is considered part of the television or film production. This includes both positive and negative reviews. Both the producers and the media must be prepared for any public opinion and should not be arrogant. After all, television and film productions are made for people to watch. No one has the right to silence a portion of the audience after they have watched it.

The original novel of The Three-Body Problem is a science fiction epic exploring the relationship between humanity and extraterrestrial civilizations. Its imaginative scientific concepts and philosophical depth have earned it numerous fans worldwide. However, due to the large time span and high visual effects requirements of the original novel, The Three-Body Problem is widely recognized in the film industry as difficult to adapt. Since its release on Netflix, professional reviews and feedback from ordinary viewers, both domestically and internationally, have been mixed. On platforms like Douban, some viewers believe that Netflix's adaptation of The Three-Body Problem aligns with their imagined approach to visual storytelling, and even goes beyond their imagination; while others feel that it is not faithful to the original novel. Ratings on several foreign television and film platforms are also similar, with both positive and negative feedback. This indicates that the current presentation of the series to the audience has both highlights and shortcomings.

However, the opinions of Chinese audiences are being singled out by some foreign media outlets. They distort the normal positive and negative reviews of Chinese audiences around the Netflix version of The Three-Body Problem into an extreme form of "venting anger," claiming that the Netflix version of The Three-Body Problem has been "attacked by nationalists in China," with many criticisms having "racist undertones." Even the original work of The Three-Body Problem itself has been linked by them to so-called "nationalism."

In fact, considering the depth of the original work, audiences have special expectations for any form of adaptation of The Three-Body Problem, hoping that what is produced is not just a "popcorn" movie. Especially for industrial works produced on streaming platforms like Netflix, can they restore the essence of the original work's ideas? Can they reflect the unique humanistic thoughts of the author with Chinese characteristics? It's not just Chinese audiences who have doubts, many audiences in Western countries also hold these doubts. The American Entertainment Weekly commented that the Netflix version of The Three-Body Problem failed to make "the globe-spanning plot empathetic on a human level." Slant magazine also believes that the drama has clunky characterization. If the negative reviews from Chinese audiences are labeled as "nationalism," then what kind of "ism" are these negative reviews from the West?

Chinese audiences are very open-minded toward both domestic and foreign films and TV dramas. They are well-informed and have a broad perspective, appreciating original and thought-provoking works while showing impatience toward Hollywood's formulaic productions. If a film or TV drama still contains elements of "Western centrism" in its narrative, it will not escape the scrutiny of the audience. Ultimately, the quality of a film or TV drama speaks for itself, as seen in the positive reception and box office success of works like Oppenheimer and Dune in China. Criticizing Chinese audiences for their film reviews is not only ineffective, but also reflects poorly on oneself.