3 Body Problem Review: Why It’s a Worthy Successor to Game of Thrones

3 Body Problem Review: Why It’s a Worthy Successor to Game of Thrones

Netflix’s 3 Body Problem is the first project post-Game of Thrones for showrunners David Benioff and Dan Weiss. With a production budget of $160 million, a trilogy of notoriously tricky bestselling novels, and the expectations of millions of Thrones fans to exceed, it’s safe to say the stakes are high. The good news is that 3 Body Problem succeeds in becoming a new epic event sci-fi saga that is a worthy successor to Game of Thrones.

3 Body Problem Review: What makes it worth watching?

3 Body Problem differs from the books in interesting ways

3 Body Problem review netflix
3 Body Problem Review (Image: Netflix)

3 Body Problem is based on Liu Cixin’s bestselling Chinese sci-fi trilogy, which depicts a fictional timeline in which Earth encounters an alien civilisation who are fleeing their unstable planetary system.

In the Netflix series, this premise is the same, except this time, it hangs its story on a group of diverse young friends and promising scientists, dubbed the Oxford Five, to help tackle this existential threat.

It’s quite a feat that the team behind 3 Body Problem has been successful in turning such a culturally specific Chinese story into something relevant for television audiences worldwide. But that’s what this is. The complex concepts and story arcs from the novel are all there but repurposed in a way that feels accessible and modern, plus it makes for epic television.

Even if Game of Thrones left a bad taste in your mouth, it’s hard to deny that David Benioff and Dan Weiss know how to weave a sprawling high-concept story.

While many did have gripes with those latter seasons of Game of Thrones, it could be deemed that part of the issue was that the creatives ran out of source material to adapt. George R.R. Martin is still writing his final Thrones books to this day, but Liu Cixin’s trilogy has been finished since 2010, providing a complete story arc for Benioff and Weiss (and their third EP, Alexander Woo) to draw from.

This has allowed the story of Netflix’s 3 Body Problem to iterate on the novels in new and interesting ways. There are characters from the later books that now appear from the first episode, and storylines that come to fruition in the final acts that have been seeded early on.

It all feels like an incredible set-up for something that will pay off in an equally incredible fashion further down the line (we hope)- which makes it so much easier to buy in.

It has all the best parts of Game of Thrones

3 Body Problem review netflix
3 Body Problem Review (Image: Netflix)

Looking at 3 Body Problem and Game of Thrones, at first, you might not see many similarities beyond the names in the producing credits. One is a fantasy epic set in a world a long time ago and very far away, and the other is a hyper-modern speculative thriller grounded in the world of science (with the occasional genre-bending sequence thanks to a video game subplot). The worlds of these stories could not be further apart but the two do share a lot of DNA.

There are many reasons that Game of Thrones was such a phenomenal success, but one of its standout features was the way the writers housed intricate human moments and struggles within stories of such epic scope and scale. 3 Body Problem manages to recapture that magic and serve it up in a sci-fi format.

Like GoT, 3 Body Problem is an ensemble piece that stretches across different locations and periods. Some episodes rely upon the unique pairings between each of the characters, bringing back those fiery two-handers Game of Thrones was so well known for.

With that, much of 3 Body Problem‘s strength lies within its ensemble cast. Many of the actors in Game of Thrones shot to stardom thanks to their time on that show, and it feels like the same is poised to happen here. There are, of course, a few Thrones familiars, like John Bradley as the outspoken entrepreneur Jack Rooney and Liam Cunningham’s cunning and enigmatic leader Thomas Wade, but for the most part, the spotlight is on a new cast of actors, all of whom make a strong case for why they’re about to become household names.

While much of 3 Body Problem is focused on complex scientific matters, it never feels boring. It splices in plenty of those VFX-heavy blockbuster set pieces that Game of Thrones became so known for, with Episode 5 particularly feeling reminiscent of gripping action sequences like ‘Blackwater’ or ‘Hardhome’.

It has something to say

3 Body Problem review netflix
3 Body Problem Review (Image: Netflix)

Stories serve as a means for escapism, but the best ones can also serve as a means for reflection or change.

Although the overbearing alien threat shown in 3 Body Problem may be completely fictional, how the world, and particularly its humans, responds to it is very much grounded in reality.

There were times while watching this series when I was gripped with one paralysing question ‘What are they going to do about this?’. The show introduces such an all-encompassing terrifying problem for humanity, that I never hesitated to click ‘Next’.

It became a distraction from that consistent feeling many of us carry, hoping to see problems like war or climate change tackled with the same resources and dedication the characters in 3 Body Problem have. But on a deeper level, this series also holds a lens up to what is required for us to solve problems like this, and at times, that was just as heartening as it was terrifying.

You could argue that all good sci-fi should hold a mirror to society like this, but I can’t remember a series that’s kept me so entertained by existential dread like this one has.

All episodes of 3 Body Problem will be released on Netflix on March 21.

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