Friday, November 16, 2012

Neuromancer, Coming to a Theater Near You? Looks Like It

The appearance of a poster for the planned movie version of Neuromancer at the American Film Market event is being received by fans as proof that William Gibson's classic novel is finally finding its way to the big screen after three decades in development hell.

Still, I wonder how to feel about the prospect of a Neuromancer film coming our way in 2013 or 2014. It seems as if the moment when it could have been a real event has already passed, cyberpunk already come to seem as retro as the Golden Age images against which the cyberpunks once defined themselves (as in Gibson's "The Gernsback Continuum"). The casual bodily customization, the experience of the Internet via spectacular virtual reality, their merits or lack thereof as futurology aside, are yesteryear's fantasies. And of course, there have already been two feature films made out of Gibson's '80s-era "Sprawl" fiction - 1995's Johnny Mnemonic put Gibson's vision of cyberspace on the screen quite effectively, as well as something of the broader feel of that world. The less flashy New Rose Hotel (1998) did this too, while coming rather closer to the neo-noir-meets-near-future quality of many of his stories.

Of course, neither of those films was especially well-received, but this points up some of the limits of this portion of Gibson's work, less assured in the area of plot or character than prose style, something which simply does not translate to film, and world-building, which is almost as difficult to present in that medium.

On the other hand, the cyberpunk anticipation of a combination of ever-more ubiquitous and powerful information technology with the chaos of a neoliberal economic order remains relevant in this second decade of the twenty-first century. Indeed, the perpsective we now have on these trends is of at least potential interest. And this film seems likely to bring rather more impressive financial and technical resources to the project than the two preceding films based on Gibson's works. All that might yet count for something.

Of Science Fiction and Futurology
New and Noteworthy (Empress of Eternity, 2000 A.D., William Gibson)

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