Neuromancer . . . the Movie!?

“The sky above the port was the color of television, tuned to a dead channel.”

This is the opening sentence of the 1984 seminary Cyberpunk novel Neuromancer by William Gibson. The image of a dark future, a sky filled with static, glimmering shades of grey, sets the tone of the novel perfectly . . . until we actually reach that digital future in which a high definition television set “tuned to dead channel” is actually a brilliant blue. A bright blue sky rather changes the tone of the novel, but change happens, and as predictions for the future become decades old they become the realm of retro-futurism. So in what ways is Neuromancer still relevant today?

Neuromancer

Almost a year ago, the Neuromancer film project was reported to have found new funding. Supposedly Chinese company C2M Media Group stepped up to co-develop and co-finance Neuromancer with the UK-based GFM Films, but at the same time director Vincenzo Natali, who had been associated with the project for five years, left the team. Producer Lucas Foster (Equilibrium, Mr. & Mrs. Smith) was at the time in talks with new writers and a new director. Fast forward to the present and the film is still no where closer to being produced as it was back in 2000 when Chris Cunningham (director of the Aphex Twin “Windowlicker” video) was trying to get it made. 

gibson-neuromancer 680The dream of Neuromancer being made into a full Hollywood feature film has become a thing of mythology for fans of Cyberpunk, and has manifested more into the broken promises of a deadbeat dad. In 2007 Joseph Kahn (of the Taylor Swift “Bad Blood” video and the film Detention) was brought onboard to direct, and then In 2010, Natali replaced Kahn. Initially, Natali’s hiring seemed to inspire some forward momentum. GFM announced the start of pre-production in 2011, Lorenzo di Bonaventura signed on to produce in 2012, and big names like Mark Wahlberg and Liam Neeson were courted to star. And then nothing. Wahlberg and Neeson aren’t currently attached and neither is di Bonaventura; but is there even a market for Neuromancer the Movie today?

The 1999 film The Matrix achieved greatness by climbing upon the shoulders of giants such as William Gibson, and in 2000 audiences were ripe to receive a film version of Neuromancer, even if uneducated critics would label it as a Matrix rip-off. That opportunity for mass appeal, however, has passed and perhaps it is now time to lay the lifeless body of this film project to rest. With sour grapes one can console oneself that Hollywood would have just botched it up like they did with Johnny Mnemonic back in 1995. Or one could just celebrate the novel’s cult status in not having been diluting for the mainstream audiences of America. Or perhaps there is another hope?

neuromancer-book-cover-slice-01

The future of a film version of Neuromancer lies not within the machinations of 20th century film making, but rather in the 21st century world of open source production and web video. If this movie is going to be made, it will be through the love of fans, and given how the means of production are ever increasingly in the hands of the people, this is a film that will ultimately bypass the dinosaurs of Hollywood studios and appear as a phantom on the internet, a ghost in the machine . . . or perhaps just YouTube 😛

 


 

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