Friday, 7 May 2010

Vincenzo Natali Neuromanced

Huh. Synchronicity much?

Vincenzo Natali, director of Cube, Cypher and the forthcoming subject of the last post, Splice - my second most highly anticipated film of 2010 after Chris Nolan's Inception - is to helm an adaptation of William Gibson's literary cyberpunk landmark, Neuromancer.

The story just broke. This is what I would call Very Good News - especially considering the caliber of the talent previously attached to the project. Hayden Christensen was to star (need I say more?) with veritable unknown director Joseph Khan in the big chair, whose previous work on music videos by the likes of Britney Spears, Blink 182 and the Backstreet Boys hardly told a happy tale of the Neuromancer adaptation's prospects.

Natali, meanwhile, after an absence of some years, looks to be making his much-anticipated return with great vengeance and furious anger via Splice, and the Neuromancer movie sounds like a perfect fit to his talents.

Though I'll confess: I have a few of his books in the big ol' library, Neuromancer included, but I haven't read any William Gibson. Anyone out there prepared to act as his champion?


  1. Not yet ready to act as his champion. I am reading Neuromancer now, but only fifty pages in. I can say one thing though, whoever gets tagged to do the script is going to have some work on his/her hands. The book is very dated and Gibson (rather infamously) failed to predict mobile phones. Should be interesting to see them bring it up to date (if they will, and I assume they will, because otherwise some of it is going to sound ridiculous).

    I was actually wondering why no one has adapted the book yet. Thank heavens the Hayden Christensen version fell through.

  2. One presumes Natali himself will play a large part in writing the script. He wrote Cube and Splice, came up with the concept for Nothing - Cyper marks the only time he's directed from another's work entirely. So.

    Let us know what your thoughts are on Neuromancer when you're done with it, James. I'd be interested to hear if it's worth my time. God knows, I could do with imbibing a few genre classics. This past four months my reading's been all about what's coming out now, or months from now...

  3. Neuromancer is absolutely one of the most fascinating and well realized pieces of science fiction that I have ever had the opportunity to read. I do worry about how the book will translate to film because I think that the post-internet generation will not be able to identify with how profound some of the book's predictions and statements about the future are. I cite the above statement by James as a perfect example: 'The book is very dated and Gibson (rather infamously) failed to predict mobile phones'.

    Gibson might have had the use of a slightly cracked crystal ball when he wrote it, but 'infamously failed to predict?' I wonder how many world altering inventions James has predicted?

    Quite honestly, that sort of view point might be the adaptation's downfall. I realize that the book is dated, but I sometimes wonder if people can stop and think that many of the these terms didn't exist until Gibson coined them. The internet didn't exist when the book was written.

    I shudder to think what the film's producers will try to do to make the film appeal to a younger audience.

    This is one of my favorite books, and I think it might be the best and most valid piece of cyber-punk fiction that has ever been written. But I think it might be best remembered as a ground breaking book, rather than a watered down version of The Matrix.

  4. My apologies, I didn't intend to hurt the book's feelings. Is that a cane I see, shall I get off your lawn, young whippersnapper that I am?

    Yes, Gibson failed to predict mobile phones and hey, you can't expect one person to predict all the technological innovations to come. That he predicted so much is impressive and no one is taking that away from him (and I was certainly not insulting him for not predicting cell phones, but hey, if you would prefer to insult me, go right ahead, I don't mind).

    If this film was made soon after the book was released then it would not be a big deal, but you are dead on. The post-internet crowd is going to have trouble recognizing just how profound these ideas are. In fact, I would hazard to guess that the majority just won't care in the slightest. But, I am having trouble here because you seem to believe that only the post-internet crowd will have that problem. Personally, I know many middle-aged and older adults who don't know a damn thing about computers and certainly won't care how profound those ideas are. It is fine that you are worried that the producers are going to do something to fuck things up and... well, it is an adaptation and that is pretty much a given. Expect the worst and you might be pleasantly surprised. Just don't blame this part of the audience or that part of the audience.

    I am fully capable of understanding how profound these ideas are, but that doesn't make the novel any less dated.

    We all have a special place in our hearts for the books we love and it is certainly no fun watching the film adaptation ripping the source material to shreds. Neuromancer, if it does turn out badly, certainly won't be the first to have such treatment and it won't be the last. But hey, look at it this way, it can't be any worse an adaptation than Starship Troopers, which, by the way, is one of my favorite novels and inspired quite a few innovations as well. ;) Which part of the audience or age group can I blame for turning it into a silly pile of trash?

  5. "Let us know what your thoughts are on Neuromancer when you're done with it, James. I'd be interested to hear if it's worth my time. God knows, I could do with imbibing a few genre classics. This past four months my reading's been all about what's coming out now, or months from now..."

    Will do. Steadily making my way through it and it is pretty good, but I am having a little trouble with a somewhat jumpy narrative.

    Actually, I am reading and reviewing my way through this list and I have no particular order, I'm just picking at random, so if there are any books there you are interested in just say something and I might bump them up towards the top.

  6. I didn't meant to insult you, James. If I did, I sincerely apologize. I'm also okay with someone not liking the book. Honestly, I was very close to putting it down within the first 50 pages, but I warmed up to it after a while.

    I appreciate that you do not hold one man responsible for not seeing the future in its entirety, but I interpreted your first comments to have the exact opposite meaning.

    And if I had the patience to illustrate this point properly, I might convince you that I don't really even have a problem with someone not being able to relate to the story. And while I don't hold that against someone, it still makes me fear for how the book will adapt to screen and be accepted by a generation of people who haven't the perspective or experience to grasp the book's significance.

    We may be the same age for all I know. I just used your comments as an example. I'm just old enough to recall what the world was like before computers, the internet, and cell phones became commonplace.

    Again, I apologize for insulting you. One does not have the benefit of gestures, tone, and facial expressions when making an argument on an internet discussion board.

    I hope the book doesn't disappoint you.

  7. And. . .

    I actually enjoyed Starship Troopers for different reasons than I enjoyed the book. But I definitely understand why you would dislike it as an adaptation.

    But I think you more clearly illustrated the point I was trying to make about Neuromancer. I think that segments of the audience will have apathy for what were once innovative ideas, and that will make it less than marketable from a studio standpoint. Which typically leads to rewrites, which eventually sometimes lead to the entire nature of a story being altered to guarantee profit. That's what I meant by saying that that sort of viewpoint could be the downfall of the movie. I think studios will also foresee that, and try to figure a way to make the book appeal to a wider audience.

    I think I'd much rather see a small budget adaptation of the film. Less pressure to make a huge profit, and less chance of it being hacked to death to reach a wider audience.

  8. @Kristopher - I wouldn't worry about a huge budget getting in the way of a good and/or faithful adaptation of Neuromancer. Especially if Vincenzo Natali ends up helming it: his movies might look expensive, but they're anything but.

    @James - Yeah, I saw Larry's list too, and it's certainly a noble endeavour - there are a lot of great books in there, not to mention a few beasts that nearly put me off reading entirely (Lanark) - would that I had the time to take him up on his suggestion. It's all I can do with my pace of reading to keep up with *some* of the new releases. But the best of luck to you, mate!

  9. Neuromancer is a novel that is too often talked about as a work that is "prophetic" or "dystopian" or something like that. Half the blurbs on the back of my edition certainly did. But I didn't read it like that. I read it like a story.

    And as a story, it is a striking one. At it's core we have heard this cyberpunk story many times before. At it's core, the characters are complex and their themes and personal arcs are progressed in much the way you'd expect. Competent, but not unexpected. Just on the concepts and story alone the novel would be above average in my eyes. This sounds dismissive, but I don't mean to be. Unfortunately, further detail escapes my sleep deprived brain, save for one:

    The visceral, visual style is what really marks it out for me. It has a strange rhythm to it: it captures that feeling of sensory overload. A kind of hyper-real haze. The gratification based and post-modern society in which the characters live is described better through the style of writing rather than the details themselves. As with most very distinct styles, however, it can be rather daunting to wade through.

    For me, a book has to be a story. As I read it, Neuromancer is essentially a story about a man trying to find his place in a cold and brutal society. The datedness many talk about just served to create another layer of alieness in the world. You don't need to read Neuromancer as a character story, it can be easily read with emphasis on the concepts, but I'd recommend taking the same approach I did.

  10. Thank you for that, Chris.

    I'm with you. Story is what it's always come down to for me. You can have setting, you can have character... you can have concepts coming out your arse and a hat full of ideas. But if you don't have a story worth telling, I find it difficult to care. Of course, story can derive from characters and concepts, but none of those things are adequate substitues in and of themselves.

    For instance, at the moment, I'm trying very hard to appreciate the new David Mitchell, but it's all - and I mean all - about the setting: everything else, any real semblance of a story included, takes a backseat. Would that it were otherwise; the setting is fantastic, but without that context of narrative, I might as well be staring at a pretty picture.

    But I should reserve judgment, I'm not nearly done with it yet. All digressions aside, your recommendation makes it that much more likely that I'll pick Neuromancer up sooner than later.

    Also loved your blogs about The Wire. It is the sworn duty of all those who've seen that show to recommend all those who haven't to do so. Immediately. I salute you, sir.

  11. I especially grew to like the characters of the sequel Count Zero. Recommendation for that too. William Gibson writes very "humane", cathartic stories, I think.