Hacker News new | past | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login
William Gibson's cyberpunk classic 'Neuromancer' may finally get to screens (latimes.com)
117 points by rbanffy on May 19, 2011 | hide | past | web | favorite | 62 comments

It's almost certainly too much to hope for, but my impossible dream is that this gets done up like it's the 1980s with circa-2012 CGI. A bold kind of retrofuturism we haven't seen yet in film.

Thing is, you can't take Neuromancer out of the '80s. The newness of computer networks, the ascendancy of Japan, the aesthetics of computer hardware -- boxy, whirring things with stark, green CRTs spewing masses of indecipherable alphanumeric incantations, big clunky cables, heavy briefcase-size mobile units; it's all there. And the mash-up of digital and analog technologies is no less integral than Gibson's opening lines to the book, comparing a halogen-hazed night sky to the analog noise of TV transmission.

Neuromancer didn't arrive into a world comfortable with computer technology like ours today. The book stands as a fantastic trip back into a time when technology could be dark, dangerous, and foreign, a zeitgeist Gibson leverages to dazzling effect. "Updating" Neuromancer would bring its entire shadowy world out into the unthreatening, mid-day sun.

Gibson has apologized several times, and notably in the preface to the 25 year anniversary edition of _Neuromancer_, for the utter lack of cell phones.

In an earlier interview he mentioned the scene with Case walking down the length of a row of pay phones, each ringing exactly once as he passes, as one of the first things he wanted to write for the book. I don't remember the last time I saw a row of phones in the U.S.

I think that apology was a mistake. Gibson got it right when he said the future is harder to predict now. I think that covers any 'mistakes' he might have made. If he'd known the future in fact he wouldn't have been able to write such good fiction.

When I first read Neuromancer it (obviously) didn't feel dated. I think going back and correcting things would make it bland. At the time the bit with the payphones was eerie, but now if you did that with cellphones and GPS it feels like less of a deus ex machina is messing with me and more the gov't is overstepping again. sigh. Which is really not the right vibe. I don't expect a youth to pick up Neuromancer today and comprehend it, no matter what you do to it.

More than anything Gibson writes culture. He once said he writes descriptions, but he's focusing on describing people and subcultures. I think the cultural era which he wrote his first trilogy for has past. The cultural era he wrote the second trilogy for is waving goodbye, but I think it's still very accessible to youth. His following books practically document the very era they were written for, which is a fun consequence of writing science fiction set in the plausible present.

You could have the phones belonging to passers-by ring instead, might even make the scary location tracking stuff more obvious?

Part of the "spookiness" was that he was so easily found. Not so easy in the 80s. Nowadays? Meh.

It could be redone. The first solution is Case walking by a line or some other linear crowd and, as he walks, the closest cellphone rings, then the next and so on. I wouldn't do cell phones, but Fringe Redverse-like earpieces. Rings, in that scenario, would also feel weird as some other form of warning would be employed. A series of hello's and reactions to dropped lines, as Case turns back and realizes someone really wants to talk to him. Then he would walk up to a kiosk, and buy a discardable phone that would, immediately, ring.

I would try to avoid the phone-in-an-envelope scene in Matrix, but someone perplexed could hand him a phone and say "it's for you".

It's almost certainly too much to hope for, but my impossible dream is that this gets done up like it's the 1980s with circa-2012 CGI. A bold kind of retrofuturism we haven't seen yet in film.

I'm hoping for Rez! http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rez



I'm always a bit sad that sci-fi books/ideas that are cutting-edge and shocking at the time are either diluted or delayed so much by the time they hit film that they're no longer particularly surprising when the hit the vast majority of people who'd watch a sci-fi film but not read the book form. The awe of newness often gets replaced with action/horror.

yes! i'd love to see a sin city meets bladerunner kind of thing but I'm gonna be pessimistic and expect demolition man...

Mellow greetings. Demolition Man is a fantastic work of satire. It also predicted Schwarzenegger the politician.

I recently watched the Demolition Man for the first time, and not expecting much was pleasantly surprised.

It is better than your average bland sci-fi actioner for 90s and 00s. Sure, the action is about the same as in other movies of the genre, but the biting satire brings it above the fold.

I agree - it's kind of hard to capture the spirit of it when things have changed so much in the meantime. I'd certainly want to watch it though.

However, I would LOVE to see a film adaptation of one particular more recent cyberpunk-style novel, River of Gods by Ian McDonald. It's staggeringly brilliant, and recent enough that it wouldn't be dated in the same way.

I'm actually fairly confident in the director's visual style. I haven't seen Splice, but you should definitely watch Cube. It had a strong strange visual style for the look of the titular maze. If he picks up on those elements in the novel, I'm confident he could make it work.

Please make sure to watch only the first Cube (which I agree was really nice) and not the terrible rehashes.

There have been 3 or 4 sequels and they were so bad that I'm glad nobody ever tried to make a sequel of say, Matrix.

The antagonist in Hypercube was alright, but other than that, yes skip them and forget they exist.

that is actually a very good point. a straight up movie that just tells the story would be ... just another movie.

(of course, it'll be all flat screens and iPods ... and Keanu Reeves. and all the good bits will fit in the trailer so once you have seen that there will be no real reason to see the movie. sigh)

I completely agree, a kind of '80s steampunk would be brilliant.

I agree. To an extent though. Look at anime - it has maintained the dystopian view (Ghost in the shell, etc) where you have amazing tech and ultra-dense urban environments.

Places like Singapore, specifically, and tokyo are where cyberpunk is, was and will be. The location will retain value as density increases over time.

People make the assumption that the density of population and tech is evenly distributed. It has never been - never will be.

You will have ultra-dense areas in singapore and tokyo that truly resemble cyberpunk (I think you do already).

For me, years of playing cyberpunk as a kid after reading the books in the 80s... it was more about the geo-corpolitic dynamic... Apple is Ono Sendai, for example - but not under threat yet that it needs its own security.

I predict; Facebook, Google, Monsanto, Goldman Sachs -- will be the companies that require the services of a security force like XE.

Google's datacenters are already built like prisons, complete with local - low-IQ security bio-robots already looking for a reason to exert their 'authority' over an intruder.

One can only expect that a company like GS and Monsanto are about 5 years away from the first incursions against them.

After Johnny Mnemonic, I'm kinda shocked that he'd allow this. Granted film effects have come a long way, but it'll take a hell of a screen writer and director to bring that to the screen.

Edit: Guess the point is, even if it is really good, I'm not sure it could live up to expectations.

On top of that, can you imagine how tiresome the repeated "what a Matrix rip-off" claims are going to be?

The sad thing is you're most likely right :-(

It will however give an opportunity for Eldernerds to post a link to this:


> I'm not sure it could live up to expectations.

Oh, it's almost guaranteed not to. But who cares? Even if it's only half as good as the book, it'll be a great movie, particularly when you compare it to the bilge that permeates cinemas these days.

The director is apparently Vincenzo Natali (Cube, Splice).

The Cube was utter garbage.

This hack does not deserve to make Neuromancer.

I didn't like Cube very much. The acting was bad, the premise was a bit silly... but still, it had something which made it interesting.

And it was the guys first movie, on a tiny budget.

I haven't seen Splice yet, but have heard mostly good things about it. So don't write off the guy just because of Cube.

Be glad...initially the guy who did Torque was slated to be the director

WG has actually maintained, even very recently on twitter, that he quite enjoyed JM. He did write the screen play.

I didn't hate it, but I have never felt the need to watch it since I saw it as a teenager.

Same here. I remember liking it, but I was 12...

Gibson's writing is good because he develops incredibly complex social systems and structures for the reader to navigate. He does this mainly by leaving gaps in the world that the reader has to imagine or guess at. Some of them are filled in, as the plot progresses some of them are filled in and explained. This is incredibly difficult to do well in film. Directors are always tempted to show everything and producers demand it if there is the budget for it. The world becomes simpler, flatter, maybe a little silly.

Call me a lunatic, but I really enjoyed Johnny Mnemonic (the international version with the extra scenes from the extended Japanese version spliced in and sub'd). It was by no means a flawless movie (Keanu Reeves' acting was about as bad as bad Keanu Reeves acting can get, and they royally fucked up Molly Millions' character (apparently because they didn't have rights to use the actual Molly Millions character due to a Neuromancer movie attempt or somethig)), but all in all it really felt Gibson.

Stylistically, I think it was dead on.

EDIT: goes over the differences between the international version and the Japanese version: http://www.movie-censorship.com/report.php?ID=1523&In=Qu... basically, they removed nearly every supporting scene for the main Japanese character, and the explanation of the ending.

Vincenzo Natali actually seems to know what he is doing unlike the so called director of Johnny Mnemonic.

A worse problem with JM was the so called actors.

Which the director has at least some control of right?

Probably too complex to make it to the screen even remotely intact.

When I read it (in one evening, quite a rush) I remember thinking that Molly was kind of cool, as I imagined her. A few years later I saw a Neuromancer comic book, and her glasses made her look freaky and insectoid. Maybe a different artist would have done a better job . . . but some things just don't translate to the screen.

It will probably come out similar to Aeon Flux meets swordfish

This is a very plausible prediction. I don't like it. Frankly, more than a little bit of me hopes that this gets bogged down in development hell. If it comes out, I'll go see it, but I can't imagine it living up to the book.

Her glasses were compared to insect eyes in the book:

>She hooked thumbs in the beltloops of her leather jeans and rocked backward on the lacquered heels of cherry red cowboy boots. The narrow toes were sheathed in bright Mexican silver. The lenses were empty quicksilver, regarding him with an insect calm.

I'm getting old, because Hollywood has let me down so many times that I no longer have even a hint of hope for this movie. It will take Los Angeles execs about fifteen minutes to start pushing Jaden Smith, likable characters, a happy ending, Natalie f-ing Portman, and product placements.

I'd prefer if they did Snow Crash. That book was fantastic!

I'd love to see you it too, but it's pretty much guaranteed failure - both critical and commercial. It would take a genius to make Snow Crash look good and make sense on film...

I'd prefer to keep the visualization of Snow Crash in my mind and not have it screwed up by some cheap and tacky production that will never match expectations.

Some books should just remain books, and both Snow Crash and Neuromancer are in that bucket. If Gibson wants to be a screenwriter, then he should write a story for the screen.

First 2/3 of the book -- very good.

Ridiculously weak ending, though.


Neal Stephenson develops excellent worlds, creates characters that draw emotion out of readers, and then the endings fizzle. Every single time.

But but but... Zodiac!

It got a bit into itself but the bit with the chopper and the minigun and stuff was awesome!

The only person I’d really been excited about directing Neuromancer was Chris Cunningham[1], but that fell through for reasons unknown.

[1] https://secure.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/wiki/Chris_Cunning...

I would have been quite excited if Stanley Kubrick had directed it.

One of the few directors that could take a masterpiece of a book, and make an even better film from it.

I remember reading a bootleg draft of Gibson's screenplay a while back and thinking "this is terrible".

What I remember about Neuromancer was that after my first reading I thought "wow, that was cool". But it took a few more re-readings to work out, with any confidence, what in blazes was actually going on.

That said, with careful pruning and a big budget for effects, I think it could work on the big screen. I just hope they stay true to the 80s cyberpunk vibe.

Neuromancer and Chernobyl are intertwined for me, probably because I remember talking about it to a colleague one day when the fallout may have been drifting over the UK. Awesome book, I'd read it again but I doubt it would live up to my memories.

On the subject of adaptations, many years ago I bought a Neuromancer graphic novel which was entitled part 1. I have never seen the others, did I miss them?, do I have a rarity?

I can't wait to see this movie and then complain about it on the Internet!

This has been bugging me since I read the book: Does anyone know what could be the secret name, three syllables that 3Jane speaks as a password?

I believe gibson has likened it to a bird call -- just 3 syllables of noise, not words.

If you love Neuromancer, I think you should read James Tiptree Jr.'s (actually Alice Sheldon) short story The Girl Who Was Plugged In (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Girl_Who_Was_Plugged_In), which Gibson said he was influenced by.

Tiptree is pure genius!

Curious that the article states both "Vincenzo Natali will direct the film" and "Visual-effects work already has begun."

Don't mean to be pedantic, but it implies art direction has commenced prior to the director actually starting, which surely must be inaccurate. (Enjoyed Natali's Cube.)

I think they should go for an intentionally retro feel to keep true to the style and the origins of the book. If they set it in the "modern" conception of the future, it would seem as incongruous as the Atlas Shrugged film featuring modern day railroad magnates.

I found the original ad that has had me waiting for the theatrical release for the past two decades.


Jan 1989. "Soon to be a major motion picture".

BBC Radio 4 produced a two-part radio adaptation of Neuromancer around the turn of the century. It’s pretty good, if (understandably) heavily abridged. I’d not going to host it, but there are torrents around if you Google.

This could be a beautiful film if done by a small production house without a lot of interference "for marketing purposes" and if it limits the use of CGI to internal representations of the matrix.

If it happens I'll watch it, but only because of my william gibson fanboy loyalty. My first thought when I saw the headline was how bad the Dune movie turned out.

I can't believe it's taken this long. I hope they do a good job of it.

Let's hope it is as good as Johnny Mnemonic

no, wait, that movie really sucked

Guidelines | FAQ | Support | API | Security | Lists | Bookmarklet | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact