So what about a movie?
Neuromancer: Story to Film
Film Noir was set into the bones of cinematic cyberpunk with the original CP movie- Blade Runner. And the essence of Film Noir is all over Neuromancer. You can almost hear a Chandleresque voiceover reading the book. So why would you do anything other than a Noir treatment? Not that I’m advocating a voice over. I have the classic aversion to voiceovers in movies. Not that they don’t work sometimes, but it’s a movie- show what’s happening. And the dialog is so exposition heavy that in this case a voiceover could easily be too much. It’s a shame to lose Gibson’s prose but perhaps it could be placed in the mouths of background characters. Visually have as much detail about the world as possible without stopping to linger on any of it. Bathe the viewer in ambiance. Overload the eye with minutiae.
Keep the direction simple. The world is going to be confusing enough with everybody using words and concepts the audience might not be familiar with. Let the situations, speech, and environment be weird, don’t let flashy camerawork compete for attention. I think this is the main reason that I’m not particularly sad at the loss of Chris Cunningham as director. Cunningham had worked on a movie treatment and script for quite a while. Because of his affinity for the material and visual aplomb, he was doubtless a better choice than Joseph Kahn but would still be a first time director dealing with difficult material. And you never know what you’re going to get when you let a music video director do their first feature. (Think David Fincher and Alien3.) Cunningham’s videos for Aphex Twin and Bjork had that cyberpunk vibe in spades and a nice eye for composition and mood but were overpowered by the type of self conscious camera work and seizure inducing cutting that is a music video cliché. I don’t think Neuromancer is going to benefit from an overly clever directorial treatment because the story moves so fast. Cunningham might have been too much but his loss is still a blow to the movie. Anyway, all that milk has spilled already. Kahn has already been playing up the romance aspect of the story. THE ROMANCE. I didn’t even realize Neuromancer was a romance and I’ve read the book twice. Urrrrrrrrrr.
Actually keeping the structure of the book intact could be a good idea for the screenwriter and director. Movies such as Memento, Pulp Fiction, and Smoking Aces have structural similarities and work without problem.
Other than directorial excess my greatest fear is that the characters will be sacrificed to casting.
Molly- is the classic injured woman who isn’t going to take it anymore. There are hordes of beautiful athletic women in Hollywood who can act nowadays. Find somebody good and unfamiliar. Demi Moore in her G.I. Jane days is a good starting point. But the actress has to be able to portray Molly’s inner vulnerability or the whole thing is over. The romance with Case has to have Molly as the strong partner, it’s anything but a seduction.
Case- is no hero. Cast somebody interesting and vulnerable. Think a young Steve Buscemi or Dustin Hoffman. That Hayden Christianson was cast seems to indicate that this train has already gone off the tracks. You have to wonder what the script looks like if Christianson fit the bill of Case. Will Smith’s involvement in I, Bad Boy Robot was certainly telling. I guess this is going to be Neuromancer 90210.
Armatige- has to be tough but able to lose it at the end. Clint Eastwood would be great but it’s actually a nice part for any actor that wants a big reveal in the movie. Three words- no sylvester stallone.
Peter Riviera- is a classic Peter Lorrie part. Charming, decadent, slimy and sociopathic. You could go a dozen different ways with this but can’t be afraid of graphic drug use.
The Dixie Flatline- is the part Oliver Platt was born to play. Have him in the Elvis hairdo for the flashbacks.
Lady 3Jane- isn’t a really demanding role. Just be beautiful, icy, and very, very bored.
Hideo- is the ancient assassin retainer of the Tessier-Ashpool clan. I rebel against the idea of a young thin Kung-fu action hero playing this part. Why not a middle aged, overweight family butler type.
The supporting cast could be just as important as the main characters. Here is a perfect opportunity for some Altmanesque crowd scenes where snippets of conversation fill in lots of extraneous detail.
Of course all of this is just spitballing. There are a dozen ways to do it right and a million ways to screw it up. The choice of director and star isn’t encouraging because neither seems to fit the material. I fear that we’re going to get another Paycheck, where the story and setting are sacrificed and the result is just another mindless Hollywood chase-romance movie. Hope springs eternal- they finally got Batman right- but I think I’m going to go back and read the book again instead.
It’s a great book.