Neuromancer Comes

As first reported on JoBlo, and repeated on Slashfilm, Hayden Christensen is cast as Case in the upcoming Neuromancer film helmed by Joseph Kahn.  First, I have a terrible feeling about Christensen playing Case, and I’m not just talking about his abysmal performances in the the Star Wars prequels (did anyone see Life as a House in 2001).  Case exudes a shut-the-fuck-up, I-don’t-give-a-shit, who-the-fuck-woke-me-up attitude.  Just look at Christensen, the best look he can give is a blank stare and a fake laugh.

More importantly the issue I take with this production of Neuromancer is that I believe its time has past.  Don’t get me wrong, I love cyberpunk, and I think Rudy Rucker and Marc Laidlaw’s recent “The Pefect Wave” novelette in Asimov’s (January 2008) is par excellence!  The thing is that William Gibson’s Neuromancer is twenty-four years old.  It was mind-blowing SF at its initial publication, and it heralded the beginning of cyberpunk.  Additionally, it furthered the postmodern project in SF.  Neuromancer is still future-oriented SF, but without a proper script and a dedicated director who “gets” cyberpunk and Neuromancer, it will, as others have pointed out, become the next Johnny Mnemonic film.  Another point about timing has to do with Gibson’s own recent SF.  His last novel, Spook Country, is SF, but it’s about the past (and not in a steampunk kind of way).  Gibson locates the future in the recent past in that novel (see also his short story, “The Gernsback Continuum”).

Of course, I’m speaking as a fan rather than as a critic regarding the production of Neuromancer.  I welcome any and all narratives whether they are textual, filmic, or otherwise.  However, professionally, I would prefer to talk about something hard-hitting, interesting, and well executed than something that I would consider a dead weight to American culture.

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Jason W. Ellis

I am an Associate Professor of English at the New York City College of Technology, CUNY whose teaching includes composition and technical communication, and research focuses on science fiction, neuroscience, and digital technology. Also, I direct the B.S. in Professional and Technical Writing Program and coordinate the City Tech Science Fiction Collection, which holds more than 600 linear feet of magazines, anthologies, novels, and research publications.