Tim Miller is going from the Merc with the Mouth to the Sprawl.
According to The Tracking Board, Miller has signed on to adapt William Gibson’s Neuromancer for 20th Century Fox. The plot concerns a low-level hustler denied access to the Matrix — no really! — Molly, the street samurai from Johnny Mnemonic and an emerging AI consciousness in a world where drugs, data networks, mafias and ninjas are all interchangeable. Well, interchangeable if you have the money.
The book was revolutionary in 1984, sparking what became known as the Cyberpunk movement. It also predicted a number of facets of our everyday lives today. But after being cannibalized for parts over the last 30 years by films like The Matrix and even the aforementioned Gibson adaptation Johnny Mnemonic, the specifics of the novel do not readily lend themselves to an exciting or visually innovative film at this point. Like The Dark Tower, a Neuromancer film faces the uphill battle of feeling very familiar despite originating many popular sci-fi themes and concepts.
Miller is not the first filmmaker to make the attempt. Music video director Chris Cunnigham was heavily involved in an attempt to bring the book to the screen in the late 1990s. At the time, Gibson said he was the only director with a chance of getting it right. Clearly, he never made the movie. In 2007, Torque director Joseph Kahn signed on to direct, but was replaced by Cube‘s Vincent Natali after several years of development. Liam Neeson and Mark Wahlberg were rumored to star. By 2015, however, Natali was off the project. It is still unclear why these attempts failed to materialized, but one imagines The Matrix was a double edged sword for its prospects: damning it to becoming a project which must be made despite being very worn and antiquated. At this point, making Neuromancer has the air of one of Gibson’s stories.
But that will soon be the concern of a new screenwriter, once the production secures one.
I sincerely hope Miller can crack it. Deadpool is a great movie and his plans for The Goon were great. And yet, like Dune, it’s hard to imagine anyone bringing this book to the screen in a way that makes sense in a modern context.