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Cyberpunk Classic Neuromancer Begs For Adaptation: Can Apple TV Pull It Off?

Cyberpunk Classic Neuromancer Begs For Adaptation: Can Apple TV Pull It Off?
Image credit: TriStar Pictures, Warner Bros, Legion-Media

In the nearly forty years since the novel was first published, it has yet to be adapted, but rumor has it that it may be turned into an Apple TV+ series.

Summary:

  • The cyberpunk genre has declined in recent years; many believe it’s because it is no longer fiction.
  • Neuromancer's influence defined the entire genre for decades
  • The Neuromancer TV series is rumored to be coming to Apple TV+, but making it work is going to be incredibly tricky

The history of the cyberpunk genre is a rather shaky one, as since its inception in the 1980s, its popularity has declined significantly over the years.

While there are many reasons why this has happened, one of the biggest is that it simply hasn't aged well, and its main traits can seem dated and even naïve decades later.

In addition, what was perceived as a scary but fascinating future has become a banal present, because in many ways we already live in an early cyberpunk society. Even if we don't have sentient androids and advanced cybernetic limbs and organs (at least not yet), many other traits of the genre have become reality.

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The world is riddled with conflicts, corporations have already invaded our lives, it is almost impossible to live without being connected to the Internet, and AI is rapidly advancing and becoming an integral part of our lives.

Although the undeniable cinematic classics of the genre, such as Blade Runner (1982) and The Matrix ( 1999), were released decades ago, cyberpunk is not dead yet, with real gems like Blade Runner 2049 (2017) and Upgrade (2018) appearing to this day.

The Concrete Foundation of Cyberpunk

With all this in mind, the fact that one of the most important works in the genre that essentially invented cyberpunk, Neuromancer, has yet to be adapted is absolutely baffling.

Written by American-Canadian author William Gibson, one of the founders and biggest contributors to the genre, Neuromancer was published in 1984 and immediately became one of the pillars of cyberpunk.

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It revolves around former professional hacker Henry Dorsett Case, who was infected with a special toxin when one of his previous jobs didn't go according to plan, leaving him unable to enter the Matrix (the term was invented by Gibson and then reused by the Wachowskis for their own groundbreaking creation).

This completely destroyed Case's life, leading him to spend the rest of his miserable existence in the underworld of Chiba City, Japan, doing low-quality jobs, abusing drugs, and seeking death.

But the loser gets a second chance when he is hired by Molly, a cybernetically enhanced operative, and Armitage, a man with a mysterious past, to hack Wintermute, the AI of one of the world's wealthiest families, the Tessier-Ashpools, who preserve their bloodline by cloning themselves.

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This leads to an incredibly thrilling adventure that takes our protagonists around the world and even beyond Earth, with many iconic cyberpunk traits.

In the course of his mission, Case encounters the digitized consciousness of a deceased legendary hacker, yakuza, oligarchs bent on changing the world, cyborgs, manipulative AIs, orbital stations, and much, much more.

The Rumors About The Neuromancer Series

So what about the Neuromancer adaptation? Strangely enough, rumors surfaced in late 2022 that it would be adapted into a show for Apple TV+, with Miles Teller playing Case, according to The Illuminerd, but there's been no official confirmation since then.

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If the streaming service is indeed adapting the iconic novel, it's fantastic news for any fan of the genre, considering Apple's recent breakthroughs with TV shows Foundation and Silo, both based on great sci-fi novels.

However, there are also a number of hidden problems that could tarnish the project's reception and even lead to its cancellation (if it ever gets made, of course).

First of all, given that Neuromancer was written in 1984, much of the technology it describes is dated (there wasn't a single touch screen, for example), so replacing it with modern devices would take away some of the cyberpunk charm of the story.

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The solution is to go in a more retro-futuristic direction, but this route will not be to the taste of every modern viewer.

The second and much more significant problem is that since Neuromancer was a pioneer of the cyberpunk genre, in a bitter twist of irony, many of the elements of the adaptation will look beaten up and outright plagiarized.

Over the decades we have seen all of these things in countless other creations, so presenting them once again in a "brand new" TV show will feel derivative and uninspired, and there is no way to avoid that, short of changing the world completely, which is not a great choice at all.

Securing The Title

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Neuromancer was a groundbreaking masterpiece, and later became part of the "Sprawl Trilogy," along with Count Zero, Mona Lisa Overdrive, and a series of short stories set in the same world, such as Burning Chrome and Johnny Mnemonic (yes, THAT Johnny Mnemonic, more on that later).

But Gibson's success didn't end there, as the author continued to justify his reputation as one of the biggest names in cyberpunk, writing many more stories over the years.

These include the Bridge trilogy and the Jackpot trilogy, which consists of The Peripheral (2014), Agency (2020), and Jackpot (currently in the works), which are set in different worlds than his debut masterpiece.

Previous Adaptations of Gibson's Work

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Some of Gibson's works have been adapted for the big screen and TV with varying degrees of success.

1995's Johnny Mnemonic, starring Keanu Reeves, wasn't particularly good, as it deviated significantly from the original, but it's still a fun movie, especially for its now-nostalgic feel, even if it's not the best film in the genre.

1998's New Rose Hotel, based on the short story of the same name and starring Christopher Walken and Willem Dafoe, was slightly better, but still lost out to the original.

The most recent, the TV series The Peripheral, starring Chloë Grace Moretz, was undoubtedly the best adaptation of Gibson's work, but unfortunately it was canceled after only one season for undisclosed reasons.

Anyway, no official announcement has been made yet, but hopefully the Neuromancer TV series is indeed in the works and we will hear about it sooner or later.

Would you like to see Neuromancer made into a TV series?

Source: The Illuminerd via IMDb