In Neuromancer, the main character Case has killed people in dirty meaningless fights, he’s a self-destructive drug addict, running himself into the ground, barely eating, and trying to convince the city streets to open up and swallow him in a dark alley one night. This character is a vortex of self-loathing, and I just don’t see many actors who would want to try and do that in a science-fiction film. I’ve spent fifteen years getting to know the character and seven years writing about it, so in this regard I feel that I know Case pretty well.
Does that character description fit with Hayden Christensen in your head? He’s most famous for playing Anakin Skywalker (who became Darth Vader) in the second and third of the Star Wars series. In fairness to Christensen, in the Star Wars films he (allegedly) went to Lucas and said ‘Are you sure you want Anakin to be this whiny?’ and Lucas said ‘No, make him more whiny!’. With direction like that the it’s hard to do much. While Christensen may yet display previously unseen depths of acting and character in his performance as Case, he’s not yet shown that he is capable of portraying the complexity of the part. I really hope he surprises us, and I’ll be the first to stand applauding if he does.
Christensen might be able to pull it off with good direction, but the director attached to the project, Joseph Kahn, doesn’t give me a lot of hope on that one. He’s best known for the very dumb action film Torque (scoring a rating of 3.4 out of 10, barely skimming out of the worst rated 100 films on IMDB) and the Britney Spears video for the song ‘Toxic’. The story of Neuromancer is fairly complex, with multiple antagonists with differing agendas, which is partly why this film hasn’t ever happened yet despite 20 years of people trying to make it. I’m very concerned that they are going to strip it back to a pile of meaningless action sequences.
If they made this film feel like a drunk hurriedly stumbling home through the bad area of town, people hurrying past and predatory eyes watching the progress from shadows, then it would feel right. It’s more likely to feel like a glossy jet-bike ride, and that’s going to be a huge betrayal of the book. Christensen’s casting feels like the jet-bike version of the story, and that’s why the people who want this film to be good are so worried about him.