The Peripheral (2022): Objectification

For my money William Gibson is the greatest living science fiction author, and I’m sure eventually someone, somewhere will finally feel brave enough to attempt to put Neuromancer on screen.

In the meantime, we have The Peripheral, the Amazon produced television adaptation of Gibson’s 2014 novel of the same name.

Alexa, upload my consciousness!

I found the novel a little dense and flat, and while I’ve enjoyed the first two episodes of the screen adaptation, it seems similarly heavy with detail and a little plodding in execution. There are highlights, naturally. Lavish production design, some inventive uses of London locations, and a committed cast who do their very best to sell the story. But much of the dialogue is poor, I think, with interminable wordy exposition and characters who sound like they are supposed to be drole when actually they are just verbose. Didn’t Polonius mention something about brevity being the soul of wit? In a show that clearly has the budget and the patience for some visual story telling it’s a shame to have to wade through so much talky back and forth. Is a lot of television written for an audience who have one eye on their phones these days? Make sure you repeat all the important plot points twice, in case someone was scrolling through Twitter when you said it first.

And about that cast. Chloë Grace Moretz, last seen in our house in Diary of a Wimpy Kid (2010), is a fine actor who deserves better roles. In The Peripheral, she plays the same character twice, once as a real, organic person in the ‘modern’ timeline and again as an identical robot avatar of herself in the ‘future’ timeline. I think the show intends us to feel revulsion at the way other characters paw and prod at her robot body when she is not inside it: a literal portrayal of objectification. But the first time we meet her character in episode one we are introduced to her with a slow pan up her bare legs to her bottom, in a camera move straight out of the Michael Bay playbook. Amazon, you cannot have your cake and eat it.