‘The Peripheral’, reality, fiction and a cyberpunk future with the creators of ‘Westworld’

A few weeks ago, HBO announced that Westworld It would not have a fifth season and that the series will not achieve the conclusion that those responsible wanted. Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy were the creators of a story (based on a film by Michael Crichton) that had as its premise a world in which the distance between robots and humans was blurred. In that futuristic line, but with a different approach and style, Nolan and Joy are the producers and main promoters of The Peripheralwhich broadcasts Amazon Prime Video (next Friday it will complete the eight episodes of its first season).

The Peripheral adapts the novel of the same name of william gibson. The writer, one of the most influential in current science fiction and author of titles such as neuromancer either Johnny Mnemonic (with film adaptation), is considered the father of cyberpunk, a subgenre set in dystopian futures that combine advanced technology with a low standard of living. As in the novel, the story presents two universes, both located in the future, but very different from each other. In the year 2032, Flynne Fisher (played by Chloë Grace Moretz) lives poorly in a town in the southern United States with his blind mother and his war veteran brother. He has to support her family and pay for her mother’s medication. But his passion is virtual reality video games. With his brother’s avatar, he will start testing a new technology that allows the user to feel even the pain and pleasure that the character experiences in the digital environment. In this alternate world, located in a semi-deserted London in the year 2099, Flynne finds herself involved in a murder case. She soon begins to notice that everything is too real, and to wonder what is fact and what is fiction, and how what she does in the game can influence her life outside of it.

For vincenzo natalidirector and producer of the series, the main challenge with The Peripheral was to restrain himself before the abundant material of the book. “Luckily, Lisa Joy, Jonathan Nolan, and Scott B. Smith, the show’s writer, pulled out what was really important and found a narrative that would work in the television format. I think we have managed to maintain the essence of the novel ”, explains Natali in a video call interview in mid-October. Beside her, Lisa Joy continues: “If you’re a Gibson fan, and we all are, you just want to add, not take away. But making a series means moving the story into a different medium, and there had to be inventions of our own and we also removed things, you have to choose a focal point for the story. Our focus was the character of Flynne Fisher.”

Gary Carr and Chloë Grace Moretz in ‘The Peripheral’.

At the origins of The Peripheral there is a succession of coincidences that Vincenzo Natali associates with destiny. The director was involved in an adaptation of Gibson’s first novel, neuromancer, which did not come to fruition, but the writer and filmmaker maintained their friendship. Years later, Gibson sent her his new book, The Peripheral. “At the time I was working on Westworld and had an intuition that Jonathan and Lisa could be fans from Gibson. I sent them the book and Lisa read it to them in 24 hours, and it is not a simple book, and immediately she said that it had to be made into a series ”.

Joy was drawn to the universe it shows. “She’s not even a futuristic anymore, a lot of the things she describes are happening now. But for me, it is a book full of hope. In a world with so few certainties and where it seems that so many forces are conspiring against us and with so much out of control, what does it mean to live a meaningful life? How to make a difference?”, comments the producer.

As the director of the first episode, Vincenzo Natali was in charge of setting the tone and aesthetics of the series. He wanted to get away from the obvious, from inspiration in Blade Runner. “Actually, I tried to get away from any referent. Blade Runner It’s one of my favorite movies, but it’s already over 40 years old. Even so, it has defined the paradigm of what we imagine when we talk about a futuristic film. I wanted to offer a different image of what the future can be”. His London of 2099 is dark, inhospitable and luxurious. “The society of the future that we discover in London is in the process of recovering from a terrible trauma and, as is often the case with trauma victims, they look back with nostalgia to find their roots and heal. At the same time that they have incredibly advanced technology, they use that technology to recreate artifacts from the past, and so, the London of the future is a strange echo of the London of the past, only slightly modified, almost museum-like and without population, extremely aesthetic. and beautiful, ghostly but seductive”.

Gary Carr and Chloë Grace Moretz in'The Peripheral'.
Gary Carr and Chloë Grace Moretz in ‘The Peripheral’.

Both Lisa Joy and Vincenzo Natali have shown through their careers that they are in love with science fiction. she, besides Westworlddirected and wrote the film Reminiscencea not to go futuristic. Now prepare the adaptation in serial format of the video game fallout for Prime Video. Natali surprised in 1997 with the claustrophobic and eerie cube and continued with titles like Cypher either Splice. “For me, science fiction is a form of mythology,” reflects Lisa Joy. “Myths have always attracted me because they are that mirror through which you can show society. It doesn’t matter when they were written, since they are allegories, they are timeless. Greek mythology resonates in the present. Science fiction is a way of examining the world and our place in it in an allegorical way and that can be interpreted in different ways and endure over time”, says the producer and screenwriter. “Science fiction is our new mythology,” agrees Natali. “Not all of us believe in gods and monsters anymore, but we do believe in technology.”

For the director, science fiction is a very elastic and open genre. “It is always shown in a hybrid way, it is usually associated with something else. Westworld it was a western mixed with science fiction. It is a genre that absorbs and contains other genres. What’s more, it’s mutated into something that resonates with us, because when we look at our iPhones, at least if you’re from my generation, you can feel a bit like you’re in a sci-fi movie.”

It is also a genre very given to reflections on the present. The Peripheral It is no less in that sense. “It reminds us that the Armageddon It will not be caused by a meteorite, it is the multiple community and individual choices that we are making. Those small choices, those acts, can have a big impact on the world. It is a message that people need to hear to understand that there is hope as long as we have the possibility to act ”, defends Joy. “What Greta Thunberg, who has things in common with Flynne Fisher,” continues Natali. “If I think about it, I think she’s probably the most influential person alive right now. This may sound corny, but I think women are the ones who will save us. I have given up on men, I really believe that powerful women hold the key to save us in the future”, concludes the director.

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‘The Peripheral’, reality, fiction and a cyberpunk future with the creators of ‘Westworld’