Director Scott Derrickson says that the video game adaptation will take another direction.
Deus Ex: Human Revolution, based on the video game of the same name, follows the story of an ex-cop, Adam Jensen, who now works for a private security firm.
After a violent encounter with a mysterious mercenary group, his body is partially rebuilt using advanced cybernetic technology. In the game, this essentially serves as the character advancement tool.
As Jensen earns more money and experience, he is able to upgrade various components of his body, enhancing his speed, strength, and senses, and giving him several extraordinary abilities, like the reduction of falling damage and active camouflage. He may not like the augments (that’s up to the player to decide in various dialog trees), but he will need them if he’s to survive the conspiracy at hand.
The game is influenced by cyberpunk fiction and explores some of the same themes that genre is known for, primarily transhumanism. The protagonist was augmented involuntarily, but all around him is a world where body part replacement for performance, aesthetic, or recreational purposes is a major element of society, though there are those who are stalwartly against such modifications.
The game’s story, during which Jensen investigates the incident that got his body broken, and girlfriend missing, is actually already fairly cinematic, so it was only a small surprise when we learned last year that a film based on the game was in development. Of course, since it’s a branching and open-ended plot-line, the writers would have to decide which ending of the game to make canon for the film, but that’s really the only major element which would need to be altered from the basic plot-line, unlike most video games which need complete plot overhauls to even be considered for a Hollywood script.
That’s why it seems a bit odd that director Scott Derrickson has specifically come out to say that he doesn’t want the film to be like the game.
“Yeah, the chief philosophy is we're not making a video game movie, we're making a cyberpunk movie,” he said in a recent interview. “We've taken a look at what's worked in video games and what hasn't, and really what we've broken down is what we think the audience really wants, [what] the audience that loves Deus Ex is going to want to see out of a Deus Ex movie. And it's not a rehashing of the game. What they want to see is, they want to see elements of the game that they love, but they want to see things that they hadn't quite seen in the game, that the game didn't allow them to see.”
It’s honestly a strange thing to say. I get that they don’t want it to be seen as a “video game movie” since that has such a strong stigma, but that’s exactly what it is. It has to be. And to say that it’s a cyberpunk movie instead verges on silly. It had better be a cyberpunk movie, it’s adapting a story from a cyberpunk setting. If they made anything else, they would have been on the wrong path from the start. Comic book movies had a similar stigma until only recently, but when Marvel started making comic book movies which were actually good, they didn’t try to claim that it was because they weren’t making comic book movies anymore. They didn’t try to avoid the stigma, they plowed through it, and if someone is going to make a good film with a video game for source material, they’ll have to do the same.
“We're trying to break out,” C. Robert Cargill, who helped Derrickson write the script for the film, attempts to clarify. “We're looking at movies like District 9, Looper, and Inception. Those are the molds of what we've been doing. Let's push this and do something new with concepts people love, but tell a story that they've never seen before, that just melts their brain. And that is just hyperkinetic and smart and just hits all the right buttons that genre audiences want to see. That's what we've gunned for. We haven't tried to build it around Johnny Mnemonic or New Rose Hotel."
So, they want to make a brain-melting film. That’s their starting point. It doesn’t sound like either of these guys knows what they are talking about, and that doesn’t give me much confidence in the eventual product. As much as I loved Deus Ex: Human Revolution as a video game. I will not be disappointed if this project dies in development hell.
The film adaptation of Deus Ex: Human Revolution is in the development stages and has no announced release date.