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Think back a couple of years, before Battleship went into production, when the rights a host of board games were snatched up by Hollywood production companies assumed the movie-going population would want to spent two hours of their lives watching a haphazard plot thrown onto a popular game. Twenty years of mostly critically-panned video game adaptations, and some people thought that problem could be easily solved by severely simplifying the source material. Luckily, filmmakers Scott Derrickson and C. Robert Cargill-- who last teamed up for the horror film Sinister-- are going the opposite route, taking on one of the more morally and physically complicated video games out there. Just don’t call it a video game adaptation.
For an interview with Crave Online, Derrick son and Cargill spend a lot of time talking about their upcoming Deus Ex film, taking every opportunity possible to reaffirm their chief philosophy: “We’re not making a video game movie; we’re making a cyberpunk movie.” Their take on the game’s third entry Deux Ex: Human Revolution is “moving like a rocket,” but the duo continually stress that their approach was not to rehash the entire game, but to flesh it out to include elements unavailable within the gaming world, all while keeping it grounded in reality. A cyberpunk reality.
Wisely avoiding films like Johnny Mnemonic and New Rose Hotel, Derrickson and Cargill namecheck films like District 9, Looper and Inception as inspirations for how to cloak extremely high-concept science fiction in every day realism. Derrickson calls them “all movies that took certain familiar science fiction methodologies and turned them upside-down…Those are all things you’ve seen a dozen bad versions of, and a dozen decent versions of that.” They want to break free from the Blade Runner and Matrix curses that “aren’t really cyberpunk films but they are so iconic and so insurmountable.” With Deus Ex, even though they aren’t able to showcase the vast open world of the game, the duo are confident that their non-traditional storytelling and aesthetics will win people over.
Admittedly, while cyberpunk is an amazingly original genre, it’s a term that might not strike film fans of all ages as the most approachable. But then most of science fiction appears that way at first, and a film’s quality will often bring in the audiences no matter what the subject matter. Considering Derrickson and Cargill combined on the spooky-but-empty horror film Sinister, while Derrickson was behind the mostly awful The Day the Earth Stood Still and The Exorcism of Emily Rose, maybe we should keep our skepticism at close hand. Possessions and evil monsters hidden in celluloid don’t make the easiest transition to secret societies and biotechnological warfare.