Movies and video games have had a rather rocky relationship over the years, with most games based on movies and movies based on games being considered a poor combination. Deus Ex screenwriter C. Robert Cargill says he's approaching his movie differently than many game movies have been thought of in the past.
“The chief philosophy is we’re not making a video game movie, we’re making a cyberpunk movie,” describes Cargill. “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.”
“So it’s really allowed us to expand upon the things that happened in the game, and the game has such a great cinematic story to begin with that those elements are very easy to extract. But really, at its core, we just keep telling each other, 'We’re not making a video game movie, we’re making a cyberpunk movie.' And Scott and I are such big cyberpunk fans from way back in the day that that just really charges us up. Because that’s what’s so great about Deus Ex to begin with, is it really gets cyberpunk. Eidos Montreal really understood the nature of cyberpunk and made 'the' cyberpunk game, and it is just fantastic, and we’ve just had a great time adapting it."
“We’re trying to break out, and really, the mold for the movies that we’re looking at… We’re looking at movies like District 9 and Looper, and Inception,” he added. “Those are the molds of what we’ve been doing. It’s… 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...”
“Cyberpunk is difficult,” notes Deus Ex director Scott Derrickson. “There’s a reason we haven’t had a great cyberpunk movie yet. There’s a reason why a sci-fi movie as great as Neuromancer has never made it to the screen. I do think there’s a new wave coming, and not just because the technology and the effects are up to speed, but I think that there’s a sensibility to cyberpunk that the movies are catching up with. That’s kind of how we feel. We feel like the science fiction, the reason why we reference Inception, Looper and District 9 was that they were all movies that took certain familiar science fiction methodologies and turned them upside-down and brought a grounded realism to them. Time travel, aliens arriving on Earth, going into the dream world… Those are all things that you’ve seen a dozen bad versions of, and it dozen decent versions of that. But no one, until those three films, no one had gone into film-making from a grounded, realistic point of view and made something with a fresh aesthetic."
“And I think that there was a little bit of the Blade Runner curse, a little bit of the Matrix curse, where you’ve got these movies that touch on cyberpunk elements that aren’t really cyberpunk films but they are so iconic, and so insurmountable. They’re perfect films in their own ways, [but] no one has been able to break free of that, or no one has broken free of that, and tried to go at it completely fresh. I think that we’re going to see a wave of them, I predict. I think that cyberpunk is going to break out. There’s going to be a new kind of science fiction film, and it will be cyberpunk, and it will be amazing.”
The Deus Ex games have been big, incorporating numerous locations, but Derrickson thinks it's better to have touch-points rather than scene for scene recreations. “The thing about Deus Ex, the landscape is massive. I mean, it is a big, broad, sprawling game, and look, it’s impossible to get the aesthetic of that game into a single movie,” he said. “So the key is to take some of the elements of it that are original, and that feel fresh, and that feel like the things that we haven’t been looking at for a long time, and use those. What else you need, you invent. You adapt. That’s the nature of turning a video game into a movie, is keeping the elements that are iconic and important, [that] advance the game, but also recognizing that if that’s all you do, you’ll just make another bad video game movie."
While Cargill was apparently very skeptical of the project at first, Derrickson pointed out to him that movies based on comics were mostly bad until relatively recently. “Cargill was really skeptical, I remember that. And Cargill said, 'Oh no, video games movies always suck.' And I said, 'So did comic book movies, until they didn’t. You know?' I’m a big believer and I think Cargill is now, as well, that video games,” detailed Derrickson. “Video games and cyberpunk, I’m hoping that there will be a new wave of both, because there’s amazing source material for great films there.”