Fans of cyberpunk, near-future espionage and action have yet another film in development to look forward to, as CBS Films confirmed today that Scott Derrickson (Sinister, The Exorcism of Emily Rose) will direct the big screen adaptation of the videogame Deus Ex: Human Revolution. Derrickson will also be co-writing the script with C. Robert Cargill (Sinister).

Human Revolution, the most recent entry in the videogame franchise, may not have received the publicity push that Assassin’s Creed 3 did, but the project still holds some of the most potential out of the current games destined for adaptations.

In case Derrickson’s track record of tense, disturbing horror films doesn’t seem to have much in common with the cyberpunk future, or any video game series for that matter, it’s worth noting that the themes explored may be right up his alley. Derrickson explains:

“‘Deus Ex’ is a phenomenal cyberpunk game with soul and intelligence…By combining amazing action and tension with big, philosophical ideas, ‘Deus Ex’ is smart, ballsy, and will make one hell of a movie. Cargill and I can’t wait to bring it to the big screen.”

‘Deus Ex: Human Revolution’ protagonist Adam Jensen

Futuristic biotechnology is nothing particularly new to the science fiction genre, but one of the strongest points of Human Revolution – the game the film will most directly be based on – is the setting; and the ‘big philosophical ideas’ Derrickson alludes to. Our cohorts at Game Rant named the story one of the best of 2011, but even so, the premise itself is one that could manage to be both entertaining and culturally relevant on celluloid.

Set in a grounded future of 2027, the world’s interest in technological innovation has spun out of control. The Detroit-based Sarif Industries battles with Shanghai’s Tai Yong Medical for control of the human augmentation industry, replacing body parts and organs with ‘improved’ versions.  What had once started with restoring limbs for amputeets or sight to the blind became a slippery slope that proved to difficult to police, giving rise to poverty, suffering, and violent protests.

That’s the focus of developer Eidos Montreal’s “Purity First’ live-action trailer:

The mix of corporate espionage and notions of ‘humanity’ are fertile ground for fans of speculative fiction, but the special effects and action will likely attract the average moviegoers’s attention, as well. If the film is built around the main character of the videogame, Adam Jensen – an ex-SWAT operative who undergoes extensive augmentations (read: gun-arms) to root out hired killers from the competition – then marketing the visual style and potential for action scenes shouldn’t prove too difficult.

But the game’s basis as a stealth shooter makes the selection of Derrickson even more curious. With a flare for taut, disturbing drama and horror, Derrickson stands out, but a passing glance at the three Canadian-developed game adaptations shows interesting differences. Ubisoft Motion Pictures has wasted no time gaining attention for their Assassin’s Creed and Splinter Cell projects, signing leading men and writers to get development moving.

Eidos and CBS Films, on the other hand, have gone with a director first, and an unexpected one at that. Luckily, Deus Ex: Human Evolution is a video game adaptation with a story that’s easier to predict, as it will no doubt be largely derived from the videogame of the same name.

For anyone who doubts that the story and protagonist could compete with the other major franchises being adapted, Eidos Montreal’s first cinematic trailer still impresses, while also giving an idea of what to expect:

Given Derrickson’s skill for tasteful and refreshing horror – and the ability to make even found-footage surprising in the case of Sinister – it’s possible the film’s producers truly are planning on exploring more than just the espionage and gunplay. That’s optimistic, but it certainly implies that the Deus Ex movie will have a cohesive vision where directing, writing, and potential casting are concerned.

The next update that will work in the film’s favor is the casting of Jensen himself. No matter the challenges of bringing a video game series into live-action, a strong lead can turn skepticism to excitement overnight. Assassin’s Creed has Michael Fassbender, Splinter Cell has Tom Hardy, and the field is wide open for arguably the most inspired and visually stunning character out of the three.

What do you think of Derrickson and Cargill’s involvement? Is it a wise move to go with a director so unexpected, or is this one gamble that might not pay off?

No release date has been set for Deus Ex: Human Revolution.

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