Three years ago, animator Shane Acker made his feature-length directorial debut with 9 - a big screen treatment of his Oscar-nominated short. It was a moderate financial success, grossing $48 million worldwide on a $30 million budget, and received mixed-to-positive marks from critics for its expanded version of the simple story featured in Acker's original work (read out review, for additional insight).
However, what the 9 feature managed to do unequivocally is establish Acker as someone capable of creating mesmerizing CGI imagery - and constructing an alternate/sci-fi world that is unmistakably HIS, rather than the handiwork of producers Tim Burton and Timur Bekmambetov.
That's all context for today's announcement that Acker is teaming up with the Valve Corporation video game development and digital distribution company on a new computer-animated feature, titled Deep. According to the Chicago Tribune, Deep will employ Valve's game production technology - used for series like Half-Life and Team Fortress - which will, in turn, allow for "real-time rendering, and editing, simplified character animation and economical lighting."
Part of the logic behind said move is to prevent expenditures on Deep from rising above the relatively small $18.7 million target budget. As additional financial incentive: creating Deep with Valve's tech also lends itself naturally to a video game tie-in - and if there's any one trend which is all the rage in the movie biz nowadays (besides remaking/rebooting old properties), it's releasing products with built-in multi-platform potential.
Deep is an original story being scripted by Jack Barton Mitchell. Similar to 9, it is set in a "post-apocalyptic world, devastated by World War III", though probably not an alternate-reality Earth, like in 9. The storyline follows the adventures of Sullivan, a nuclear submarine captain who discovers that a race of "super scientific intelligence" (called the Wayfarers) can save the planet from complete destruction - but at what cost, is the question.
As mentioned before: Acker's involvement with Deep will ensure that it looks incredible, beyond the context of a digitally-animated film with a budget under $20 million. It's also hard to knock any project that aspires to be genuinely creative from a storytelling perspective (see: our similar reaction to the Wachowskis' Jupiter Ascending), and Deep tweaks familiar dystopian/sci-fi tropes just enough to warrant attention. In other words: we'll be keeping an eye on this one.
Since Deep is only in the early stages of pre-production, it's best to not expect any updates on the film in the near future. All the same, Screen Rant will keep you posted on any information concerning its release date - including, whether or not Valve uses its online network, Steam, as an alternative means to distribute the movie.