'Sinister' Writer C. Robert Cargill on the Complexities of Adapting the Deus Ex Game Series for the Big Screen

'Sinister' Writer C. Robert Cargill on the Complexities of Adapting the Deus Ex Game Series for the Big Screen

Nov 16, 2012

Video game movies are the next frontier. Don't let expectations set by movies like Mortal Kombat and Street Fighter taint that, though. This is actually a great thing. Video games are a rich source of ambitious, inventive properties; a vein of blockbuster material that Hollywood has yet to fully tap. There are quite a few high-profile ones on the horizon, including Assassins Creed and Splinter Cell, but for our money the most promising is Deus Ex. And that was before we even knew who would be writing and directing it.

Yesterday it was revealed that the Sinister duo of writer-director Scott Derrickson and cowriter C. Robert Cargill would be bringing this seminal cyberpunk game series to the big screen. More specifically, they're adapting the latest game in the franchise (which is actually a prequel to the entire series), Human Revolution. It takes place in a not-too-distant future where cybernetic implants have become as common place as cell phones, and follows the head of security for the world's biggest cybernetics manufacturer who must track down a terrorist cell that is planning something in the wake of the company's latest and greatest product release. 

If you've never played the game, the easiest way to describe it in cinematic terms is to imagine if RoboCop took place in the future of Blade Runner. And if you have played the game, you've probably got a few questions for the filmmakers. We certainly do, so we reached out to one half of the team to learn a bit about the project. Here's what Cargill could say this early on in the process.

Movies.com: What drew you to Deus Ex?

C. Robert Cargill: First and foremost, the moral complexity of the story. It’s a dark, dark story underneath it all. Almost everyone in the game exists in a moral gray area with a well-defended position that you can really wrap your head around. The writing of Deus Ex is the stuff of good novels. As Scott and I dissected it, we found a lot of interesting angles to issues everyone is wrestling with in this day and age. We thought of elements to the universe that we wanted to further explore. And we got excited about it. On top of all that, Scott and I love cyberpunk. I grew up on it. The way Deux Ex reinvented the genre was fantastic. It got us talking about movies like District 9 and Looper and Blade Runner and Inception, and it just seemed like the right fit.

Movies.com: So you’ve played the game?

Cargill: Several times. I’m in the middle of my third play-through now. I’m trying to beat it without killing anyone but the bosses, which is not easy. There’s something particularly cool about playing video games for “research” and getting to tell your wife you’re “working” while you’ve got an XBox controller in your hand.

Movies.com: What will be the biggest obstacles in adapting?

Cargill: Straight up, the fact that it’s a video game. That comes with its own host of problems. Every fan of the game has a very specific idea in what they want to see in a movie – casting, visuals, favorite parts of the game. At the same time, we’re also making a film for people who haven’t played the game; some who haven’t even heard of it and just think the movie looks cool. The way we’ve approached it is that we’ve decided not to make a video game movie. We’re making a cyberpunk movie.

Movies.com: Any areas of the game you think will be problematic?

Cargill: The game is incredibly convoluted. Not in a bad way, mind you. In a way that really works as a twisty, turny 30-plus-hour gaming experience. A straight adaptation of the core story is, as you say, problematic. If you’ve got two hours, sit down and watch all the cut scenes strung together on YouTube. Then realize that you’ve watched a movie’s worth of story without any connective tissue, leaving out every single side quest/subplot as well as a number of important conversations. The trick will be to tell the story right and do it justice while simplifying certain elements, without cheapening it or dumbing it down. Needless to say, we have some ideas.

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