Deus Ex: Human Revolution was an incredibly good game when it came out in 2011: it was excellent in its own right – “Smart, substantial, funny, creative and endlessly fun”, we said in a 94% rating (opens in new tab)– and also accomplished the nearly impossible task of delivering a rebirth worthy of one of the most legendary video games of all time (opens in new tab). It impressed so much that a year after its release, Square Enix and Eidos Montreal struck a deal with CBS to turn it into a movie (opens in new tab).
Human Revolution was seemingly a natural fit for a movie – the E3 extended trailer remains one of my all-time favorite video game cinematics – but as so often happens, the project eventually lost steam and fell by the wayside. But now we can get a taste of what could have been, thanks to a new usa today (opens in new tab) report on the film’s failure to reach the finish line, which includes an excerpt from the script.
The wheels came off the Deus Ex movie when Scott Derrickson, who was working on the script with partner C. Robert Cargill, opted out to direct the 2016 film Doctor Strange. You can’t blame them for wanting a piece of the Universe’s action. Marvel Cinematic, but according to Scott Kinney of Prime Universe Productions, one of the production companies involved in the project, when Derrickson and Cargill left, “he just died.”
“I’m really, really sad that CBS Films messed up this project because I believe Scott would have pulled Deus Ex out of the park to finally make the first major video game film adaptation,” Kinney said. “Their incredible work on Marvel’s Doctor Strange movie, which should/could have been the Deus Ex movie, shared a ‘more than human’ theme in a deft way that translated well into an action adventure movie for an audience of pasta.
“Substitute the mysticism of Doctor Strange for the transhumanism theme of Deus Ex and we felt that we had all the ingredients for a film that could have been memorable, or at worst, ahead of its time.”
Excerpts from a 2014 draft script indicate that the film would have followed the game’s story quite closely, with one significant exception: rather than being enhanced against his will, Adam Jensen asks David Sarif to load it with enhancements for that he can get revenge for the apparent murder of his girlfriend. It’s a doubly ironic change: “I never asked for it” is by far the most iconic phrase in the game, to the point that while Jensen did indeed ask for it in the film, the writers kept it.
Appears at the end of Jensen’s fight with Lawrence “The Bull” Barrett: He’s taking a beating, but in true Hollywood style, he rallies for victory, inspired by belief in himself and the voice of the woman he loves:
You’re a man.
(And a calm we haven’t seen permeates Jensen, the kind that comes with the liberating realization that everything you believe about yourself is somehow wrong, and now you understand the truth.)
(down, to yourself)
…Get up, Jensen.
(coating the mini-gun)
…I’m not like you, Barrett.
You are badass in August!
Yes I am. But-
(And Jensen MOVE, running straight for Barrett!
Barrett is squeezing the trigger when Jensen JUMPS, a blade extending from his right arm, and CUT OFF Barrett’s arm. Barrett ROARS as the arm and gun drop. He attacks Jensen with the other. Jensen rolls over, grabbing the arm/mini-gat, lines it up–)
I never asked for this.
(–and Jensen FIRE!)
I completely agree with USA Today’s opinion that the segment isn’t great, but Kinney said he thinks it was probably fan service. “That sounds like a Hollywood line that was added in a revised draft to me,” he said. “It’s hard to totally avoid things like that.”
The film’s development never progressed to the casting stage, but the report says Kinney envisioned Stephen Lang (opens in new tab) in the role of Barrett, while Bradley Cooper (opens in new tab) it was his choice for Adam Jensen. Lang as Barrett is an easy yes, but Cooper as Jensen doesn’t convince me: he’s visibly healthy and all-American to get it. Viggo Mortensen (opens in new tab) comes to mind as a possible better option – or perhaps sebastian stan (opens in new tab). His most famous role puts him halfway there anyway.
Regardless of who got the lead roles, the history of Hollywood and video games makes me deeply skeptical – but even so, it looks like the Deus Ex movie could have been a winner. Too bad we’ll never find out.