CBS Films makes a deal to bring sci-fi video game ‘Deus Ex’ to the bigscreen

They must be throwing some crazy parties in Montreal this week.

Yesterday, Ubisoft Montreal made news when it was announced that Michael Fassbender has agreed to star in and produce a film adaptation of “Assassin’s Creed.”  That’s one of the first gaming properties I’ve seen make the jump to movies that I think could be something truly special.  The “Assassin’s Creed” games are built on strong narrative building blocks and they feature a pretty great way of telling a story in historical eras as well as in the near-future.

Now, it looks like Square Enix and Eidos Montreal have closed a deal for CBS Films to create a movie adaptation of “Deus Ex: Human Revolution,” one of last year’s headiest gaming experiences.  Again, we’re talking about a game that has a big world that it’s created, that hinges on some very real and big ideas, and that could easily provide enough material for a series of films.

Here’s the official press release from CBS Films:

CBS Films announced today that they have secured the screen rights to the iconic Deus Ex videogame franchise from Square Enix. Roy Lee and Adrian Askarieh are attached to produce and John P. Middleton will serve as Executive Producer.

The Deus Ex franchise was originally introduced in June 2000. Its latest entry, Deus Ex: Human Revolution, launched to universal acclaim in    2011, ranking #1 across global sales charts and earning over 100 industry awards. Developed by Eidos-Montréal and published by Square Enix, Deus Ex: Human Revolution will serve as the primary template for the film.

Set in the near future, when dramatic advances in science, specifically human augmentation, have triggered a technological renaissance, Deus Ex: Human Revolution follows Adam Jensen, an ex-SWAT security specialist who must embrace mechanical augments in order to unravel a global conspiracy.

“As is clear from the wild success of the game, Square Enix and Eidos-Montréal know how to exceed their audience’s expectations by engineering incredible worlds,” said Terry Press, Co- President, CBS Films. “No one knows Human Revolution like the team that created it and we look forward to working with them from day one to make a film adaptation worthy of the Deus Ex name.”

“As the millions of fans who have played the Deus Ex games for more than a decade will tell you, these games catapult you into a universe that is stimulating, engaging and relevant,” said Phil Rogers, president and chief executive officer of Square Enix Europe. “We”re firm believers in building strong partnerships and so we’re thrilled to be working with CBS Films on bringing the unique Deus Ex experience to the big screen.”

Executive Vice President of Production Maria Faillace and Creative Executive Alex Ginno are overseeing the project for CBS Films.

While it’s easy to talk about the film-related names in that press release, what’s most interesting about both this and the deal they announced for “Assassin’s Creed” is that the gaming companies are staying heavily involved here.  They’re not just selling the rights and walking away.  These are important intellectual properties for them.  These are the assets on which they built their studios, and they’re being careful here.  They have to, since the vast majority of the films that have been made from gaming properties so far have been… well, the polite way to put it would be “terrible.”

When Microsoft and Budgie tried to stay attached to “HALO,” things went south and the film did not end up happening.  Even so, they had the right idea.  They knew that they wouldn’t be happy watching someone come in and screw up something that was so essential to their ongoing business, and so they built those controls into the contracts.  It sounds like the same thing is true with these new films, and I think that’s probably a good idea.

We haven’t had that great game-to-movie moment yet, but the same thing was true of comics for a long time as well.  I think the key is realizing that the two experiences are totally different, and while they can be built from the same sources, they cannot be the same thing.  Adaptation is essential if a movie is going to work, and when you’ve got something as dense and potentially rich as “Deus Ex,” it sounds like it’s going to be an exciting process for whoever ends up writing the film.

Here’s a trailer in case you’re unfamiliar with the game, and it does a nice job of suggesting what sort of things the filmmakers will be able to play with:

We’ll look forward to bringing you more news on this one as it comes together.