In 2012, director Scott Derrickson and Sinister co-star C. Robert Cargill were working on a screenplay for a film adaptation of Deus Ex: Human Revolution. In case you don't know the game, it tells the story of Adam Jensen, a former police officer turned security specialist at a biotech company. He injures himself so badly while on duty that he would not have survived without life-saving mechanical augmentations. His broken limbs are chopped off and replaced with military-grade chrome and high-tech infiltration technology. He becomes a killing machine.
In this world, augmentations are not uncommon. Some, like Jensen, are forced to use them for health reasons. Others cut off parts of themselves and replace them with mechanical parts to make a fashion statement. This creates tension between the "Augs" and the "pure" people. The Augs also rely on a drug to keep the body from rejecting their implants, often leading to addiction.
Doctor Strange sawed off Deux Ex
With a cyberpunk style reminiscent of "Blade Runner" and plenty of room for stylish action, the film could have been a success. Unfortunately, Derrickson was forced to step down to direct Doctor Strange.
"We've made really good progress on the script and it's an incredible object," he told Empire Online at the time. "The people at CBS Films hired me and C. Robert Cargill, I love them, they're great people. It's been a really positive process that's been going on and it's been a bit heartbreaking. Getting on 'Doctor Strange' was the biggest downside. The fact that I had to get out of 'Deus Ex'. I couldn't expect them to wait two years for me."
However, without Derrickson, the project fell apart.
"I don't think I really understood the studio's reasoning at the time," said Scott Kinney, head of development at Prime Universe Productions. "They shared that 'Deus Ex' wasn't the kind of movie they wanted to make or were comfortable with, that their overall strategy was moving from action movies like Dwayne Johnson's 'Faster,' which they previously financed, to movies like 'The Duff' moved. Of course Scott Derrickson and C. Robert Cargill left the project for 'Doctor Strange' and it just died."
The cyberpunk aesthetic would have lent itself perfectly to the silver screen.
Thanks to Kinney, GLHF has access to the 2014 draft script, allowing at least a glimpse of what moviegoers ended up missing out on.
Insight into the Deux-Ex script
It begins with a quote from Albert Einstein and a workout montage – below are untranslated excerpts from the original screenplay. The editors do not want to falsify the impression of the work with possibly suboptimal translations.
"Technological progress is like an ax in the hands of a pathological criminal." – Albert Einstein.
The sound of deep and controlled breaths, like a metronome, set against the POUNDING of feet on asphalt.
EXT. RUNNING PATH – PRE DAWN
The sun's penumbra illuminates a slow moving river. Light refracts off of dew covered grass. A drop… quivers, and falls as a pair of running shoes, moves by, fast. We go with them.
PULL UP to reveal the owner. His sweat soaked running shorts and a tank top cover an athlete's body — long and lean, with well-defined muscles.
He angles off the running path, towards an open air workout area — pull up bars, free weights, an obstacle course, etc. As he slows, we see his face: 30's [sic], handsome, with a full head of dark hair. This is a man in his prime. But its [sic] not his appearance that grabs you. It's his eyes. There's an intensity and intelligence to them that speak to a complicated mind.
This is ADAM JENSEN.
EXT. OUTDOOR WORKOUT AREA – PRE DAWN
Jensen angles for the pull up bars, grabs them, and pulls his body up, over and over again. Muscles start to twitch and he slows.
He drops to the ground and down, landing on his hands. Push-ups are next. Lots of them.
Then he moves to the racked weights. Must be 180 pounds. He starts to bench. As he does, his biceps quiver — fourteen reps, fifteen… If the body is a machine, he is pushing his to its limits, and fine tuning it. Muscles fail. Here re racks the weights.
He lies on the bench, breathing hard. The first rays of the sun wash over him as it crests the horizon, its light refracting off of nearby flowers.
Debate on transhumanism
After that, it's off to Jensen's apartment, where he meets his girlfriend, Dr. Megan Reed, entertains. In the script, she is described as "beautiful and bookish", which presumably means that she looks intelligent and not like an old tome. They chat and share a tender moment, but are interrupted by a news report of a terrorist incident. A group called Purity First has attacked the Sarif Industries manufacturing facility. Megan asks Jensen if he agrees that augmentations are inhuman.
"I understand her," he says. "But there is a difference."
Megan crosses to him, staring at the burning building.
Augments help people.
He takes her in, beautiful, then he reaches out and puts his hand on her heart.
What are you doing?
…And you think a cybernetic hand
Not like this.
Augs don't change who you are,
No. But they change what you are.
You want me to augment, I want.
For you. But I don't want to stop
Feeling this, ever.
On the way to Sarif Industries, Jensen sees a pop-up ad reminding him that he hasn't claimed his company perk – free augmentations – yet. He steps through the hologram and ignores it. He also tries to stop Megan from giving some loose change to an augmented addict.
When they arrive at their place of work at Sarif Industries, the audience is introduced to all the key people, including David Sarif, the company's founder.
Shortly thereafter, viewers are introduced to the main opponents: Elena Fedorova, Jaron Namir and Lawrence Barrett. They are all mercenaries apparently working for Purity First. They prepare to attack the building where Jensen is located.
INT. LOBBY – SARIF BUILDING – CONTINUOUS
Lights flash and an alarm sounds. A dozen armed Sarif SECURITY OFFICERS — tactical vests and helmets, military grade hardware — flood in as the lobby GUARDS usher employees towards elevators. ONE reacts as an alloy case slides by his feet, towards the guards. A beat and it EXPLODES!
Concussive force blows guards back. Others raise their weapons, panning, pushing through the smoky silence. And one is BLOWN back, a hole where his chest had been. Security Officers FIRE as Barrett appears out of the smoke.
His coat is gone, revealing the big man beneath, or at least what had been a man. Now, he's entirely something else — a six foot six, four hundred pounds pitbull mean metal motherfucker with a human head. Everything from the neck down — chest, arms, legs, everything — is augmented with chromed out cutting edge military grade cybernetic augmentations.
His face is scarred from fire and battle, his temples home to jacks and plugs, and what used to be his eyes are now glossy black digital displays.
If anything on God's green earth should give you pause, if anything should make you consider the morality of augmentation, Barrett is it.
According to Kinney, Stephen Lang ("Avatar") would have been his choice for the role. Bradley Cooper ("A Star Is Born") would have been his Adam Jensen. However, the project never made it to the casting.
Brutal action is part of the repertoire of the series.
The action sequences, like the one featured above, sound violent and frenzied on paper, with augmentations used liberally to rip, shred and, in the case of the cloaking devices, exceed audience expectations. Jensen thinks the mercenaries are here for Typhoon, a secret weapon that is in research and development at Sarif, but they are actually here for something called Daedalus.
Daedalus. Where is it?
Megan shakes her head. Barrett's eyes shift to Yelena.
A razor sharp blade extends from one of Yelena's hands. It glides down Megan's chest, to her stomach, and crotch, lingering on her thigh. A thin trail of blood rises in its wake.
I respect your conviction, Doctor,
I really do. But nothing David
Sarif owns is worth dying for.
Megan just stares hate at the big man.
But maybe that's just me.
Yelena's applying pressure when–
Automatic FIRE tears through the labs. Slugs SMASH into Yelena, knocking her off her feet. As Barrett and Janus swing around–
–Jensen FIRES on a cooling tank — a vat of super-cooled liquid used to cool equipment. The liquid vaporizes on contact with air, creating a thick white mist, obscuring vision.
ANGLE ON Megan, starring. And suddenly Jensen's there, grabbing her arm.
Together, they RUN.
Barrett steps through the fog and mist, staring at nothing. Yelena and Jaron appear to his left, like wraiths.
And BARRETT'S POV shifts. Walls fall away, leaving only the outline of studs and wires. And suddenly, he's looking through the wall at the two running heat signatures.
Run 'em down.
The mercenaries eventually catch up with Jensen and beat him to a pulp, taunting him that the augmentations make them faster, stronger, and smarter than him. They throw him through a glass window so that pieces of glass protrude from his skin.
The film was not intended for a non-rated release.
The action scenes of "Deus Ex" sound brutal, but the film was never intended to be adult-rated. "Most studios back then – this was before 'Deadpool' became such a big hit in the US with an R rating – weren't interested in making big-budget films that were only intended for adult audiences," says Kinney. "I think it could and should be an age-rated film if it were made today, and that wouldn't be an impediment."
Deviation from the game
In this part of the script, the film differs greatly from the games. According to Kinney, the film crew was in constant communication with Eidos Montreal, who were developing Deus Ex: Human Revolution at the same time the film was being planned.
"Every treatment that we wrote to present to the studio execs was sent to the game developers to do their part," says Kinney. "Same with the script, we got their comments on every version of the script. Everyone seemed happy with the end result. Everyone. And that's the tragedy of it."
The origin of Jensen's augmentations in the film and game are different.
At this point in the film, Jensen wakes up in a hospital. He's not augmented against his will like in-game – he's still human. He is angry at the loss of Megan, whom he assumes is dead, and has flashbacks to their conversation about the augments as well as Barrett taunting him. He asks David Sarif to equip him with the Typhoon technology so he can exact revenge. He literally begs for it.
INT. CLEAN ROOM – SARIF TECH FACILITY – TIME UNKNOWN
Jensen, eyes closed, lie in a bed, sheet [sic] covering his body. He looks normal enough, save a hexagon carved into the left side of his forehead, and two metal crescents flanking his eyes.
Jensen's eyes SNAP open. He sits up, quick, confused and disoriented. As he does, the sheet falls away to reveal his legs and torso. He looks like a man, and more. His chest and arms are covered in titanium infused sheets grafted to his natural skin. His arms are entirely cybernetic, as are his hands which are now black and shiny.
He looks around, and when he does, his world is one of sensory overload — colors too bright, sounds too loud, like his mind is some kind of perverse echo chamber.
JENSEN'S CYBERNETICALLY ENHANCED POV:
He's in a large lab filled with medical and scientific machines, and devoid of life. Megan's necklace rests on a small table, and everything is in ultra high definition — no shadow can hide you from him. He blinks and a tactical grid manifests over his POV. Microprocessors record everything he's seeing, as every item is identified as a possible weapon and/or threat. All in less time than it takes you to blink.
Jensen stands, abruptly. He's naked. Seen from the back, we note that his spinal column has been replaced with an alloy frame that attaches to all four limbs, and that the lower half of each leg has been replaced with cybernetics.
Jensen soon escapes from the hospital and ventures into the world he now sees with his enhanced eyesight. In the opening scene, he returns to the park and viewers see another training montage that mimics the opening shots to show how much he's evolved. Then there's a Jason Bourne-esque action sequence where he's being attacked by three augmentation harvesters.
–Punk #2 SWINGS a crowbar at Jensen's head. Jensen catches it with his left hand, easily, and DRIVES his right fist into the Punk's solar plexus. Bones break and the man's body is PROPELLED back–
A mix of sensory overload as punks move, almost. Then suddenly, the world seems to slow. Punk #2 is mid air. The girl is shouting. Punk #3 is drawing a knife. Punk #1 is extending his hand, a taser in it, angling for Jensen's chest. And imposed over it all, lines and numbers indicating angle of attack, force, potential damage, assailant strengths and weaknesses. All of it in a fraction of a second.
Real time: Jensen pivots, grabbing Punk #1's hand and twisting it back. Punk #1 SCREAMS as bones snap. Punk #3 convulses as Jensen drives the taser into his chest. Both drop.
Jensen stares down at the broken bodies. Three seconds and three men down. Just like that.
Tong Si Hung, the owner of The Hive nightclub, plays a much bigger role in the film. Jensen dupes him for information and ends up getting a bounty on his head for his hubris. Later, after a high-speed chase, Jensen tricks Tong into getting to the final showdown, where he uses it again – this time as a distraction.
The rest of the story follows the games closely. The news reporter turns out to be an AI propaganda machine, Sarif's dirty secrets are revealed, and Daedalus is triggered, causing the Augmented to lose their minds. Jensen and Megan put a stop to the whole thing. Oh, and he gets to use the Typhoon system.
Jensen TWISTS, SPINS, DROPS TO ONE KNEE and bends each arm on either side of him, like a kung fu stance. Small HOLES pop open along his arms.
WHOOOOOSH! THE TYPHOON FIRES
A SHOCK WAVE from his arms launches SMALL EXPLOSIVE DEVICES in a 360 degree wave.
Explosive ball bearings tear over the hostages [sic] heads, impacting the seven Mercs and DETONATING! Mercs are BLASTED back VIOLENTLY. The remaining pepper charges the walls, blowing great holes into them.
Jensen stars at the aftermath in awe — he had no idea how powerful Typhoon was. When he looks at the hostages, they're staring at him with mouths agape.
A Hollywood ending
However, there is one spot in the script that made the editors laugh:
INT. CASSAN MAINFRAME – PICTUS BUILDING – CONTINUOUS
Megan hears Jensen's voice through her earbud. Her eyes land
on a sense of code shimmering as Yelena approaches.
I can't. My systems are failing.
Megan's eyes flit to the gun, lying a few feet away.
You're not a machine…
INT. STUDIO – PICTUS BUILDING – CONTINUOUS
On Jensen, eyes on Barrett, who jams a clip into his mini-gun.
You're a man.
And a calm we haven't seen suffuses Jensen, the kind that comes with that ultimately liberating realization that everything you've believed about yourself is somehow wrong, and now you understand the truth.
…Get up Jensen.
What is it!?
…I'm not like you, Barrett.
You're a fucking Aug!
Yeah, I am. But–
And Jensen MOVES, running right at Barrett!
Barrett's depressing the trigger when Jensen LEAPS, a blade extending from his right arm, and CUTTING Barrett's arm clean off. Barrett ROARS as arm and gun fall. He swings at Jensen
with the other. Jensen rolls, grabbing the arm/mini-gat, lines it–
I never asked for this.
–and Jensen FIRES!
Rounds blow into Barrett's head. He falls with a THUD.
This is an incredible shock considering the quality of the rest of the script, which was last revised by Michael Finch, the writer of "Predators". It's definitely a bit of fan service because he literally asked for the augmentations earlier in the film – in this version of the story, the augmentations weren't forced upon him.
Bradley Cooper was the preferred candidate for Adam Jensen.
"This seems like a Hollywood one-liner added in a revised draft," says Kinney. "It's hard to avoid something like that entirely."
Even with that line, the script has a lot of potential. Sure, some things are a bit cliche, and it's a shame the film wasn't rated Parental at the time, but this world is perfect for a screen adaptation – it's such a visually interesting place, and you could have even done it with the black and gold color scheme can play to amplify Jensen's physical and mental journey.
For now, fans will have to settle for these snippets.
Many thanks to Kirk McKeand (GLHF) for the research!