It’s just a matter of time until we get the first genuinely great videogame movie adaptation. Granted, that may be a while yet; it took several decades and many failed attempts before we started getting awesome comic-book adaptations. There are a few I’m keeping my fingers crossed for, however: BioShock, Mass Effect, the Assassin’s Creed flick starring Michael Fassbender that’s slated for a 2014 release. Another game franchise that has the potential to do well is EA’S Dead Space, but it’s been ages since we heard anything on that front. Fear not, DS fans: game publisher Electronic Arts says the Dead Space is still in the works, and actually provided a few concrete details this past week at Comic-Con.
EA reps took to the stage this past Thursday at Comic-Con to assure fans that Dead Space was still alive and twitching. The current iteration of the script was penned by Europa Report writer Phillip Gelatt, and given the positive reviews that film has been receiving, that can only be a good thing. It’s now going to be handed off to another screenwriter for more work…that’s not necessarily a good thing.
It’s worth noting that EA itself is developing these scripts before trying to entice the studios to pick up the project. EA’s Patrick O’Brien, who is their point man for movie adaptations of their game properties, told the crowd that they’d been burned before by trying to just pitch ideas to the studios, resulting in projects becoming hopelessly mired in development hell. Instead, for Dead Space they are hiring writers to put together a solid, finished script before approaching the studios.
O’Brien told the Comic-Con crowd that “We decided we have to pitch the projects as scripts.EA was batting 0 for 5 before we began funding scripts.” That approach proved successful with the upcoming adaptation of EA’s Need for Speed racing series, which has become a 2014 DreamWorks flick starring Breaking Bad’s Aaron Paul. It still doesn’t give EA full control of the project — as O’Brien points out, they’d have to foot the bill entirely to get that much leeway — but it does help speed things along. As O’Brien puts it, “You don’t want to go in with just an idea and be one of 200 projects.”
That also doesn’t mean the script they bring to the table will be the final version that hits the big screen. Once DreamWorks signed off on Need for Speed, they spent another half-year working on the script, but O’Brien says, “They made it a hell of a lot better.” Of course, it doesn’t always go that well. There are countless Hollywood projects that suffered from “too many cooks” syndrome, and seeing half a dozen writers’ names in the opening credits rarely bodes well.
Whispers of a Dead Space movie have been floating around pretty much from the time the first game was released in 2008. It makes sense: Dead Space is the clear descendant of big-screen horror/sci-fi flicks such as the Alien movies or Event Horizon. You’d think that would make creating a Dead Space movie a snap, but that ignores the facts that a game experience is very differnt from a movie experience, and if you don’t find an interesting angle for the story, you run the risk of churning out a diluted copy of the movies that inspired it in the first place. As screenwriter Justin Marks, who has been involved with the project for quite a while now, puts it, “You would be making Event Horizon or Alien. I’ve already seen that movie.” Hopefully the film will dig into the series’ backstory of the Unitology religion, and its relation to the alien Markers, as those elements will help set a Dead Space movie apart from the films that influenced it.
Meanwhile, the Dead Space game franchise itself is in sort of an odd place. Dead Space 3 came out last February to disappointing sales, dropping 26.6% from Dead Space 2. At the time, EA Labels president Frank Gibeau said, “In general we’re thinking about how we make this a more broadly appealing franchise, because ultimately you need to get to audience sizes of around five million to really continue to invest in an IP like Dead Space.” So there will probably be a fourth Dead Space installment at some point, but it wouldn’t surprise me if they timed it to the release of the movie, or shortly thereafter, assuming the movie actually comes to pass. (Somebody give John Carpenter a call, for crying out loud.)
In the meantime, here’s a particularly badass bit of Dead Space cosplay to get you excited about what a live-action Dead Space movie might look like. It’s a custom-made replica of protagonist Isaac Clarke’s iconic plasma cutter weapon, built by YouTuber AnselmoFanZero. And this puppy actually burns stuff. Check it out: