In A ‘Dead Space’ Movie, Everybody Can Hear You Scream

There’s tons and tons of Comic-Con news to report, but this is a juicy news item I just couldn’t bear to overlook. Electronic Arts’ “Dead Space” is one of my favorite video games of 2008. It feels like the bastard love-child of “Event Horizon” and “Aliens,” half-head trip and half-“oh my god, zombie-aliens are trying to rip my face off!”

The multimedia-savvy video game publisher behind the hit “Madden” and “Sims” franchises is now looking to Hollywood for a “Dead Space” movie. Variety reports that EA has already nailed down a director — “Eagle Eye” helmer D.J. Caruso — and a production partner in Temple Hill. The writing team and overall creative direction for the project is being sussed out next; once that phase is complete, EA will grant “Dead Space” to the highest bidding studio. This echoes the publisher’s plan of attack with the still unreleased “Dante’s Inferno.”

“Dead Space” the game opens with a search & rescue team arriving at the half-functional remains of an orbital mining ship in a distant star system. Engineer Isaac Clarke — the protagonist — is quickly separated from his crew after they are attacked by humanoid creatures with hideously mutated appendages. These Necromorphs as they are called turn out to be former crewmembers aboard the mining ship, transformed after a run-in with a symbiotic life form which kills and reanimates its host in a new and frightening form.

There’s more to the story of course, but I don’t want to spoil the surprises. EA has developed a rich backstory for the series, which already has comic book and direct-to-video animated feature tie-ins, not to mention an upcoming Wii game and a pair of announced sequels.

Unfortunately, for all of the high praise I’ve given to “Dead Space” since it came out, one major element that continues to bother me is its narrative. Isaac Clarke is not a particularly well-developed character. The player is asked to make leaps in the late-game based on his personal relationships, and Clarke’s bland persona blunts much of the emotional impact. If the writers EA picks end up following the script of the 2008 game, I only hope they pay careful attention to adding in some much-needed character development.

All of that said, “Dead Space” is a game which proudly touts “strategic dismemberment” as one of its key features. Whatever happens with the story, you can expect it to be punctuated with plenty of violence and gore. Along with claustrophobic environments, a creepy atmosphere and zero-gravity shenanigans. After, the only thing cooler than a gruesomely removed limb is watching said limb float away as bubbles of blood pool around it in mid-air.

Have you played “Dead Space”? How well do you think it will translate to film? What other EA franchises would you like to see find a home in Hollywood?