Recently I had a conversation with someone who works in film development, and we were talking about Marvel’s bad year, superhero fatigue, and all that jazz. And while no one is willing to count out Marvel just yet, there is a growing sentiment among those whose jobs revolve around finding and nurturing the next big thing in cinema that continuing to mine comic books for hits might be a little…old-fashioned. Video games, though, are starting to look more promising than ever, even though video game adaptations have long been considered cursed, with a string of bombs and failed development projects strewn across Hollywood.
For comics, particularly superheroes, my chatty source pointed out, the key was getting to a place where cinematic technology could make superheroes look real. For video games, though, the problem has been more about narrative and structure, it’s more of a scripting problem, adapting a story that loses its key appeal in adaptation—movies aren’t playable. How to get audiences, many of whom are intimately involved in the games, inhabiting the protagonist’s world as a player, to care about those same characters and worlds when they can’t directly control it?
But in the last few years, a corner may have been turned. Tomb Raider (2018) and Uncharted weren’t total disasters, and more recently The Super Mario Bros. Movie and The Last of Us have both been big hits, with one showing a way to adapt games for family appeal, and the other for grown-up dramatic appeal. “All we need,” my source said, “is something to hit every quadrant. We need our Batman Begins, Iron Man moment, the one project that appeals to everyone. Once that happens, we’ll be drowning in video games for the next decade.”
Now, that sounds a little bit like a threat, replacing one overly dominant genre with another, but his point is valid, if one project can be a true, four-quadrant smash, meaning it appeals to men and women, young and old alike, the “video game curse” will be broken and there will be a template for success others can follow. This weekend at CCXP, Prime Video unveiled the first trailer for a new series, Fallout, adapted from the long-running and very popular game series. It looks kinda great. Could Fallout be the Iron Man of video game adaptations?
Fallout stars Yellowjackets’ Ella Purnell as Lucy, a “vault dweller” forced into the irradiated post-apocalyptic hellworld after her vault is somehow disturbed. The series is not directly adapting any one of the many Fallout games, but is instead—wisely—a new story told in the same world. But in this world, as in ours, there are haves and have-nots, and in Fallout, the haves are the vault dwellers who are descended from those who could afford to hide during nuclear war. They have been largely isolated within their vaults ever since, protected from the destruction and, well, fallout of nuclear bombs.
The series also stars Walton Goggins, nearly unrecognizable with a skeletal face, as a man known as “The Ghoul”, but who also has a regular, Walton Goggins face in what appears to be a flashback. So, Fallout is going to follow a vault dweller through her first experience in the wasteland, and The Ghoul is there.
There is also a dog. Gamers will know dogs are HUGE in Fallout, with “Dogmeat” being one of the most popular gaming sidekicks of all time. The series introduces a new dog, CX404.
He appears to travel with The Ghoul, though dogs are SUPER important for vault dwellers, they basically don’t survive without dog companions, and since Goggins is billed as a co-lead with Purnell, I assume this is our lead trio for the show, Lucy, The Ghoul, and CX404. The name also implies this very good boy might be robotic, which is sometimes a thing in Fallout. I wonder if the show will have the guts to introduce a pariah dog? From Fallout 2, Pariah Dog was a formative, traumatizing moment for many of us. He was a very sad boy that destroyed your luck score but also had very high hit points, which meant you HAD to get rid of him to survive, but the only way to do that was to, basically, brutally murder this dog. I never finished Fallout 2.
If Fallout is aiming for mass appeal, they probably won’t put a pariah dog in the series, at least not in season one. It does look like it has high potential for mass appeal, though, being more action-adventure oriented than The Last of Us, but still possessing deeper themes and dramatic moments, what with nuclear annihilation and all. Could Fallout be the crossover hit video game adaptations need?