After the bombs have fallen, the zombies have died off or all the electricity in the world has ceased to function, all that will remain is that staple of dystopian fiction, the post-apocalyptic wasteland.
Since its introduction in The Last Man (by the mother of science fiction herself, Mary Shelley), the post-apocalyptic wasteland has held something of a dread fascination in the collective consciousness. It’s the complete destruction of everything we know about human life, a return to our dark roots before we banded together to build the wonders of civilisation.
It’s also a fantastically dramatic image. so of course it’s a great setting for a movie, especially as the best movies treat the setting as a character in and of itself. The lonely metropolis of The Omega Man, with the last human fending off hungry ‘vampires’. The irradiated wasteland of A Boy and His Dog, where Don Johnson’s character and his telepathic dog are on the hunt for essential supplies: food and women (it’s that kind of movie).
And of course, the vast desert of Mad Max, filled with elaborately-dressed raiders in souped up death machines, hurtling around, stealing from and killing each other to survive.
The latter was a direct and obvious influence on a little computer game that came out in 1997, an isometric 3D RPG called Fallout. Maybe you’ve heard of it. Or, depending on your age or gaming tastes, maybe you’ve heard of its more popular sequels, Fallout 3 and Fallout 4 (and its fan-favourite stepchild Fallout: New Vegas).
I remember the first time I played it. I was confused by the interface and didn’t know how to do anything. It had come on a disc with 6 other games and no manual because it was (gasp!) pirated. Please don’t tell the police. I was poor and in the Middle East there weren’t many options at the time. But I persevered, and once I got out of that bloody rat-filled cave you start in, I immediately fell in love with the Mad Max-esque world.
And through the power of movies, non-gamers could fall in love with it too. Here’s why we need a Fallout movie soon.
The World of Fallout is a Rich Setting to Play In
Though the gameplay changed considerably over the years, the core of the game remained the same. You played a lone wanderer charged with an epic quest, battling your way through the ruins of civilisation and banding up with companions to take on deadly radiation, huge mutant wildlife and gangs of bloodthirsty raiders, ghouls and supermutants.
In the game’s history, America and China destroyed the world in a nuclear war, with huge numbers of America’s population retreating into underground fallout shelters called Vaults. 200 years later, humanity is reduced to tribal factions squabbling amongst the radioactive dust for whatever power they can grasp, while the ordinary folks just try and survive. Settings include California, the Mojave desert, the US Capitol and the Boston-area Commonwealth.
As a setting, it’s up there with the best of movie post-apocalypses, so why not set a movie there? We could explore the sinister origins of the mysterious Vault-Tec, delve deeper into human-supermutant relations, or just follow one family’s struggle to eke out a living farming mutated corn. Well, maybe something a little more high-octane than that last one.
Perhaps we could even see how the war has affected other parts of the world, such as South America, or the UK, or China. If the game franchise translates well into a movie franchise, the possibilities could be huge.
We Need a Good Video Game Movie
The Fallout franchise is huge with gamers so there’s a built-in audience just ready to eat it up.
You’d need to be careful not to over-estimate this, though – movies based on games have a history of failing to live up to expectations, which has tarnished the reputation of videogame adaptations for years. Resident Evil had a whole franchise to itself, but for every one of those there are 6 Uwe Boll movies and a Super Mario Bros to worry about.
The reason most video game movies seem to fail is that either the game doesn’t lend itself to a movie format (there’s a reason the Tetris movie is stuck in development hell) or the filmmaker doesn’t respect the source material (Super Mario Bros… just Super Mario Bros). You can’t expect a film to succeed based on an existing fanbase alone, you have to actually, you know, make a decent film.
If treated with a careful hand, a video game property can be adapted into a great movie, the same as any novel or comic book. There have been plenty of clunky adaptations of those, but you don’t see anyone saying novel or comic adaptations are cursed. When adapting a property, you need to be aware that works in one medium won’t work in another, and filmmakers will just have to work hard to ensure the adaptation works well on its own as well as honouring the source.
It’s far from impossible. In fact, there’s a Tomb Raider film coming soon at the point of writing that looks like it could very well break the curse. So who knows, perhaps we’ll be at the beginning of a renaissance of the videogame movie.
The Political Climate is Perfect for an Apocalypse
I know it’s a bit depressing, but the timing is great for a post-apocalyptic movie right now.
The last one we had was the phenomenal Mad Max: Fury Road, which reminded everyone how much fun that kind of movie can be, while still managing to deliver an important and relevant message that resonates with a modern viewer. These movies have always been informed by the political climate they’re made in, and today’s political climate is a doozy.
Right now two huge superpowers are posturing and waving their hands over their big red buttons. A conservative UK government are strangling the poor with austerity measures while a republican US government promises to make America great again by clamping down on immigration.
The cold war may be long gone, but the allegations of Russian involvement in foreign affairs loom large. To top it all off, the Doomsday Clock is set to 2 minutes to midnight. The eighties are back in a big way, and with them the threat of ‘total atomic annihilation’.
The world of Fallout, despite its retro-futuristic paint coating, could be alarmingly prescient.
So give us a Fallout movie, Hollywood. Give us a movie about hope in a hopeless time, and a light shining in the darkness. As long as there’s radscorpions and Pip-Boys and sassy ghouls, we’ll be there.
What would you want to see in a Fallout movie? What part of the world would you want to see explored? If you’re after more tie-ins, be sure to check out our list for the worst video game movies.
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