Fallout Series

Fallout – Why this series is so special?

When we think of a game brought to the screen as simply narrative, things don’t always turn out well.

Actually, statistics show that things rarely work out for the best.

Max PayneUnchartedTomb RaiderAssassin’s Creed, you name it; the result is almost always a failure.

Many productions hope to solve everything with lots of money and famous actors to put on the cover, forgetting the primary importance of choosing a director with an overall vision to transport/transmute the spirit of these games into the cinematic arena.

Except for rare cases such as the first Resident Evil or Silent Hill, wanting to mention two pleasant exceptions to the rule, these blockbusters almost always sank on the rocks of ridiculousness, to the point that by now you could not believe it even from the announcement of the imminent arrival of any of these movies/games.

That’s probably why they wanted to try in the series business, with more reasonable costs and production time, and in 2019, we finally saw something worthy with the first season of The Witcher.

A series then demolished when Netflix relinquished artistic control of it to a group of screenwriters who ( words of one of the same ex-producers) openly hated both books and the source game, turning the show into an embarrassing carousel leading even to the departure of the central star, Henry Cavill.

Even worse was Microsoft‘s attempt to make a series on Halo, a core brand for worldwide online multiplayer; such a miserable failure became even more bitter when the excellent first season of The Last of Us by longtime rivals Sony came out instead.

Defeated in this videogame/television derby, they could do no wrong at this point with Fallout, requiring first someone with a head on their shoulders to handle the project.

Lisa Joy and Jonathan Nolan

The magic writing behind Christopher Nolan’s successes

Of course, you may or not like both Jonathan Nolan and his even more famous big brother Christopher, creator, for example, of the controversial hit Oppenheimer that nuked the last Oscar night, taking home no less than seven golden statues.

Yet you must admit that while you may love or despise their works, you certainly cannot ignore them.

Perhaps not as celebrated and well-known as his brother, good old Jonathan is the screenplay author of his most successful movies, such as MementoThe Prestige, and The Dark Knight, surely the best of Nolan’s Batman trilogy.

It is no coincidence how many gasped in relief learning Jonathan Nolan and his wife/business partner Lisa Joy would be at the helm of Fallout; two experienced audience predators already in charge of such hit series as Person of Interest and Westworld from the immortal cinematic masterpiece by the brilliant Michael Crichton.

As much as I hugely enjoyed Person of Interest, an excellent mix of action and sci-fi espionage; equally I was burned out by Westworld, which after a promising first season then splintered into a mishmash of robotic/revolutionary clichés and became the discountable version of Terminator.

Therefore, I began to watch Fallout in an entirely neutral mood, free of typical game fans’ emotionalism since I had spent many pleasant hours wandering around the open world of Fallout 4, yet without delving much deeper into the plot or characters.

In this case, compared to all the above examples of video games in movies/series, we understand from the very first minutes that Jonathan Nolan has found the winning formula.

Moreover, this formula does not only not degrade but rather enhances his writing style, made up of the great psychological depth of the characters and continuous unexpected turns in the plot.

Look and Environment – The Vintage Charm of Apocalypse

Placing itself temporally after all four canonical chapters and the various spinoffs, such as Fallout 76 and New Vegas, Nolan’s series takes full rein on the sci-fi imagery of this saga while building a completely new and compelling character ecosystem.

We then stand well beyond the threshold of this alternate 23rd century, a future quite different from our present, where much of humanity didn’t survive the nuclear escalation leading to an all-out war between China and the United States of America.

A future where we see scattered everywhere the half-destroyed debris of the world that was and still relies on an array of advanced technologies, albeit from the aesthetics typical of the prosperous 1950s, with a unique style in the retro-futuristic design of architecture and clothing, as well as the propaganda of that era about patriotism, consumerism and an unlimited faith in technological progress.

Colorful packages of Sugar Bombs cereal or iconic bottles of Nuka-Cola still stand out among the radiation-polluted ruins, just as opulent Vault-Tec billboards continue to shine on the devastated outlines of what little remains of the ancient cities.

Not just a mass consumer products corporation, Vault-Tec played a pivotal role in the game’s universe, owning the underground shelters where the privileged few sought refuge during the nuclear war, waiting for two centuries for the radioactive fallout to dissipate and the surface to become habitable again.

Finally, unlike Halo, this series pays homage to the many fans of the fictional universe created by the team of Todd Howard, likewise, a controversial author, loved and hated as much as the Nolan brothers, and yet whose games make just as much discussion as the recent Starfield, hailed or despised with no middle ground but unquestionably one of the most successful titles of 2023.

Characters – The Strange Wildlife of the New World

After discussing the fascinating background of this series, let us now talk about the new features introduced by Jonathan Nolan: story and characters.

Although the director/writer delves into many subplots (as usual), there are basically three main characters.

We begin by following the bright young Lucy MacLean, played by the lovely actress Ella Purnell we admired from the earliest trailers; a naive dreamer born and raised in this Vault-Tec shelter who has never seen the outside world.

Just on the eve of her wedding, her life changes drastically when ruthless marauders arrive from the outside, killing and stealing indiscriminately, as well as taking away Lucy’s father as a hostage.

So the girl packs up her courage and backpack on her shoulder and ventures outside for the first time, where at that point, we spectators meet the equally young Maximus (Aaron Moten) an aspiring troubled warrior of the Brotherhood of Steel.

The Brotherhood is one of the few scientific organizations that still operates on a rigid pattern of military hierarchy, defended by the mighty Knights, equipped with their iconic Armor, who scour the planet for ancient technologies from the human race’s golden age.

Maximus then becomes the helper squire to one of these Knights, venturing into the wastelands in search of Siggi Wilzig, a fugitive scientist who has stolen an artifact critical to the future of the Brotherhood.

Unfortunately, on Wilzig’s tail is also the ruthless Cooper Howard, a ghoul/bounty hunter who is a two-century-old human being kept alive by the gift and doom of radiation.

Cooper is definitely the most multifaceted and intriguing character: a zombie/gunslinger with the mocking grin of the great actor Walton Goggins, who evidently has a great time joking with a character we later discover is not as evil as we initially thought.

The Society – So Fake It Looks Terribly Real

While staying in high-end entertainment, Jonathan Nolan deals stylishly with topics that are more relevant today than ever.

The ruthless Vault-Tec then becomes the face of unfettered capitalism, squeezing every dollar out of Americans’ fears about nuclear escalation.

While at first, their purpose may appear simply to sell as many products and shelters as possible, we then discover a disturbing, larger scenario organized to overthrow society and devastate it with a nuclear holocaust.

A clean slate that would allow Earth’s powerful to rewrite human history as they please, experimenting/playing with the lives of survivors both outside and inside the several Vaults, where guests are literally lab rats for the most unthinkable psychological/scientific experiments.

Equally ruthless is the small uniformed world of the Brotherhood of Steel, built on a rigid pattern of military rules and rankings grafted within a society that exalts force and violence with sinister echoes of an insane religious cult.

Amidst these (and other) political, economic, and military circles, all the other survivors live in the dirt and dust, feeding on dogs and rats and establishing settlements in quaint villages/cities built with the recycled scraps of the old world.

Among the many tribes, we must still mention the monstrous Ghouls, as Walton Goggins’ character is certainly not the only one condemned to this prolonged existence, where he rummages through the ruins every day, searching for medicine to control his condition.

Otherwise, when the symptoms grow beyond repair, for every Ghoul, there is the ultimate horrific mutation into feral animals, zombies with no more soul or brain driven by the sheer instinct to kill and eat anything.

However, so much more is to be discovered in the second season, especially if as it seems we pay a visit to spectacular New Vegas.

Editing and Direction – The High Class of Efficiency

Aside from excellent writing talent, Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy must also be credited with choosing a quite effective style to tell the improbable adventures of their bizarre heroes.

I mainly talk about imparting the right rhythm to each story, namely the editing, which here reaches excellent peaks in alternating the many characters and scenarios before and after this epic of atomic devastation.

Each character has their own space and proper timing, such as the protagonist Lucy’s young brother Norman, played by an inspired Moisés Arias and thanks to whom we discover many of the backstories and plots hidden in Vault 33.

We have room to turn villains into good guys, such as the character of Sarita Choudhury, leader of the marauders whom we see as despicable and cruel at the beginning, as well as the bizarre and sympathetic scientist with the wry look of Michael Emerson, starring in successful TV series such as Lost or the aforementioned Person of Interest.

But the real heart of the series lies in the skill with which Nolan manipulates the fate and long personal journeys of the three key charactersElla Purnell, Aaron Moten, and Walton Goggins.

Three characters immediately as iconic and recognizable as Sergio Leone‘s The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly change their roles into the naive idealist, the angry soldier, and the invincible mutant gunslinger.

The narrative inhabits the encounters and clashes between these pivotal figures, shifting alliances arising and dying in the wasteland dust, and also from a possible love crushed in the bud between the end of the first season and the confirmed arrival of the second.

Where this road will take us, perhaps not even Nolan knows yet, but our attention is already captive to this fascinating world so full of potential.

The Second Season – When, Where, and How?

Although the Internet is sure a second season is already actively in development, Amazon Prime Video‘s top management has not yet made an official announcement. 

However, executive producer Graham Wagner already mentioned that Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy‘s team had earlier started work on a new season that, at the very least, will require another year of shooting and post-production and thus we won’t see it before the end of 2025.

This would seem to confirm another interview with Walton Goggins, obviously excited about his ghoul/cowboy becoming a full-fledged anti-hero by the ending, who hinted there was a hard skimming of Fallout’s source narrative material and that, literally, “with the first season we barely scratched the surface, but there was simply too much to tell.” 

In addition to these interviews, some rumors suggest filming for the second season is being planned in California, unlike the first season, which was filmed in various locations between New Jersey and Utah.

Without wishing to spoilers, the first season closes with a landscape extremely familiar to New Vegas, so beloved and carved in every fan’s heart.

It is a choice that also should forever close Todd Howard‘s (hypothetical and never really confirmed) embarrassments about Fallout: New Vegas, the most idolized of the saga, even if it was not made by the Bethesda boys but by the clever colleagues at Obsidian Entertainment.

With no announcements or official dates, however, you have plenty of time to enjoy this series. By the way, quite soon (on April 25), Bethesda announced the release of a free update for all platforms, with a new version of Fallout 4 that has been cleaned up and improved in graphics and performance. 

So what are you waiting for? Fill your pockets with Stimpack and Radaway as much as possible, leaving some room for crunchy mutant animal chops and sling on one of the many rusty and deadly weapons this game offers. This will pave your own entirely unique and personal way to re-play (or play for the first time) the immense open worlds of these timeless video games, so full of danger and possibility, with their unique and inimitable vibe.

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