By now, you have probably heard the news about the development of a Duke Nukem movie. In fact, you might even be enthused that the team behind it is the same one that revived the world of the original Karate Kid movies in Netflix’s Cobra Kai.
But the question is, why? Why now, why Duke Nukem, and why bother?
Duke Nukem was already 5 years old when Apogee (later 3D Realms) brought Duke Nukem 3D to PC in 1996. That incarnation of the swaggering, wise-cracking, sleazy alien-blasting hero was already a call-back to the undeconstructed 1980s action hero, so it was no real surprise that when Duke Nukem Forever finally arrived in 2011 that the Duke felt out of place.
If it felt wrong then, surely it would feel wrong now?
The latest news of the Duke Nukem movie is that Legendary Entertainment (Dune) has picked up the rights from Gearbox (holders of Duke Nukem these days) with Cobra Kai creators Josh Heald, Jon Hurwitz, and Hayden Schlossberg (as Counterbalance Entertainment) brought in to co-produce with the studio and Marla Studios’ Jean-Julien Baronnet, a video game adaptation expert with Assassin’s Creed under his belt.
Based on that information, and how the Cobra Kai series has successfully (well, ish) integrated characters with (let’s say) dated views into the modern age, you could see how a Duke Nukem movie might work.
But it feels like a film coming about 20 years too late. Forget John Cena (a suitably built actor who on recent form would flee at the sniff of anything slightly un-woke) and his 2018 bid to be Duke Nukem, this is a project that should have been fought over at the turn of the century and the biggest names in Hollywood cast. Bruce Willis, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Mel Gibson, Dolph Lundgren – any of them could have been the Duke.
As we’ve seen with Sonic the Hedgehog (in particular), video game franchises are ripe for exploration as movies. While we may never see a Half-Life movie, and the DOOM movie was hit-and-miss at best, it’s happening now because movie goers want big characters doing incredible things to accompany their popcorn and hotdogs. Super-powered video game characters aren’t all that different to superheroes fighting aliens and Nazis, after all.
Gaming since 1984, retro gaming since 2004. Contributes to Linux Format magazine and MakeUseOf.com.