"Never take off the mask."
"Never take off the mask."

Unmasked: “Fallout”

Lately I rarely find the muse to write about anything, even less so about movies, not only because this year I’ve scarcely been to the cinema, but also because truly none of the productions released so far deserve my creative attention. And before someone says something, no, I’m not a fan of Dune, neither of the books nor their adaptations, so I’ll tactfully ignore its existence in this blog, and in general. Therefore, instead, I’ve decided today to break my stereotype and do something I’ve thought about but haven’t done before – to write a review of a series. Yes, I’ve made Top 5 lists of series, I’ve even written reviews of games but reviewing series (even less so those related to games) is a realm in which I haven’t felt the need to share personal opinions and impressions with you. Well, here’s something that not only isn’t “Last of Us,” but is also as post-apocalyptic and as adapted from a non-film source as the works of Druckmann or Villeneuve. If you still haven’t figured it out or if you haven’t even heard about what you’re going to read today (because honestly, I hadn’t until recently and my initial expectations were quite low), it’s about the adaptation of the good ol’ and beloved series of video games “Fallout.” And let me set expectations for what’s to come right now – “Fallout” is, for me, the best adaptation of a video game I’ve ever seen and it’s my personal highlight of the year which, and that’s something I can confidently say without any doubts, nothing will surpass. Here are a few reasons why:

In case you don’t know, Ella also performs Powder / Jinx in Arcane which makes 2/2 TOP adaptations with her in the cast.

Just hearing the name Nolan should make it clear that there’s a high probability we’re talking about something amazing (or at least judging by my taste). To the joy of cinema enthusiasts, this is no exception, although this time it’s about Christopher’s younger brother. Jonathan’s experience with large-scale television productions such as “Person of Interest” and especially “Westworld,” however, speaks volumes and his involvement in this project only brings positives to the table. The other major figure we must mention in any case is Todd Howard, i.e. the executive director of Bethesda, whose involvement in such an adaptation, although rather inevitable, speaks to the serious investment of time and resources for this project to be successful and the efforts put in definitely delivered. From the retro-futuristic setting and the entirely original Western-inspired plot, through the fantastic recreation of the core elements of the video game and the amazing cast, to the tons of references and hints to various parts of the game that don’t go unnoticed even by not-so-diehard fans of the game, the team manages to tell a story that not only satisfies the most hardcore fans of the series and the genre but also attracts just as many new enthusiasts who will immerse themselves in the atmosphere of a world that has survived a nuclear apocalypse.

Before delving into further details, let me provide a bit more context regarding video games and movies, specifically why this review is not or rather was not about “Last of Us” which has been hailed as one of the best-told and adapted stories for the big screen and rightfully so. So please don’t misunderstand me, my intention here is not to speak ill of the HBO series but rather to give you a few reasons why such a grand success didn’t receive adequate reflection here, given the current review. Firstly, not that I consider this to be a significant downside but Neil Druckmann’s series closely follows the game’s storyline almost to the letter. Granted, for such a plot this is entirely expected and the adventures of Joel and Ellie are intriguing, to put it mildly, but in the context of the series this means minimal narrative risks. Secondly, having played both parts of the game series and knowing the reactions it triggered, especially with the second part, I’m certain that the second season of the series will divide fans just as much as the continuation of the story of the two main characters did which could simply harm the adaptation’s image and which would be a shame in itself. Thirdly, let’s be honest, the expectations for a gaming version of “Last of Us” were massive and will be even greater upon its return which always carries a risk of disappointment, especially considering we already somewhat know what will happen. Not to mention that the risks they took for something different in the first season (yes, I’m talking about the episode with Bill and Frank) didn’t pay off particularly well with the audience. But let’s get back to the topic at hand.

And in case you also haven’t seen how every player looks like in their game session in every Fallout, here they are. Oh, and a Power Armor.

So, even though “Fallout” may have other plot issues that I may have overlooked, intentionally or not, there are a few things I can definitely say I liked more than Druckmann’s production and especially more than other previous or competing adaptations (for example, “Halo”, which is, to put it mildly, weak in comparison to both mentioned so far). Firstly, we have an entirely new story that adds a new period to the complex timeline of human history from 2076 onwards which fits in perfectly, explains and expands upon what we’ve already seen in the games. Secondly, the plotline, although seemingly relatively straightforward at first glance, especially towards the end of the season, intertwines together several smaller individual stories that provide plenty of side information and wonderfully enrich the characters you’ll see in one form or another in the series. Thirdly, as far as I can explain it, perhaps no one expected this series to be this good and maybe that’s what made it so successful. It’s a fact that expectations for the already confirmed second season will skyrocket and Nolan and company will have quite a job on their hands but it’s also a fact that sales, players and even the number of updates from Bethesda have at least doubled which is evidence enough of how strongly the series has influenced the overall image of the franchise beyond gaming circles. I don’t know if with this review I’ll manage to convince you how impressed I was by what I saw but I can undoubtedly completely change not only my already morally outdated Top 5 for video game adaptations but I also think, SPOILER ALERT, that you can already guess who will take the top spot.

Put in the centre of attention amidst and after this post-apocalyptic epic are its main protagonists, so let’s talk about them as well. Without hesitation, I can immediately give you two reasons to watch this series even if nothing else intrigues you – Ella Purnell and Walton Goggins. An interesting fact is that one of them has possibly played all the games to better prepare for the role, while the other hasn’t even tried any of them to achieve the same effect – well, the result in both cases is striking. Those more interested in how the world of video games is adapted to the big screen will immediately delve in and see why Ella was chosen to take on the challenging task of carrying not only the fate of vault dwellers but also a significant portion of the narrative burden on her shoulders. The Brit is impressive in her role, not only skilfully concealing her accent and portraying herself as an Nth-generation American but also making her heroine exceptionally charismatic. Lucy undergoes perhaps the greatest emotional transformation throughout the season and by its end we see a completely different, strong, independent and open inhabitant of the “lower” world, ready for the challenges of the “upper” world. I’m sure this will be just the first of several incarnations of Purnell in the role (and I assume in others which might be similar) and I can’t wait for each and every one of them.

If you haven’t seen how with (almost) no CGI you can make a perfect adaptation of a post-apocalyptic zombie, Goggins is here to show you.

Even though Ella is magnificent, the most pleasant surprise of the season for me is Walton Goggins’s character. Well, it was about time! I’ve been following the actor’s career for quite some time now and he finally gets a role that would increase his popularity among the mass audience, and rightfully so. Goggins already has several top-notch performances – after all, he was perhaps one of the main reasons why I even heard of and watched “The Shield” and “Justified” and enjoyed the somewhat controversial for some “The Hateful Eight”, “Tomb Raider” and “Ant-Man and The Wasp.” Here the actor shines (figuratively, of course, his character is in a slightly different physical condition) and his class is evident in the way he plays the scenes in which he is the main character. The opportunity given to him to be the driving force behind the narrative movement and the series of flashbacks in his episodes helps even more, as many of the most common and recognizable references to Fallout as a series are precisely linked to his character. Cooper Howard is the face behind the spaghetti western in the adaptation, the face of the future through Vault Tec, the face of mystery through his decisions and actions and even the grotesque face of his new race due to his altered appearance which, however, makes him so memorable without us even having any idea who he is and where he comes from.

Characters towards whom I still have some reservations, though, definitely include Maximus. Not that his role is bad, Aaron Moten does a great job as a member of the Brotherhood of Steel, it’s just that something seemed lacking to me in his portrayal of the character. However, it is a fact that some of the most entertaining and inadequate scenes in the series are related to him, the supporting actors literally help him not only in the series as a character but also to truly stand out among his brethren and to be fully realized by the end of the season in order to prepare a true knight for the next one. It’s an undisputed fact that Moten’s character will perhaps be the closest to the players’ in-game images as he more or less embodies the experience of the virtual hero of perhaps every gamer who has ever touched “Fallout.” Young, inexperienced, unsure in which skill tree to invest his time and “points,” encountering NPCs of all kinds but with enough luck to stumble upon the coolest gear and the best finds overall, Maximus is definitely a character whose development we’ll follow with interest, if only to see how successfully we’ve built our own character.

CX404, or Dog Not Found, or Dogmeat, or for Bulgarians – Sharo, is the ever-lasting companion of all important Fallout heroes.

It’s easy to overlook many of the other minor details and stories in this vast world and there’s a good chance this review could become too long if we pay attention to absolutely every obvious and not-so-obvious nod to the franchise but I’ll allow myself to mention a few more things that impressed me and definitely increased my interest in all future Fallout-branded projects. One of them is the fantastic role of Moisés Arias, whose acting I’m seeing for the first time (apparently, I’ve missed quite a few of the teenage projects he’s been involved in) and who starts with a seemingly forgettable role but whose storyline later becomes one of the most intriguing ones hinted so far. Norm’s story not only enhances the suspense and mystique in the series but also simultaneously provides a lot of “behind-the-scenes” information and gives the ordinary viewer a good idea of ​​the world unfolding before them. Add to that some of the franchise’s trademark elements like mutated cockroaches, Vault Boy posters and signs, hospitable and hostile artificial intelligence, iconic lines and a pretty good transition between the individual episodes in the past and present and you get a fully-fledged adaptation of an already rich in stories and experiences franchise. Ironically, the only thing surprisingly missing from the series are the bugs and glitches we’re all very familiar with. Hello? Bethesda? Is this even your product?

A couple of elements that would usually turn off some viewers are presented in an accessible manner as much as possible and for this reason many otherwise repulsive and brutal scenes you’ll witness are quite bearable and not as tough as they would be in reality. Grotesque humour intertwines with serious messages, ordinary people interact with radioactive creatures and other mutated humans and animals, minor and seemingly insignificant characters play an important role for the main characters, a 70s-style and extremely pleasant retro soundtrack blends with superb makeup and modern CGI. And that’s the beauty of the whole story in the year 2296 – every scene feels like a side quest for one of the main characters which, however, brings them some gains towards fulfilling their main mission. Every small reference doesn’t go unnoticed and unremarked, every missed opportunity for another hint isn’t really impactful (and there are still so many important things for the franchise that we haven’t seen yet) since we have Howard’s promise that many things were deliberately cut in order to be part of Fallout 5 (hopefully in some subsequent seasons too). Well, if this is a series with “cuts”, cheers to it, I wish all of them would be like this.

My grade for the series coincides with one of the legendary pictures in every Fallout.

Lastly, I’ll try to be brief in my final comment and at the risk of repeating myself, I’ll highly recommend giving “Fallout” a chance. Regardless of whether you’re a fan of science fiction (if you ask me, it’s downright pessimistic reality) and whether you’ve heard of the game or not, the series can offer a little something to everyone and, in my opinion, will successfully satisfy the need for something new, original, and fresh for hardened film critics, as well as the need for that new, yet familiar, well-received and welcome feeling among the most discerning hardcore gamers. If Howard and Bethesda, along with Nolan and his team, capitalize on this hype train that has built up in the last few weeks around the series and the games, I have no doubt that not only will it reaffirm itself as one of the most memorable gaming franchises of the last 20 years, but it will also rank among the equivalent movie ones as well. And while that happens and we all eagerly await to see New Vegas on the big screen, you have plenty of time to immerse yourself for the first or Nth time in the world of Fallout with one of the unforgettable games on the subject, just like me.

S.P.E.C.I.A.L  /  10

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