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‘Fallout’: A radioactive blast to the TV wasteland

The Amazon Prime Video series demonstrates, much like ‘The Last of Us’ did, the potential of video game adaptations

Fallout
A scene from the Amazon Prime Video's 'Fallout.'Courtesy of Prime Video
Jorge Morla

It’s not a coincidence that two of the most innovative, visually stunning series lately were inspired by video games. Just like The Last of Us (HBO) showcased the strong storytelling found in top video games, this year’s Fallout (Amazon Prime Video) highlights the allure of rich interactive worlds. It’s a goldmine for scriptwriters seeking strange, new settings after comic inspiration runs low.

The exceptional production design upholds the principle of shunning digital effects for traditional methods of enhancing visual appeal. This aesthetic is complemented by nostalgic 1950s music, creating an oddly harmonious blend. Stellar performances by Ella Purnell and Walton Goggins, an engaging plot and a lighthearted tone come together in a well-balanced series by Todd Howard and Jonathan Nolan. The meticulously crafted visual identity is so captivating that you wonder how it cost less to make than comparable series like 3 Body Problem.

There’s a reason why Fallout is flat-out great. When books, comics and biographies are adapted to film and TV, they almost always stick close to the story. That’s exactly what The Last of Us did, faithfully reproducing the characters, conflicts and even shots from the original game.

A scene from the Amazon Prime Video's 'Fallout.'
A scene from the Amazon Prime Video's 'Fallout.'

Fallout introduces a unique form of adaptation. Unlike animated adaptations of video games like Arcane and Cyberpunk: Edgerunners, Fallout doesn’t simply transplant the game’s story. Instead, it uses the game’s look and feel to introduce new characters and plots. Rather than adapting a narrative, it transforms the world itself. This approach makes sense, considering that the strength of the Fallout games lies more in their world-building than in their storytelling. It’s easy to picture the writers eagerly brainstorming, excited to dive into a video-game world that has been around for over 25 years. It’s a realm teeming with cowboys, mutants, knights templar, nuclear weapons, killer robots, cannibal thieves, giant insects, radioactive zombies and a few aliens to boot. It’s a wild universe with just about every element from the pulp science fiction of the past century.

Remaining faithful to the narrative distinguishes The Last of Us from Fallout. Each offers a unique experience, showcasing the storytelling and world-building in their respective video games. This duality ensures a rich tapestry of stories, characters and settings will continue to enrich the pop culture transmedia landscape. As Fallout shows us, war never changes, but adaptations apparently do.

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