Fallout TV Review

Jonathan Nolan’s adaptation of the acclaimed video game series raises the bar with a fantastic story and awesome cast.

Last Updated on April 11, 2024


Plot: Based on one of the greatest video game series of all time, Fallout is the story of haves and have-nots in a world in which there’s almost nothing left to have. 200 years after the apocalypse, the gentle denizens of luxury fallout shelters are forced to return to the irradiated hellscape their ancestors left behind — and are shocked to discover an incredibly complex, gleefully weird and highly violent universe waiting for them.

Review: Back in 1997, I was a high school kid playing video games on my Nintendo 64 and my PC. I loved games like Command & Conquer: Red Alert, the original Diablo, and Fallout. Fallout grabbed me from the opening cinematic, showing a 1950s-style television and retro music as the camera pulled back to showcase a nuclear-blasted apocalyptic landscape. I was hooked, and in the decades since, I have waited patiently for someone to deliver a worthy adaptation. As video games have finally come into their own on the big screen and television, the bar continues to get raised by shows like The Last of Us, which capture the dramatic power of these stories with top-notch acting and direction. I am happy to say that the bar has been raised again, as Fallout is easily the best video game adaptation ever. Jonathan Nolan and showrunners Geneva Robertson-Dworet & Graham Wagner have captured Fallout‘s visual and tonal themes while venturing into a completely original narrative within the video game canon and forging a unique story all its own. Fallout is an absolute blast, pun intended.

Fallout opens with a scene in the hours immediately preceding the world’s end via nuclear winter. This scene features Walton Goggins in cowboy mode and is pivotal in understanding the series to follow. Part retro throwback to the Red Scare of the 1950s but with a future-forward aesthetic, Jonathan Nolan opens the series with a peek into the past before sending us two centuries into the future. This is an important moment in differentiating Fallout from other video game adaptations. Whether it be Resident Evil, Sonic the Hedgehog, or any other recent game interpretation, Fallout relies on creating the world structure we will spend eight-hour-long episodes. Without wasting a beat, the series shifts forward to the interior of Vault 33, where we meet Lucy Maclean (Ella Purnell), a skilled but sheltered Vaultie looking forward to her future. Without spoiling what follows, Lucy must weapon up in a sequence that reminded me of Samara Weaving in Ready or Not for a bloody and violent rampage that will soon set her on a path outside the Vault in search of her father Hank (Kyle McLachlan). But Lucy’s story is only the beginning.

The brilliance of Fallout is the balance of multiple storylines. Executive producers Jonathan Nolan and his wife, Lisa Joy, managed to juggle several characters and narrative arcs in their series Westworld. Still, Fallout connects very distinct storylines into a cohesive series. This feat brings together Cooper Howard (Walton Goggins) and his transformation into The Ghoul, Lucy Maclean and her search for her dad, and Maximus (Aaron Moten), a squire in the Brotherhood of Steel. All three characters connect early in the series with goals that will have them crossing paths in various capacities over the course of the first season of Fallout. As they venture from Vaults to cities, colonies, and beyond, the series boasts a massive cast, including Dale Dickey, Sarita Choudhury, Leslie Uggams, Chris Parnell, Zach Cherry, and some creative cameos I did not see coming. There is also a key supporting role from Michael Emerson (Lost, The Blacklist), whose introduction in the second episode is a dialogue-free sequence that is as emotionally resonant as the opening of Pixar’s Up. You will get what I mean as soon as you watch it.

Fallout review

Having seen the entire season of Fallout, what struck me most was the balance of drama and comedy. Fallout has a pitch-black sense of humor, just like the video games, but also takes itself seriously enough that it never feels silly. The series is also incredibly violent, with some impressive gore. Like Westworld before it, Fallout blends a heavy amount of special effects work with location shooting to deliver a tangible environment that looks and feels like it really exists. The make-up effects are impressive, especially on Walton Goggins’ face as The Ghoul. The physical suits for the Brotherhood of Steel seem clunky, but they also look straight out of the game. From the Vault-Tec armbands and costumes to the array of weapons throughout the series, Fallout is meticulous in realizing items from the video games without making them look silly. But, as much as the series evokes the games, it is a cinematic experience more than anything. The scope and scale of this story hinges on making the world believable as much as it benefits the cast working well together. While Walton Goggins excels in any role he is cast in, he is especially impressive as Cooper/The Ghoul. With a tragic backstory and a badass arc, Goggins nails this role, earning a spot alongside Boyd Crowder as a signature role. Ella Purnell and Aaron Moten also share some great chemistry as Lucy and Maximus, something readily apparent from their first shared scene.

While Jonathan Nolan’s name is all over the marketing, he and Lisa Joy serve as executive producers of the series. Nolan has no scripting credits on the series despite helming the first three episodes. The remaining five episodes were directed by Clare Kilner, Frederick E.O. Toye, Daniel Gray Longino, and Wayne Yip. Still, Nolan’s eye behind the camera sets up the look and feel for the series, accentuated by the score from Ramin Djawadi, which, like the games, combines Western and epic music. There are also a lot of retro songs, including some featured in the video games, which add to the aura of the series. Geneva Robertson-Dworet and Graham Wagner lead the writing team, including Chaz Hawkins, Karey Dornetto, Kieran Fitzgerald, Carson Mell, and Gursimran Sandhu. The writers pull so many elements from the games that you may try to find connections to characters and settings from the three-decade-long franchise, and many are not hard to find. Because Fallout is not a scene-for-scene remake, like many of The Last of Us, this story has much more freedom to be creative and original without losing the thread of why this series is so beloved.

Fallout is the new standard for video game adaptations. Telling an original story that is deeply entrenched in the mythology that inspired it while forging an original tale is an undertaking few have been able to do successfully. This series is violent, fun, emotional, epic, and just plain awesome. By blending the game’s world-building with a top-notch cast of newcomers and veterans, Jonathan Nolan has done for video games what his brother did for comic book movies. There is no way that fans of Fallout will be disappointed by this adaptation, which is chock full of easter eggs, while allowing those unfamiliar with this world to jump right into the action. Prime Video has a new hit on their hands, and Fallout will stick around for years to come. I hope that Nolan, Lisa Joy, Geneva Robertson-Dworet, and Graham Wagner keep things open to bring characters from the games into the story in future seasons while keeping the same caliber that this first season brings to screens.

Fallout premieres on April 10th at 9pm EST on Prime Video.





Source: JoBlo.com

About the Author

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Alex Maidy has been a JoBlo.com editor, columnist, and critic since 2012. A Rotten Tomatoes-approved critic and a member of Chicago Indie Critics, Alex has been JoBlo.com's primary TV critic and ran columns including Top Ten and The UnPopular Opinion. When not riling up fans with his hot takes, Alex is an avid reader and aspiring novelist.