Feature First

Reviews TV

‘Fallout’ Review: A Video Game Adaptation Done Right

If there was ever a most inconsistent movie and television subsect, it would be that of video game adaptations. I’m delighted to say that Prime Video’s Fallout is not one of the many bland and forgettable entries to the desolate wasteland of adaptations, but a Nuka-Cola Quantum oasis. 

From the opening sequence with a nuke scene to rival Oppenheimer gloriously set to Nat King Cole’s Orange Colored Sky (real subtle, guys), the show completely draws you into the world of Fallout with a damn near perfect first episode, directed by Jonathan Nolan, the brain behind one of the most acclaimed sci-fi series, Person of Interest as well as the creator and executive producer of HBO’s Westworld. Fallout is for you whether you’re a newcomer to the wasteland or returning as a fan of the games.

'Fallout' Review: A Video Game Adaptation Done Right
Fallout / Image Courtesy of Amazon Studios

Last year’s biggest video game adaptation, The Last of Us, was almost a 1:1 adaptation of the game. Another major adaptation, Halo, is also just mostly a retread of the games. I was curious as to what kind of adaptation Fallout would be, and I’m very glad it is the kind of adaptation it is. 

While it does borrow a lot from the games, especially Fallout 3, it’s a brand new story set in the same world. Both new and returning fans of the franchise can experience the elements that made the games great in a passive medium. If this show wants to do one thing, it’s make you want to see more of this world they’ve created, either by playing the games or another season.

Prime Video’s Fallout is an interconnecting triple-narrative that weaves between our three leads to create a sprawling story.

Big Iron on his Hip

The show opens on Cooper Howard, played by Walton Goggins. Cooper is a former actor, who after being exposed to radiation from the nuclear fallout is now a Ghoul, something between a human and a monster, but not quite either. Ghouls are affected with widespread necrosis throughout their body and can live for hundreds of years before losing their minds and going feral.

Cooper is, by far, the most interesting character in the show. Once a Hollywood actor in westerns, he now embodies that same archetype he used to portray in movies as a bounty hunter in the wasteland. He scratches that itch of the jaded and cynical bastard western protagonist with a muddled code of honor that you can’t help but root for even when he does some unsavory things. 

'Fallout' Review: A Video Game Adaptation Done Right
Fallout / Image Courtesy of Amazon Studios

The Wanderer

Then, there’s Lucy MacLean, portrayed by Ella Purnell, of Showtime’s Yellowjackets fame, a spunky vault-dweller from Vault 33 who leaves behind her home and younger brother, Norm (Moisés Arias) after an attack on the vault to search for her father, Hank (Kyle MacLachlan). 

Lucy is the classic Fallout protagonist, starting off limited in knowledge about the world she lives in, but through the course of the story becoming increasingly more capable and knowledgeable through her experiences in the wasteland and survives against all odds. Her journey is tense and harrowing, but Lucy was definitely my favorite character throughout. I loved Purnell in Yellowjackets and I’m so happy she’s getting the recognition she deserves and hope this performance will lead to more roles for her.

'Fallout' Review: A Video Game Adaptation Done Right
Fallout / Image Courtesy of Amazon Studios

Ad Victoriam

The third protagonist is Maximus (Aaron Moten). Maximus is a member of the Brotherhood of Steel, a technocratic paramilitary group with an obsessive focus on authority. Maximus is unexpectedly thrust into the role of squire and then knight in place of his best and only friend, Dane (Xelia Mendes-Jones), and must grapple with how to use his newfound power in the wasteland.

Maximus’s storyline is the weakest of the bunch, however he is quite an interesting character and the Brotherhood of Steel is a really interesting faction. I just don’t think the show gives him enough time to be as compelling as the other two. I really hope season 2 dives deeper into his character and the Brotherhood. 

'Fallout' Review: A Video Game Adaptation Done Right
Fallout / Image Courtesy of Amazon Studios

Sounds of the Wasteland

Music plays an important role in the Fallout game series. It has the potential to make or break Fallout; half the reason Fallout: New Vegas is still so iconic and acclaimed is because of that immersive and nostalgic classic country and jazz soundtrack. There’s nothing like traversing that beautiful irradiated hellscape avoiding feral ghouls while Eddy Arnold’s It’s a Sin plays from your Pip-Boy.

The music in the show is fortunately no different. Needle drops from Nat King Cole, Johnny Cash, Bing Crosby, Buddy Holly, and countless other staples of the Golden Oldies accentuate the show’s atmosphere by contributing to the retro-futuristic, post-apocalyptic, western vibes. The carefully curated soundtrack transports viewers back in time to the pre-apocalyptic days while also highlighting a world forever stuck in time.

In addition to the wonderful soundtrack, the original score from legendary composer and frequent-Jonathan Nolan collaborator, Ramin Djawadi, immerses viewers into the world further with his loud, thumping rhythms, sweeping orchestral pieces, or more intimate ambient tracks that underscore quiet dramatic moments. Personally, I think some of Djawadi’s tracks in Fallout are on the same level of his music from the Game of Thrones days.

Into the Wasteland

Fallout stands a head taller than other video game adaptations and is a phenomenal show in its own right. It offers a brand new experience to everyone, no matter their familiarity with the franchise, while retaining what made the games amazing. Hilarious, stylistic, explosive, Fallout knows exactly what it wants to be and has immediately found its footing and solidified its place in the video game adaptation debate. 

If you’re craving more Fallout, as I am, Amazon has partnered with Bethesda Softworks and Microsoft and is giving away Fallout 76 to Amazon Prime members. Fallout 4, the latest and most accessible game in the series, is finally receiving its long-awaited next-gen patch later this month, and it’s the perfect time to jump into the game as the long wait for season 2 begins.

All 8 episodes of Fallout are now streaming on Prime Video. The series is helmed by co-showrunners, Geneva Robertson-Dworet and Graham Wagner. Jonathan Nolan directs the first 3 episodes and the remaining episodes are directed by Claire Kilner, Frederick E.O. Toye, Daniel Gray Longino, and Wayne Yip. Ella Purnell, Aaron Moten, and Walton Goggins star.

Anya is an aspiring filmmaker based in Texas who loves all things film. She writes articles and reviews at Feature First.