Home Tech ‘They even have a real jetpack in there!’: Todd Howard and Jonathan Nolan on Fallout

‘They even have a real jetpack in there!’: Todd Howard and Jonathan Nolan on Fallout

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'They even have a real jetpack in there!': Todd Howard and Jonathan Nolan on Fallout

YoIf you had asked director Jonathan Nolan what his favorite movie of the year was in the late 2000s, more often than not he would have given you the name of a video game. “Having grown up with the whole history of the medium (I started playing Pong with my brother Chris many, many years ago), that’s when games started to take on this level of boldness in their storytelling, their tone, the things they did. ,” he says. “That’s what I felt with [2008’s] Fallout 3: the audacity. “Frankly, I didn’t feel that in the film and television business at the time.”

Nolan, who just finished directing the first series of Amazon Prime’s Fallout TV show, is sitting next to Todd Howard, the video game director who led the development of Fallout 3 and 4, talking to me a few hours before the film’s premiere. first. two episodes. Within minutes it’s evident that Nolan understands the games almost as well as Todd. He says he’s drawn to games where you have open options, you decide who you want to be, and your decisions have an effect on the world around you: in other words, a game like Todd Howard’s. The two seem like old friends, pleasant in each other’s company and enthusiastic about each other’s work.

A scene from Amazon Prime’s Fallout. Photography: Amazon Prime

“I talked to a lot of people about making a Fallout movie or TV show and I kept saying no to all of them,” Howard says. “I loved the work Jonah had done in movies and television, and in a couple of interviews he did, he mentioned his love for games… I told someone, it’s perfect. I have decided. Can anyone get in touch? We met and luckily we clicked. You could tell he knew Fallout very well.”

That meeting took place in 2019, when there was no precedent for decent video game adaptations, despite many failed attempts over the years. (We’re in a different place now: the curse of the video game movie has been lifted, and there are now a ton of film and TV adaptations in the works.) Todd never envisioned Fallout as a movie, he says. “In 2019, my opinion was that it is difficult to translate a game, because many games are about a specific character that you have played. But for me, the character is the world of Fallout… People always wanted to condense Fallout 3 or 4 into a two-hour experience and I always felt, no. But prestige television can tell a long story.”

The first two Fallout games punished ’90s computer role-playing games with a dark sense of humor and a strong anti-nuclear message; as show writer Graham Wagner points out, they could have been written by Adbusters. Playing as a survivor of a nuclear war who emerges from an underground vault more than 200 years after the first bombs fell, he quickly discovered that life on the surface was short, brutal and dangerous.

Jonathan Nolan at the world premiere of Fallout in Hollywood. Photograph: Tommaso Boddi/GA/The Hollywood Reporter/Getty Images

When Bethesda revived the series in 2008 with Fallout 3, it brought a slightly more hopeful and cheerful tone to the wasteland, preserving the retro-futuristic aesthetic and dark humor, but toning down its biting, nature-punishing, and overtly anti-American satire a bit. Military-expansionist message. There are plenty of heartwarming stories in Fallout 3 and 4, but there’s also a mini-nuke weapon and plenty of comedic violence.

The show leans into this vibe. Unlike HBO’s The Last of Us, this is not a serious take on the post-apocalypse. It has cowboy mutants, horrible wildlife, toxically positive vault dwellers, malfunctioning jet packs, lots of jokes and to batch of blood. Like the games, in which in a few seconds you can go from gleefully digging through trash with the radio to a life-or-death fight with a super mutant, the series changes its tone from moment to moment from comedy to horror. . In one scene we are shown the terrible moments in which nuclear war breaks out, and in another, we are watching a fight with an irradiated bear.

The show quite cleverly addresses the different sides of Fallout’s personality by splitting his perspective between three characters. Lucy, a vault-dwelling ingenue with a tough streak, feels more like a stand-in for the player. The way he behaves when he leaves the vault is very similar to how I behaved in the games: walking up to people and saying hello, scavenging through abandoned buildings hoping to find something useful, and accidentally getting into escalating fights. and pranks.

Ella Purnell (Lucy) in Amazon Prime’s Fallout. Photography: Prime Video via AP

That wavering tone presents a challenge for a filmmaker, but it’s exactly what Nolan loved about games. “It was the world and the tone! I had never experienced that [mix of] darkness and emotionality: its politics are so delicious and funny, that it feels alive and critical… there are all these strange corners of the previous world that escaped the apocalypse and metastasized into something else, but there is also an element of comedy, which is something something I had never worked on before in my career.”

“I think that was the hardest thing they had to do, weaving it onto the screen in a way where you’re No in control,” says Howard. “When do you play, you to become a director.”

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I’ve always seen the world of Fallout as somewhat nihilistic: in most video games, especially post-apocalyptic ones, there is some hope of saving the world or restoring it. You have a reason to be a hero. But in the Fallout wasteland, the world is already broken, so you might as well do what you want. It is this that is seen most clearly in Obsidian’s Fallout New Vegas (2010), with its faded but still brilliant city of vice and morally ambiguous narrative.

However, Nolan sees it the other way around. “Look at the brilliant Cormac McCarthy and The Road: that’s a fucking black hole. No light escapes that narrative. Nobody will make it. Whereas for me, with Fallout, one of the things I loved is that it doesn’t feel so much like the end of the world but like the beginning of a thousand new ones.”

Todd Howard at the Fallout world premiere. Photograph: Leon Bennett/Getty Images

Ironically, for a television show based on a video game, there are very few computer-generated effects in the Fallout series. Instead, everything from the gore to the retro-futuristic aesthetic was achieved with practical effects. Howard tells me that it was amazing to walk into the version of the Fallout world that the TV production team had built in real life. “I got to the set and thought there would be more movie magic, but they literally just built a multi-level vault,” he laughs. “They were obsessed with everything. I walked into the supervisor’s office, sat at the desk and there was a pile of papers and someone had written a note; then I turned it over and there was a report on the energy in the vault. They even have a real jetpack in there!

“That was the point where I almost lost the support of the producers,” Nolan interjects wistfully. “I just thought it would be better “If we had a real jetpack.”

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