It's been years since fans heard anything from #DukeNukem, the testosterone-fueled embodiment of masculinity in video games. Duke may still be a nostalgic icon today, but his muscle-bound presence has not been felt since his last game, Duke Nukem Forever, which was released back in 2011. Although a sequel to the game may seem unlikely, Duke may be coming back in a wholly different way. If Gearbox has its way, Duke will make an explosive return with his very own cinematic debut.
It's Ass-Kicking Time Again!
During a livestream broadcast on Youtube, Gearbox Software CEO Randy Pitchford offered some updates on the studio's plans to expand into the world of filmmaking. One of the movies Gearbox hopes to see become a reality is the adaptation of Duke Nukem. Pitchford elaborated on the ambitious statement.
"We’re working on [Duke Nukem]! I can’t announce it but it’s blown my mind, there’s been a lot of production companies that have come at us. We’re putting together a deal right now with a major motion picture studio; I’ll tell you off the record if you want to know."
"It’s the exact right people that should be doing a Duke Nukem film and we’ll see what happens. It’s unbelievable, I think that’s very likely to be a thing."
There have been talks and rumors about a Duke Nukem movie ever since the late '90s, but nothing concrete materialized until now. Roughly two decades ago, Mortal Kombat producer Lawrence Kasanoff expressed his desire to finance a Duke Nukem movie with the game's original developers, 3D Realms.
When Gearbox acquired the rights to the game in 2010, any pre-production progress from the '90s until 2009 by Kasanoff and 3D Realms was scrapped. Since then, Gearbox has been developing the Duke Nukem movie, and Pitchford's statements lead us to believe that the movie is highly likely to finally head into production.
Duke Nukem: Born to be Wild, or Deader Than Disco?
For better or worse, Duke is a product of his time and simply revisiting what made him popular in the '90s wouldn't work today. As seen with the criticism directed at the critically-panned Duke Nukem Forever, the franchise's trademark humor hasn't aged well and was regarded as juvenile and outdated by today's standards. Randy Nelson of engadget said it best in his review of the game:
"[Duke Nukem Forever] remains a sort of relic - a reminder of how things used to be and how, thankfully, the genre and the people who enjoy it have grown up and moved on."
The best way Gearbox could make a Duke Nukem movie is by approaching the adaptation in a tongue-in-cheek manner. In recent years, self-aware movies that homaged retro filmmaking made a killing at the box office, while also pleasing hardcore fans. Some examples of these include the '80s tribute Kung Fury and Sylvester Stallone's The Expendables trilogy, which earned upwards of $800 million at the global box office despite a lackluster third entry.
Duke Nukem was once heralded for being the coolest video game protagonist around, but times have changed and his moment in the spotlight looked to be over with Duke Nukem Forever. However, if Gearbox learns from the harsh criticisms of Duke Nukem Forever and acknowledges that Duke is an anachronism, a Duke Nukem movie may be the nostalgic hit that fans deserve.