Innovative Matter

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In a case of good news, bad news, the infamous Duke Nukem is being turned into a movie. Given how awful most video game adaptations turn out and the shallow source material, much of which hasn’t aged well, that’s the bad news. The good news is that it’s being made by the same team responsible for the excellent Cobra Kai, a series that brought new enjoyment and relevance to a decades-old franchise.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, Legendary Entertainment, the company behind Dune and Godzilla, has picked up the Duke Nukem film rights from Gearbox and now plans to make a movie starring the character. Cobra Kai creators Josh Heald, Jon Hurwitz, and Hayden Schlossberg are said to be producing the project.

This writer loved 1996’s Duke Nukem 3D—there were two 2D games before it. The FPS was a popular choice when playing LAN games with friends, fighting for screen time alongside the original Command and Conquer.

Duke had plenty of quotable catchphrases, even if they did originate from movies. His famous “It’s time to kick ass and chew bubble gum… and I’m all outta gum” was a version of the line said by Roddy Piper in John Carpenter’s 1988 classic They Live.

The follow-up, Duke Nukem Forever, spent 14 years trapped in development hell, only to be panned by critics and gamers alike when it arrived in 2011.

This isn’t the first report of a Duke Nukem movie. John Cena was supposedly in talks to play Duke in a film produced by Michael Bay’s company back in 2018. The former wrestler is excellent as the star of Peacemaker, a character who shares some of Duke’s traits. There were also attempts at a Duke Nukem movie in the 2000s (twice) and once in the 1990s.

Duke Nukem is often considered one of those “of its time” games, a bit like Leisure Suit Larry, containing politically incorrect humor that’s unlikely to translate well into a movie today. But the makers would likely go down the self-aware route and make Duke a bit of a washed-up loser struggling to cope in the modern world who eventually gets his life back on track, not totally unlike Cobra Kai’s Johnny Lawrence.