A Duke Nukem Movie Comes From The Creators Of Cobra Kai

The Hollywood Reporter (opens in a new tab) says Duke Nukem, the most notoriously failed musclehead in video game history, is heading to the big screen. The rights to a Duke Nukem movie project have been picked up by Legendary Entertainment, according to the report, while Josh Heald, Jon Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg, the creators of the Cobra Kai TV series, are signed on as producers.

In some ways, it’s a natural choice. Duke Nukem was originally created as a simplistic parody of 1980s action heroes, after all: he was all action, half-ass and half-witted stunt double, and the only thing more bigger than his arms were his biceps. Games moved from 2D platformer to 3D FPS in 1996 with Duke Nukem 3D, a brilliantly good shooter that was criticized for embracing stereotypes a bit too enthusiastically. But despite its success, a new game in the series didn’t appear until Duke Nukem Forever in 2011, which tossed out the parody element and launched into “Duke is cool”: It was widely panned and tanked.

At first glance, this makes a Duke Nukem movie project seem like a risky proposition at best. I love ’80s action movies, but I enjoy them with appropriate levels of conscientiousness and irony – and honestly, I don’t think there’s a macho star from that era who’s even remotely as stupid as Duke. I certainly wouldn’t want a Duke Nukem action movie played straight.

But the involvement of Heald, Hurwitz and Schlossberg makes me think there’s a chance it will work. Cobra Kai (opens in a new tab), which is streaming on Netflix, is a sequel to the 80s Karate Kid movies, which is also a terrible idea at first glance. Yet it’s critically acclaimed and a commercial success because of the way it subverts those original films: characters are more developed and complex, villains struggle to be better (some of them, anyway), and through it all, there’s a subtle acknowledgment of the ridiculous gist of it all: Why are Ralph Macchio and William Zabka still so keen to fight 40 years later?

It’s not hard to imagine a similar approach being taken with Duke, and I think it could be very effective. And it’s not as if the concept of an anachronistic, not-too-brilliant “hero,” forced to grapple with the realities of a world that left him behind, was a new and fresh concept: Mike Myers used it to transform into a superstar with the Austin Powers Trilogy.

A representative for Gearbox confirmed that The Hollywood Reporter’s report is accurate, but did not say whether he would be directly involved in the project. A screenwriter and director for the film have yet to be signed.

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