Duke Nukem, the legendary video game franchise, is finally getting a movie, and fans of the game will be happy to know that the big screen adaptation is in good hands. According to a report by Deadline, Josh Heald, Jon Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg, the creative trio behind Cobra Kai, are producing the film with Legendary Entertainment. Development is in the early stages, and it’s not clear who will be writing and directing the feature. A release date is also not known. The announcement is welcome news to a generation of Duke Nukem fans, who have eagerly awaited any type of new content.
Legendary Entertainment has produced some of the biggest films in recent memory, including the Christopher Nolan Batman trilogy, 300, The Hangover trilogy, the Jurassic World films, and Dune. They acquired the rights to the film from Gearbox, the video game developer which owns the franchise, although they haven’t released an actual game since 2011’s Duke Nukem Forever. Heald, Hurwitz, and Schlossberg are producing with Counterbalance Entertainment, and have earned rave reviews from fans and critics for their creative approach to the Karate Kid TV spinoff Cobra Kai, which has remained incredibly faithful to the original films, while introducing new characters and storylines. The series, currently airing on Netflix, has made original stars Ralph Macchio and William Zabka fan favorites once again, and it is hoped the trio will infuse the Duke Nukem movie with the same sort of reverent nostalgia for the original classic games.
First released on floppy disks (Gen Z’ers, google what those are) on July 1, 1991 by Apogee Software, Duke Nukem is about a soldier in Los Angeles who fights off an alien invasion. Its irreverent and often controversial humor and content didn’t win any fans among parents, but gamers loved the series. The original game, a platform-based shooter, is perhaps best remembered by old-school gamers for being available in episodes, with the first episode distributed free as shareware. Three sequel games followed between 1993 and 2011, on various platforms and consoles, with even more spinoff games and mobile phone games produced during those years. After selling a billon dollars in games and merchandise, Gearbox purchased the rights from Apogee in 2010. Several attempts at new Duke Nukem games failed over the years, although leaks of some games, including discarded footage from Duke Nukem Forever, have leaked online. Although poor reception from fans and critics to the most recent games has left us without a new game for over a decade, there is still a dedicated core of fans who would welcome a Duke Nukem revival, either by game or movie. This video, from the YouTube channel Gvmers, details the history of the Duke Nukem video game franchise.
There have been a number of failed attempts to bring Duke Nukem to the big screen, first in the 1990s, when the video game’s popularity was at its zenith. At that time, film producer Lawrence Kasanoff tried to get a movie made, with James Cameron rumored to be on board, but the project fell apart quickly in development. A 2008 film from the creative team behind Max Payne also went nowhere. In 2018, a movie starring John Cena in the lead role was announced, although no updates have ever been given on development since then. It is not known if Cena is involved in this new movie.