When news first broke that John Cena would be playing Duke Nukem in a live-action adaptation of one of gaming’s more embarrassing franchises, the response from the internet was a healthy mix of trepidation and resignation.
It’s hard to deny that the casting here is perfect, as Cena certainly does look the part. Does anybody actually want a “Duke Nukem” movie, though? Where’s the appeal in seeing a dated ‘90s collection of pop-culture references and empty machismo on the big screen?
Apparently, even John Cena himself is really not on board with this film. Despite having signed on to the role, a recent statement from the pro-wrestler turned actor suggests that Cena is, to put things mildly, having cold feet.
“I’m very honored to be attached to that but that is a very fragile franchise. That was one that was very timeline specific, that is 1990s to the hilt. So, once again, it reflects upon story. The story has to come in dead-on balls, man. Like it has to come in told correct, told in a palatable sense for this generation, which you’re walking on eggshells…you can’t not be Duke Nukem, but you can’t make the wrong move…so I’m…what a blessing to be attached to that, a name like that, and I just hope development does the franchise justice.”
It’s good to know that Cena understands the predicament he’s placed himself in.
On the one hand, if this movie isn’t video game accurate, fans of the series will take umbrage.
More pressingly, though, the incredibly embarrassing core of the “Duke Nukem” video games is objectification of women, macho posturing, and dumb jokes. None of these things are going to play well with a modern audience.
One need look no further than “Duke Nukem Forever” to see the problems here. After over a decade in development, the game was finally released in 2011 to universal disgust. The game showed signs of its lengthy cooking period, and felt dated and awful in every aspect of design.
It’s easy to imagine the “Duke Nukem” movie going the same way, and the last thing Cena wants to be known for is an atrocious film that makes him look like a disgusting idiot.
Is it possible for this movie to work in the modern era?
Yes, it could work, but the creative team behind the film would need to be smart about it.
The logical way to make this work would be to mix a big scoop of Johnny Bravo into the mix, making Duke Nukem a point of ridicule within his own world, as everyone around him calls him out for his chauvinistic, meathead antics.
If the “Duke Nukem” movie can become a sly parody of the “Duke Nukem” video games, and by association, the archaic idea of manly men doing manly things, then everyone’s happy. Modern audiences could appreciate the film for its commentary on just how stupid traditional ideas of machismo can be, while fans of the series still get to enjoy seeing their inexplicable idol on the big screen in all his bubblegum chewing glory.
Wait, never mind, he’s all out of gum.
If Hollywood does decide to take this direction with the project, one can only hope that they’ll get Katie Turnbull, creator of the webcomic “The Punchline is Machismo”, to help workshop Duke.
Her work has already done more to make him palatable than anything else on the internet.