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Sony Pictures Television is dropping 10 episodes of the Twisted Metal television show on the Peacock streaming service on July 27.
The show is based on the game series where players engage in a demolition derby in a post-apocalyptic world of 2022. It was full of irreverent characters and deadpan humor amid battles to the death.
The 30-minute episodes are based on the Twisted Metal video game franchise originally co-created by David Jaffe as exclusive content for the Sony PlayStation back in 1995. The series saw nine different game releases (and a few canceled games) through 2012.
Sony started making a movie based on the games in 2012, but it was canceled. Of course, it makes so much more sense to turn this into a TV series now, as video games have conquered the world and we’ve seen great successes with The Super Mario Bros. Movie and The Last of Us on HBO. But there hasn’t been a Twisted Metal game for a while, and the quality will have to be there in the show, as there have been plenty of failures in the alliance of gaming and Hollywood.
This show comes from Sony Pictures Television, PlayStation Productions and Universal Television, a division of Universal Studio Group.
The TV series got a new life as the Deadpool screenwriters Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick signed on to develop the series with Michael Jonathan Smith (Cobra Kai writer) as the showrunner, executive producer and writer. And star Anthony Mackie served as executive producer. They seem like a perfect combination to find humor in the apocalypse, much like the original game creators did.
Mackie plays the lead role of John Doe in the series, while Stephanie Beatriz, Thomas Haden Church, Joe Seanoa (Samoa Joe) and Neve Campbell are part of the cast. Will Arnett serves as the voice of Sweet Tooth and Seanoa plays Sweet Tooth.
Sony describes it as a high-octane action comedy, based on an original take by Reese, Wernick and Smith, about a motor-mouthed outsider (Mackie) offered a chance at a better life, but only if he can successfully deliver a mysterious package across a post-apocalyptic wasteland.
Heavily armed post-apocalypse cops (led by Haden Church and Campbell) and a deranged clown (Samoa Joe), who dominates “Lost Vegas,” driving an ice cream truck stand in his way.
While The Last of Us has the serious part of the zombie apocalypse locked down, the producers like Marc Forman wanted to do a bingeable action-comedy in the apocalyptic setting. Add the car combat of Twisted Metal to it and it seemed like a big opportunity.
Mackie played the game when he was a kid, as he worked all summer and saved up to buy a PlayStation. Beatriz said in an interview with GamesBeat (in June, before the current actor’s strike) that she didn’t play the games, but she admired its devoted fan base and she went down the rabbit hole on online info about the game. Players have intense and deep memories of playing it, and it’s heavy on action, which is something that Beatriz has wanted to do for a long time. The show is a love letter to all those fans.
Beatriz was also drawn to the dark hallows humor of Smith’s script, and she was dying to do a lot of action. She said that she was surprised that so many video game adaptation successes have happened in such a short time, as the projects have been in the works for a long time and Hollywood and games have always been courting each other.
The reason they’re succeeding, she said, “You can can really tell that they care about what they’re making, and they want to do it right and then want to pay homage to the game. And do it in a way that honestly pays homage to the story, but also the fans of it. And I think that’s what I believe the Twisted Metal series is doing right.”
She feels like the show will capture the adrenaline of the gameplay and she believes Sweet Tooth will come off as “absolutely horrifying, played by the nicest guy It’s a really interesting balance because it is in this post-apocalyptic time, but it’s really silly and funny at the same time, which is kind of unexpected.”
In the series, the apocalypse has happened and major cities like New Chicago have become walled off compounds. Everybody outside the walls is a renegade. As Doe, Mackie has to deliver a package from New San Francisco to New Chicago. Beatriz plays Quiet, and she tangles early on with Haden Church, who plays the bad guy Agent Stone. She wants revenge. She’s heavy on action and not much about talking.
The creators of the show had free rein to build out the world, the characters and a narrative because the video games had so little of that. The world is like a prison in reverse, where the people on the inside are the haves and the people on the outside are the have-nots, Reese said.
The other big characters of the show are the cars, according to Sony executive producer Carter Swan, who helped make the show happen. Doe drives around an orange Subaru WRZ named Evelyn. It was apt to have a name, as the show takes place in a world where you can’t trust anyone, except maybe your car.
Haden Church told me in an interview (conducted in June, before the actor’s strike), that he wasn’t familiar with the game but liked the character when he was approached to do Agent Stone.
“Obviously, the PlayStation people were a key element to the creative process. But it was really Michael and I having a very good conversation about who Stone was. And you know, just what his storyline was going to be. Because I wasn’t particularly interested in playing a villain. And I don’t believe he is. You know, like everyone in the show, they’re capable of villainous acts, but Stone really believes he is the strong arm of law and order. Not only is he a good guy. He’s the ultimate good guy. He’s going to help restore society and lawfulness.”
Stone goes after criminals, and he’s not particularly interested in the seriousness of the crimes.
As for the humor, Haden Church said it’s “Hilarious, vulgar. Absurd. At times cartoonish, especially with with Sweet Tooth. But I think there’s sort of a graphic novel kind of morbid humor throughout all the stories and with all the characters. When I read it, it made me laugh out loud at just how ridiculously absurd some of the some of the situations and dialogue are.”
And compared to The Last of Us, he said, “Twisted Metal has a completely different tone, completely different style of game. It just suits a lot of people like Michael Jonathan Smith, who’s in his 30s.”
Haden Church thinks that Hollywood’s exec ranks are full of gamers now, and they’re in a “position in the industry to translate games to a bigger audience.”
David Jaffe’s view
I asked Jaffe, one of the original creators of Twisted Metal, what he thought of the trailers for the show. He thought the first trailer was “OK,” the second was “terrible,” and the latest trailer “captured the spirit of the early games.”
He added, “It seems like a really loud, violent, dumb, fun midnight movie. So at this point, they’ve put out three trailers, they’ve been markedly different, tonally, and so I don’t know what to expect.”
The producer reached out to Jaffe to see if he wanted to watch the episodes, but he hadn’t done it so far.
“I’m looking forward to it. My fingers are crossed,” Jaffe said.
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