‘Overlord’ Film Review: Great Video Game Movie That’s Not Based on a Video Game

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“Overlord” is one of the best video game movies ever made, and it’s not even based on a video game.

Filmmakers have been struggling for decades to adapt an actual video game story into a great movie, but many films have already successfully adapted the storytelling style of video games to the big screen. Take a look at the checkpoint gameplay mechanics of “Run Lola Run,” and the point-and-click problem solving of “Cop Car.” Consider the daredevil side scrolling of “District B13,” and the destructive fighting-game avatars of “Colossal.”

And now, check out “Overlord,” the ultimate Nazi zombie movie. The genre goes back at least as far as Ken Wiederhorn’s “Shock Waves,” which starred Peter Cushing as a mad scientist building an undead reich on an uncharted island, but it really came to life (pun intended) in video games. By the time the “Wolfenstein” games introduced Mecha-Hitler as a level boss, the idea of supernatural monsters who were already monsters to begin with has been a go-to storytelling device for one game after another.

Watch Video: Jovan Adepo, Wyatt Russell Discover Unthinkable Horrors in First ‘Overlord’ Trailer

“Overlord,” directed by Julius Avery (“Son of a Gun”), tells the story of a squad of World War II soldiers who are dropped behind enemy lines and tasked with destroying a radio jamming tower before sunrise. Sounds simple, right? Well, don’t forget: even before the zombies show up, it’s still World War II, so this war is both literal and figurative hell.

Our heroes are Boyce (Jovan Adepo, “Fences”), so innocent he literally refuses to hurt a mouse, and Ford (Wyatt Russell, “Lodge 49”), an explosives expert who’s got a permanent hard stare. Not many soldiers survive the drop, but Boyce and Ford are joined by their commanding officer Rensin (Bokeem Woodbine) and fellow grunts Tibbet (John Magaro, “Marshall”) and Chase (Iain De Caestecker, “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.”).

Along the way they join forces with a local scavenger, Chloe (Mathilde Ollivier), and discover that destroying the tower is going to be a lot more complicated than they thought. Because, obviously, mad scientists and zombies.

Also Read: ‘Overlord’ Wins Early Raves at Fantastic Fest: ‘Everything I Wanted From a WWII Nazi Zombie Movie’

The opening of “Overlord” is gigantically horrific. We are shoved alongside our heroes in a giant metal cylinder, flying towards a deadly destination, and when the hatch blows off and bullets burst from the floor, we see an inferno outside. Cacophonies of mid-air explosions, the red skyline of Hades, and as we fall with Boyce down to a lake below, we get a potent, point-of-view sense of vertigo. Even when he lands, he has to emerge from the ghostly cocoon of his wet parachute and venture into a nightmare forest full of inexplicable offal and hateful murderers called Nazis.

It’s a storytelling mechanic that will be familiar to gamers, evoking everything from the “Modern Warfare” series to “Half-Life” and “Bioshock” and beyond. It’s a steady progression into horror, filled with red flags and on-the-nose foreshadowing, and an introduction to the thrilling action that’s nevertheless kept at a distance — for a while. And along the way, the film employs boss level storytelling tropes, survival horror exploration, and climactic chase levels straight out of the original “Halo.”

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Perhaps the key to making these tropes work cinematically is making them work in concert with others. Avery directs every single scene like it’s right out of an E.C. comic book, somewhere between “Two-Fisted Tales” and “Tales from the Crypt.” The angles are dynamic and jagged, framing the action for maximum shock value. It’s as though the design philosophy for “Overlord” was to try to get banned in the 1950s, and it works. The old adage that “war is hell” is practically literal in “Overlord.”

“Overlord” is overloaded with action, violence, and the maddest of mad sciences, and for the most part, Avery organically graduates to each new level of nightmare. The beginning explodes, and for the next hour the movie pulls itself back together, getting its bearings, and trying to pretend it hasn’t noticed all the tell-tale signs of campfire monstrosities peering behind cracked doors. It moves so organically from action movie to war drama to horror movie that you begin to realize how little difference there already was between them.

The film grows and grows and grows in intensity until we finally get a gruesome sightseeing tour of everything that’s been withheld from us, in a fright house of gory novelties, none of which should be ruined in advance. It’s worth the price of admission alone, and one might never think of their spinal cord quite the same way again.

Where “Overlord” falters is right after this sequence. The audience — all of us primed for escalating action and anxiety — are suddenly expected to take a step back and revert to old school World War II genre tropes, after we just saw some truly unspeakable stuff. Once the vault of horror has been opened, it’s awfully hard to go back. And yet the plot demands it, so we kind of have to soldier through and wait for “Overlord” to get back on mission.

Once it does, it’s glorious. A few hiccups aside, “Overlord” is an impressively huge B-movie, the kind of material that Roger Corman would have whipped out for less than a million bucks back in the 1980s, but now gets the blockbuster treatment. Fortunately, the script by Billy Ray (“Captain Phillips”) and Mark L. Smith (“The Revenant”) keeps most of the bugnuts cult-movie weirdness intact, with eccentric characters, extreme emotions and a twisted sense of humor.

If “Overlord” was a video game, it would be a great one. It just happens to be a movie, and it’s a great one of those too. It hits all old-school genre tropes so hard that they make new noises, and infuses cheesy grindhouse thrills with all the “you are there” intensity of a great interactive experience. It may not have much to say, but it says it loud and clear, and more genre movies should follow its ambitious, bloody, fist-pumping, emotionally draining example.

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Julius Avery to Write and Direct ‘Flash Gordon’ Remake for Fox

Read on: TheWrapTheWrap.

“Overlord” director Julius Avery has been tapped by Fox to write and direct the “Flash Gordon” remake, an individual with knowledge of the project tells TheWrap.

“Kingsman” director Matthew Vaughn, who circled the project in 2015 to direct, will now produce with John Davis and Hearst Entertainment & Syndication Group. Fox senior vice president Matt Reilly is overseeing “Flash Gordon” for the studio. C.J. Kettler is overseeing for Hearst.

The story follows an adventurer who strives to save the planet Mongo from the clutches of his villainous nemesis Ming the Merciless.

Also Read: Matthew Vaughn in Talks to Direct ‘Flash Gordon’ Remake

“Flash Gordon” has been adapted into multiple formats, most recently as a live-action series on Syfy and famously as a 1980 feature film that starred Sam J. Jones.

“Overlord,” which is set for theatrical release in November, follows Allied paratroopers in World War II who are shot down behind enemy lines on the eve of D-Day and discover that the Nazis are using supernatural forces against them.

Avery directed from a script by Billy Ray and Mark L. Smith. The cast includes Jovan Adepo (“Fences”), Jacob Anderson (“Game of Thrones”), and Wyatt Russell (“Black Mirror: Playtest”).

Avery is repped by UTA, Brillstein Entertainment Partners and Gang, Tyre; Vaughn is repped by WME and Brillstein.

Deadline first reported the news.

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J.J. Abrams & ‘Overlord’ Director Julius Avery Teaming On Superhero Movie ‘The Heavy’

Read on: Deadline.

J.J. Abrams is reuniting with Julius Avery, director of the upcoming Paramount/Bad Robot World War II zombie release Overlord, for The Heavy.
The project is billed as a subversive superhero movie written by Daniel Casey. Plot is being kept under wraps….

JJ Abrams’ D-Day Thriller ‘Overlord’ Enlists Jovan Adepo, Wyatt Russell

Read on: TheWrapTheWrap.

Paramount Pictures and Bad Robot jointly announced today that Jovan Adepo and Wyatt Russell will lead the cast of producer JJ Abrams’ D-Day movie “Overlord.”

The supernatural thriller takes place during World War II.

Directed by Julius Avery (“Son of a Gun”), the Bad Robot production is produced by J.J. Abrams and Lindsey Weber, and written by Billy Ray (“Captain Phillips”) and Mark L. Smith (“The Revenant”).

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On the eve of D-Day, a group of American paratroopers are dropped behind enemy lines to carry out a mission crucial to the invasion’s success. But as they approach their target, they begin to realize there is more going on in this Nazi-occupied village than a simple military operation.

The film will begin shooting this May in the U.K.

Most recently Adepo starred opposite Denzel Washington and Viola Davis in Paramount’s Oscar-nominated drama, “Fences.” He can currently been seen as a series regular on HBO’s “The Leftovers.” He is repped by Gersh and Powerline Entertainment.

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Wyatt Russell recently starred in “Black Mirror” and Richard Linklater’s “Everybody Wants Some!!”

He will next star in the lead role of AMC’s highly anticipated original series, “Lodge 49.” He will also be seen in “Folk Hero” and “Funny Guy,” “Blaze,” “Goon 2” and “Ingrid Goes West” which premiered at Sundance. Wyatt is repped by UTA.

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