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Warner Bros. to Turn Dystopian Novel ‘FKA USA’ Into a Movie

The studio splashes out on what feels like the timeliest end-of-the-world story.
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By  · Published on November 12th, 2018

We live in a day and age when fictionalizing the dystopian future of our society on the big and small screen can perhaps feel more than a little predictable. These days, we’re overly familiar with the blockbusterization of dystopias. The Hunger GamesPlanet of the Apes, and the Blade Runner sequel are just a few examples of big-budget movies that take advantage of the end of the world or some version of it for some evocative storytelling. Of course, the indie scene isn’t immune to the dystopia obsession. The saturation is real.

Yet, these speculative realities remain entirely too relevant to our everyday lives. Awareness about an ailing world — from human rights to climate change — is paramount in the era of staying connected and up-to-date. Hence, there will never be enough disastrous near-futures, global catastrophes, and tyrannical leaders on the big screen when there’s so much of the real world to mine from. Now, Warner Bros. has just snapped up the next timely story of such a persuasion.

As reported by Deadline, the studio has optioned the film rights to Reed King‘s debut novel FKA USA. The dystopian satire that operates in the vein of “A Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, The Wizard of Oz, and Ready Player One” has been brokered for a seven-figure deal despite a ton of mystery surrounding the property.

We would all be unfamiliar with FKA USA at this point. It isn’t actually out in stores yet, being due to land on shelves in June 2019. Moreover, “Reed King” is a mysterious identity in its own right, since it’s apparently a pseudonym for “a New York Times bestselling author and TV writer,” according to the novel’s publisher Macmillan. But judging from the tome’s synopsis and the abovementioned cross-media comparisons regardless, it will be a ridiculously and uncomfortably fun ride thanks to a good helping of IRL realizations.

FKA USA reimagines the United States in the year 2085. By this time, the country’s “final president” has issued enough horrific policies to disintegrate a nation and the effects of a slew of environmental disasters have become all too real as well. This results in the secession of all fifty states, with America breaking up into territories ungoverned by law.

Funnily enough, though, when we pick up with our protagonist Truckee Wallace, a factory worker from Crunchtown 407 (formerly Little Rock, Arkansas), we get a sense that he’s just a regular guy. Per Macmillan’s summary, he really just wants to lose his virginity. However, his easygoing existence is suddenly interrupted when he is sent on a very important task by the President “to deliver a talking goat across the continent.” Accompanying Truckee on this bizarre quest — on which the fate of the entire world apparently hinges — is an android with dreams of becoming human and a former Texas convict who has been lobotomized.

FKA USA is clearly primed to be vibrantly satirical. Somewhere between a road movie, coming-of-age adventure, and biting sociopolitical study lies this book. There’s a ton of explosive imagery already jumping out from the novel’s synopsis alone that elicits both chuckles of disbelief and strange understanding. The particular grouping of outcasts found in a factory worker, an android, and an ex-prisoner brings the news landscape to mind. Not necessarily specific stories, but a number of ongoing cultural conversations that drive the media cycle in general.

Who knows what else we’ll encounter in FKA USA, too? Macmillan’s page for the book promises that Truckee and gang will be “dodging body pickers and Elvis-worshippers and logo girls, body subbers, and VR addicts.” The world is the novel’s oyster. Importantly, how we reach a happy medium discussing these issues at length within the realm of hilarity would depend greatly on the creative team involved.

If I were to throw out any names for consideration, I’d love to see Janelle Monáe and any of her Dirty Computer team have a gander at a movie like this. Andrew Donoho and Chuck Lightning‘s work on this “emotion picture” creates such a vivid, unforgettable portrait of sci-fi dystopia and utopia. After flipping genre expectations with both of his feature film directorial efforts, Drew Goddard could be a fascinating contender. Bad Times at the El Royale, in particular, has the visual ostentatiousness that seems fitting for FKA USA. Finally, if someone at Warner Bros. could so kindly give Jennifer Phang her next big break in sci-fi movies, I wouldn’t at all be mad. Not only are her two indie features in the genre excellent (Half-Life and Advantageous), but she continues to hone her skills on the small screen helming politically-charged projects such as Amazon’s upcoming antihero saga The Boys.

At the moment, Andrew Lazar is the only named producer attached the project. He’s made some successful films (10 Things I Hate About You and Confessions of a Dangerous Mind) and some categorically awful ones (Behaving Badly and Mortdecai). Yet, we can’t deny that the premise of FKA USA deserves a shot of its own and there is still time to put together some creative partnerships to balance out his lukewarm credits. And it would be especially rewarding if Warner Bros. decided to go for some daring and individual artists.

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Sheryl Oh often finds herself fascinated (and let's be real, a little obsessed) with actors and their onscreen accomplishments, developing Film School Rejects' Filmographies column as a passion project. She's not very good at Twitter but find her at @sherhorowitz anyway. (She/Her)