Cate Blanchett nails the outlaw look as Lilith in Borderlands official trailer

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Cate Blanchett stars as an infamous outlaw named Lilith in director Eli Roth's Borderlands, adapted from the popular gaming franchise.

The Borderlands video game franchise is one of the bestselling of all time, racking up more than $1 billion globally in sales over all the titles in the series. So naturally, there would be a film adaptation: the forthcoming Borderlands, directed by Eli Roth (Cabin Fever, The House with a Clock in its Walls). Lionsgate just dropped the official trailer, and Roth has certainly captured the trademark cel-shaded look of the film—especially Cate Blanchett's fluorescent-haired outlaw.

The Borderlands games all take place on a planet called Pandora, home to many dangerous lifeforms as well as bandits and raiders—former prisoners of corporations that previously tried to colonize the planet, believing there were precious minerals to be mined. Pandora's long-extinct race, called the Eridians, also left behind numerous alien artifacts, which eventually led to the discovery that there are various mythical vaults purportedly filled with treasure and guarded by ancient monsters. Along with corporate and military interests, there are renegade Vault Hunters who seek to claim the hidden treasures for themselves.

It might feel like Borderlands the film has been in development forever. Lionsgate announced the adaptation in 2015 and initially considered Leigh Whannell (The Invisible Man) to direct. The script went through multiple revisions by several different writers, and Roth was hired as director in February 2020. Primary filming took place in Budapest, Hungary, in 2021, mid-pandemic, with reshoots occurring early in 2023. Tim Miller (Terminator: Dark Fate) directed the reshoots with Roth's blessing since, by then, the latter was already working on another film (2023's Thanksgiving). Initial first-look images were released in June 2021, although those were just black-and-white silhouettes of the cast.


Per the official premise:

Lilith (Cate Blanchett), an infamous bounty hunter with a mysterious past, reluctantly returns to her home, Pandora, the most chaotic planet in the galaxy. Her mission is to find the missing daughter of Atlas (Edgar Ramírez), the universe’s most powerful S.O.B. Lilith forms an unexpected alliance with a ragtag team of misfits – Roland (Kevin Hart), a seasoned mercenary on a mission; Tiny Tina (Ariana Greenblatt), a feral pre-teen demolitionist; Krieg (Florian Munteanu), Tina’s musclebound protector; Tannis (Jamie Lee Curtis), the oddball scientist who’s seen it all; and Claptrap (Jack Black), a wiseass robot. Together, these unlikely heroes must battle an alien species and dangerous bandits to uncover one of Pandora’s most explosive secrets. The fate of the universe could be in their hands—but they’ll be fighting for something more: each other.

That's quite an all-star cast. Also appearing are Bobby Lee as Larry; Janina Gavankar as Commander Knoxx; Gina Gershon as Mad Moxxi, a bartender; Benjamin Byron Davis as Marcus, a gun merchant in the games; Olivier Richters as Krom, a former prison warden turned bandit leader in the games; Cheyenne Jackson as Jakobs; Charles Babalola as the gentleman hunter Hammerlock; Steven Boyer as the mechanic Scooter, Moxxi's son; Ryann Redmond as Scooter's younger sister Ellie (and Moxxi's daughter), also a mechanic; and Penn Jillette makes a cameo as a preacher presiding over a wedding. (Jillette voiced the character of Pain in Borderlands 3.) Haley Bennett also appears in an as-yet-undisclosed role.

One doesn't expect a film adaptation to adhere too religiously to its source material, given the change in medium. But it looks like Roth has retained many of the most popular characters, although two of the player characters from the first Borderlands game—Mordecai the hunter/sniper and Brick the Berserker—are noticeably absent from the cast. Atlas and Jakobs are weapons-manufacturing corporations in the game, personified here as characters, perhaps as the CEOs of those corporations.


The trailer opens with our merry band of misfits opening the door to an underground vault ripe for exploration. ("Destiny awaits," Roland observes.) A voiceover courtesy of Lilith informs us of the legend of a secret vault with hidden treasure, "and if you go hunting for it, you'd better take any help you can get, because it's on the weirdest, most dangerous, dumpster fire of a world in the universe." Cue our introduction to the main characters as they pass through the odoriferous Piss-Wash Gully, battle various bandits and raiders, and fly right into the mouth of a humongous monster—but not before firing some missiles, ensuring they can exit as the creature blows apart.

All in all, it looks like Borderlands will offer plenty of action punctuated with humor. Granted, it's rather sophomoric "potty humor" that features most prominently in the trailer, often courtesy of Claptrap (who frankly comes off as a bit grating, as does Greenblatt's Tiny Tina). But that's in keeping with the humorous tone of the franchise series, so gaming fans probably won't mind.

Borderlands hits theaters on August 9, 2024.


Listing image by Lionsgate