The Last of Us: Will HBO’s Adaptation live up to Expectations?

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by | Oct 5, 2022 | Film & TV

The path from video game to TV series is often a perilous one, will HBO's adaptation of The Last of Us defy the odds and give fans a worthy successor to the critically acclaimed video game?

The Last of Us video game released in 2013 is arguably one of the greatest games ever made. To many it was living proof that the gaming industry could tell stories just as well if not better than other forms of media. The story of a broken father as he protects a young abandoned daughter figure through a post-apocalyptic wasteland sent waves through the gaming world, winning itself multiple Game of the Year awards and critical acclaim from journalists worldwide. Since it’s release nearly 10 years ago it has spawned a huge cult following, leading to a sequel as well as additional story content for the first game. It was only a matter of time before it garnered enough attention to demand a television adaptation. Yet will this series premiering on HBO truly live up to fans high expectations? Check out the trailer below.

WILL HBO’S THE LAST OF US BE A DIRECT ADAPTATION?

The new HBO series is reported to take a very direct approach to turning the video game (developed by Naughty Dog games) into a TV series, with writer Neil Druckmann (who also wrote the game) stating that some of the cast’s dialogue will be borrowed from the game itself. It will also reportedly follow the key story beats of the original game minus obvious gameplay moments that will instead be replaced with more character focused drama. Druckmann has also said that the series will avoid what he called ‘episodic storylines’ such as one off episode encounters and conflicts.

This should hopefully keep the main story on track and be a more accurate representation of The Last of Us’s story. The mere inclusion of writer Neil Druckmann in the series and the level of involvement he appears to have is a good sign for fans hoping for a faithful adaptation of the original game’s story.

The Last of Us

From the trailer we can also see many of the iconic settings and moments from the game have already been taken well into account. The fallen skyscrapers and dilapidated state of the cityscape portray the harshness of the world our protagonists will be stepping into. The tone is very much taken from the games however the cinematic elements shown seem inspired by other apocalyptic series such as The Walking Dead who has a proven track record of making settings of this nature come to life on screen. Even the finer details such as the logo of the Firefly faction being present in the background of one of the shots in the quarantine zone is taken straight from the games opening hour of gameplay.

The Last of Us

WILL THE CHARACTER’S BE THE SAME?

Mandalorian star Pedro Pascal takes the stage as our series main protagonist Joel, who is a smuggler struggling to survive, hardened by his tragic past and the trauma that comes with it. Pascal supposedly watched his nephew play the beginning of the first The Last of Us game however wishes to ‘create a healthy distance’ from the Joel of the game. Wishing to leave it up to the showrunners as to how close of an adaptation of the character he will take on. Aesthetically however the trailer show Pascal looking near identical to the favoured video game character, sporting the same dark green over-shirt and worn brown jacket, as well as Joel’s signature greying hair and beard. He is clearly a character who has lived through much sorrow and loss, unable to forgive himself for what the past has wrought him. 

Ellie is set to be played by young Game of Thrones star Bella Ramsey, whose experience portraying a strong defiant lady of Westeros will surely aid her in this role. Ellie in the games has that toughened rebellious nature about her, always having to rely on her own wits and cunning to grow up and survive in the post-apocalyptic wasteland. However she has that softer side that seeks to cast aside some of her independence in exchange for safety and kinship, though she is most certainly not the trusting type.

Seeing the two characters mature and interact with one another was the key element that pulled the original story of the game together. They both find in each other a connection that neither seemed to be looking for, yet found none the less. The chemistry between Pascal and Ramsey will surely be the clinching factor that determines whether the same emotional attachment the game generated so well translates just as successfully on screen.

The Last of Us

FINAL THOUGHTS

Most video game adaptations have often gone terribly off track or been poorly received by both fans and critics, with even the most recent Uncharted film adaptation (a game also developed by Naughty Dog) failing to meet expectations with fans, garnering mixed reviews from audiences. The trailer for The Last of Us does however look promising, with scenes and dialogue pulled directly from the game itself it looks to be a far more faithful and interesting take on a video game story than previous attempts. 

With a great cast, a huge budget and the game’s writer behind the helm the producers have little excuse for not giving their all with this series. However all these things do not make up for poor storytelling, as shown with other recent series such as Amazon’s The Rings of Power and HBO’s House of the Dragon, with despite great casting and ridiculous budgets still fall prey to poor pacing and weak character development. This is a chance to bring an already great story to a wider audience and show once and for all that video games have the potential to craft intricate and astounding narratives worthy of mainstream attention. 

The Last of Us will premiere on HBO in 2023.

Written by George Cooper

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