HBO’s upcoming series ‘The Last of Us’ may very well end the preconceived notion that video game live-action adaptations do not work. Let’s get one thing out of the way, they can go well, Netflix’s ‘The Witcher’ is a testament to that, until they let go of Henry Cavill—but I’ll reserve judgment, we’ll still have to see what Liam Hemsworth has to offer. But one good release does not take away from the streak of uninspired reimaginations that have tainted our screens, I’m looking at you ‘Resident Evil’, ‘Monster Hunter’, ‘Mortal Kombat’, and ‘Assassin’s Creed’. It’s a hit or miss, never a guaranteed success or failure. Fans of a series despite their excitement, will always carry a bit of a worry at the back of their heads that an upcoming adaptation will be another disappointment like those that came before. ‘The Last of Us’ however, may just provide directors and producers with the blueprint on how to make these finally work.
What’s ‘The Last of Us’? Touted as one of the best, if not the best game to come out on the PS3, the post-apocalyptic action/horror drama ‘The Last of Us’, developed by Naughty Dog has reached ‘classic’ status, particularly because of its rich and gut-wrenching story. On the backdrop of a world brought to ruin by a cordyceps fungus-induced zombie apocalypse, the story follows the character of Joel, a grizzled survivor in this broken world. While used to only looking out for his own skin, he would soon meet Ellie, a bright-eyed young girl who warms his now hardened heart, and tests his resolve and beliefs as they go through post-apocalyptic America, kill shroomed zombies, and make decisions that could impact the whole of humanity.
‘The Last of Us’ arguably tells the best story in all of video games. When games are adapted into a screenplay, what oftentimes spells its doom is when people realize that its story was not good, to begin with. When you’re not playing it, immersed in its gameplay, its narrative which is mostly a secondary aspect in game development comes center stage—if it’s not good, all the more people will see, there’s no playing it to distract. But for ‘The Last of Us’ which although praised for its deeply immersive gameplay, is mostly known for its story. An adaptation then makes perfect sense. If people enjoyed watching its tale unfold as they played it, all the more would they enjoy a fully developed narrative with storytelling at its core. That’s why ‘Assassin’s Creed’ flopped. Sure ruthlessly taking the lives of the corrupt while parkouring over buildings is fun and all, but the overall conflict between the Assassins and the Templars just doesn’t quite make sense, and there’s not that much to it anyway.
Zombies and drama? That sounds like a perfectly reasonable balance of genres fit for the small screen. Typically, video games delve into the mystical, the fantastical, and the out-of-this-world. It works for these because they’re not really trying to be realistic. While a completely different topic, that’s why anime adaptations also fail, because it just doesn’t translate into live-action. Sure a titan from ‘Attack on Titan’ sounds amazing in real life, but a humongous disproportionate man, as seen in the actual adaptation looks terrible, quite laughable to be honest. Zombies and drama though, we’ve already done it, look at ‘World War Z’, ‘The Walking Dead’, and the many other films and series of the same genre that have already been made. The mix of concepts and genres of ‘The Last of Us’ just makes sense for a live-action adaptation. While zombies are unrealistic, as of yet, hopefully, it can be made to seem like it could.
‘The Last of Us’ is set to release on HBO and HBO Max on January 15, 2022. The first season will be comprised of nine episodes of unspecified length.
Watch the trailer here!