The Last of Us – Filmavis

From 16 January The last of us on HBO Max, based on the hit survival horror game. Is this the fifteenth failed attempt to film a game? Or not?

For gameplay or not for gameplay, that is the question. The rest of Hamlet’s speech also fits remarkably well for a survival horror game like The last of us. Or indeed with every attempt to film a game. ‘Whether it is nobler in mind to suffer the slings and arrows of monstrous fortune, or to take up arms against a sea of ​​troubles and by opposing them?

Do you put down your guns when filming a game and do what fans and investors expect? Or do you resist and look for new ways to overcome obstacles?

These obstacles are legion. The gameplay, first. Do you want to take it with you to your film adaptation? After all, that’s what made the title great. As a rule, the answer should be: don’t. Games are a fundamentally different medium. In movies, you are not the main character, not the center of your world. The perspective offered to you is greater. Even if you do nothing, the story will continue to develop. Not a surprising insight, and yet we saw producers repeatedly make mistakes, such as with film adaptations of Assassin’s Creed and Doom. Doom should never have been filmed in the first place, the first consideration that anyone must make with a potential film adaptation. Many games simply do not lend themselves to film adaptation. Assassin’s Creed the film turned out to be a cold, distant and uninspired adaptation.

Part 1 and 2 of The last of Us game from the studio Naughty Dog – it was recently announced that part 1 has sold more than 37 million copies – seemed suitable for filming. Thanks to the large world to walk around – or at least the illusion of it – with an eerie atmosphere. And thanks to the interesting characters that the protagonists Joel and Ellie meet during their journey through the infected no-man’s land. But above all: the drama. The relationship between Joel and Ellie, which does not want to be a relationship for a long time at all. The pain of loss they both carry seeps into their sporadic conversations as they get to know each other, still reluctantly. The other characters you get to know and die as the game progresses. The last of us is a horror survival game and an intense dramatic experience. These two layers even reinforce each other, so kudos to creators Neil Druckmann and Bruce Straley.

Together with writer/director Craig Mazin, Druckmann is also responsible for the series’ adaptation of The last of us. A recent interview shows a responsibility they have had to struggle with The New Yorkers. “Investors,” said Druckmann, “always want things bigger and sexier.” They stood more that see and feel from No country for old men provided, the interview said, that investors wanted more World War Z. Anyone watching the series can only conclude that Druckmann and Mazin won that battle.

The beginning of the series faithfully follows the beginning of the game. It’s a day like any other in the life of Joel and his daughter Sarah. He works in construction as an independent contractor, she goes to school. A mother is not in the picture. It’s strange that helicopters have been flying overhead all day and sirens are wailing, Sarah notes. When she comes back from school, Joel isn’t home yet, so she goes to visit their old neighbors. In the evening she wakes up with a start. More sirens and screams. Joel sees them first, but then he storms into the house. They have to go. Now!

A series of shocking developments later – humanity appears to be largely infected by the fungus Cordyceps, which takes over the brain and turns people into zombies – Joel takes on the task of taking fourteen-year-old Ellie to a safe area. More than a thousand miles away, across infected no man’s land.

The last of us is a horror survival game. Not as intense as Quiet hillthat resident evilgames or the latest ones The Callisto Protocol. But a zombie game nonetheless. Of all the games lean The last of us mostly on an emotional interaction between characters, so the game is probably also best suited for a film adaptation. In Amazon’s recently announced film adaptation of another gaming classic that relies heavily on a personal story, god of war, we just have to wait and see if the drama can be turned into a movie or series. My guess is: less.

Visually The last of us a convincing adaptation. Post-apocalyptic landscapes are easy to mine from computers, and after the demise of humanity, you as creators have small problems anyway…that humanity. The streets and buildings are empty, and if a threat arises, you can send your characters through dark, narrow spaces to help them escape the danger. In short: a paradise for a production designer. The series still essentially follows the game’s route here: key locations such as a museum where the characters must escape ‘clickers’ – mutated zombies with extremely good hearing – are also in the series.

To provide some relief to the world outside of Joel and Ellie, an entire episode is devoted to the relationship between Bill and Frank, whose paths Joel and Ellie later cross. So you don’t experience everything through Joel’s eyes. A second season is definitely on the way, and just like in the second part of the game, a dramatic perspective change of a completely different character could appear there, but it is too early to be sure. In any case, this first season is certainly enriched by that episode with Bill and Frank.

Perhaps the series’ strongest point is the casting of Bella Ramsey as Ellie. Exactlyas the English say. Poised, funny and confident, she is not only the perfect Ellie and the opposite of Pedro Pascal as Joel, her character is what the game and the series are about (we won’t reveal why Ellie is so important). Ramsey is able to give that role the right weight. She is the epicenter, even though we experience the story through Joel’s eyes. Ramsey’s stubbornness and quirkiness take the series to the next level.

The last of us is one of the first truly successful game adaptations. Fewer monsters than in the game (so less gameplay) and more (but not too much) drama: Druckmann and Mazin get it.


The last of us can be seen on HBO Max from January 16, 2023.

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