Why HBO’s The Last of Us TV Show Will Work
A few years ago we were treated to the news that Neil Druckmann, the Director of Naughty Dog’s lauded Prestige AAA Action Survival game was going to be co – showrunner on a Live Action HBO adaptation of the same title alongside award winning Cehrnobyl showrunner Craig Mazin to mixed reactions. Mixed reactions probably sounds confusing now, but at the time of announcement we had yet to see League of Legends: Arcane, Cyberpunk: Edgerunners or even the live action adaptation of Sonic The Hedgehog. The dark cloud of the video game adaptation was still looming large over Hollywood and even though all the ingredients for a potentially successful adaptation were in place some portions of the audience could not be anything other than skeptical.
In 2013 many gamers and critics were treated to one of the most immersive and gripping stories told in video game history. A story told in a format that was incredibly similar to the popular tropes and formats of prestige television of the time. This format and the games critical acclaim lent it a level of accessibility that most narrative games had not received before. You can still find many a film and TV critic reviews of The Last of Us to this day. This format also made it more viable as a backseat video game. The Last of US managed to crack through the target audience of gamers, but not nearly enough for it to be a mainstream (compared to other films and TV shows of its ilk) hit. A TV or Film adaptation would fix this as the barrier to entry would be reduced exponentially. The TV show had to be good though. After watching the first episode of HBO’s The Last Of Us I can report with full confidence that it is in fact good, potentially great even.
HBO’s The Last of Us managed to straddle the line between being a shot for shot remake of the game and being a wholly original adaptation. The base story is fantastic so veering off of that is mostly unnecessary and also risky. Adapting the show as a shot for shot remake though would also not be as entertaining, especially for the millions of video game fans who have most likely played through the game more than once. The show manages to add original material in-between the down times that could be “gameplay.” Back stories for important side characters is what replaces the hours that would be spent interacting with the characters. This works well especially for characters like Sarah and Tess whom the language of video games uses gameplay and environmental storytelling in order for the audience to attach themselves.
For example, Nico Parker’s elongated Sarah section was critical and is the heart beat and soul for the narrative and purpose that Joel carries throughout the TV show. In the game players get to control Sarah, we see the world from her perspective. We can feel how helpless she is during the outbreak, so when her pivotal moment arises it elicits a strong emotional reaction and connection. Similarly, our introduction to Ellie is just as important. Viewers have to understand just how important she is, how unique her situation is and how strong willed yet vulnerable she can also be, we have to connect and see the parallels between her and Sarah. Bella Ramseys “1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8, F*&k You!” line being one of her first in the TV show was more than enough to let fans of Ellie realise that her character was in good hands.
We were treated to an hour and a half of character introductions, world building, the protagonists motives and even some conflict of interests all within the first episode. We even got some video game easter eggs, inclusive of Gustavo Santaolalla’s amazing main theme which is simply perfect as the opening. The Last of Us HBO will be good, great even and I am so glad that so many new people will get to finally experience what us gamers have for about a decade now.
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