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For & Against: The Last of Us adaptation

Written by Culture, Gaming, TV

The Last of Us is getting its very own adaptation on HBO, and this has split fans down the middle – will it end up defacing the franchise, or bringing it to new audiences? Our writers discuss why this is a good move and why it might not be.

Spoilers ahead for The Last of Us

For

Written by James Troughton

The Last of Us is a masterpiece, and one of the best games ever made. It’s a stunning entry into the ironically overpopulated zombie genre, as it manages to both set itself apart from its cohorts whilst also playing on the tropes and cliches that make it so popular. Part of what works so well is the less heroic protagonist, who is much like Rick Grimes of The Walking Dead comics, who puts his own ambitions and desires above that of the world, as he’s lost so much that he simply cannot take another hit.

Related: Chernobyl’s Craig Mazin to adapt The Last of Us on HBO

Whilst, understandably, a video-game adaptation will cut out a significant amount of immersion and all the interactivity, bringing such a heartfelt story to audiences that couldn’t otherwise access it is a brilliant move. On top of that, having the team who told that narrative also working on the HBO show is a stroke of genius and sets this adaptation apart from the less favourable others, such as the infamous Resident Evil film franchise.

They’re taking all of the right precautions and steps in ensuring that The Last of Us is done justice, with the original composer, Gustavo Santaolalla, even set to work on the score for the show. HBO’s adaptation will likely capture the raw, guttural and heartbreaking feel of the game, and condensing the story into a long-form series makes perfect sense, as a film simply wouldn’t do it justice.

It’s also exciting because HBO passed up on The Walking Dead adaptation before AMC picked it up, and after their fumbling with Game of Thrones, they deserve another chance at a gory, heartfelt project. Everything so far screams different from other video-game films and shows, so optimism feels more warranted in this scenario, which is a breath of fresh air, especially considering the developmental hell that Naughty Dog’s other work, Uncharted, is going through in its own live-action adaptation.

Against

Written by Kaitlyn Maracle

Video-game adaptations have been rampant lately. Sonic and The Witcher just released, whilst Borderlands, Mortal Kombat and Uncharted are slated to have their stories explored on the silver screen. The Witcher series was amazing, I have high hopes for Borderlands and I didn’t go to see Sonic but I heard it was okay.

Related: Review: Sonic the Hedgehog (PG)

However, once I found out that there was an adaptation of The Last of Us in the works, I near broke into tears. The show is set to be headed by one of the game’s own writers, Neil Druckmann, and the creator of Chernobyl, Craig Mazin.

Now, I loved The Last of Us – it’s one of my top 10 games, and if I wasn’t broke, I would have pre-ordered The Last of Us 2. Ellie is one of my favourite video-game characters of all-time for so many different reasons but I don’t think that this game will work as a TV show at all. While the TV format is long enough to tell the detailed story of Ellie, Joel, and the Fireflies, we’ll lose something along the journey from console to a TV network.

The hardest part of the game for me was playing it and not in a sense of difficulty, but out of fear. I know that if I knock over that brick, a clicker was going to creep around the corner and make my life more difficult. I felt like it was me, not Ellie or Joel, scavenging for shivs and the incredibly sparse bullets. I was immersed, more than any game that I’d played before had managed. I know I won’t be as immersed watching it happen as opposed to actually taking part in an active role.

The scene in the bar where Ellie kills the creepy cannibal David with a knife was one of the hardest cutscenes to watch. It’s the first time Ellie kills with such ferocity and it’s one of the few times we see her, a fourteen-year-old, be weak. I had to press triangle to make Ellie grab the nearby knife and kill him and that impacted me the most.

You don’t get that in a TV show as instead it just happens. The viewer has no input or opportunity for interaction at all, and I think that reduces how emotional those moments will be. The immersion is lost. I can’t put it into words, but a lot of the emotion and feeling of this game comes from playing it, rather than watching it.

I think that, if done well, the adaptation could be enjoyable. After all, the writers hopefully know what they’re doing. However, it will likely struggle to exceed simply being ‘good.’ Many people have talked about adaptations being ‘soulless’ lately (Pokemon: Mewtwo Strikes Back anybody?) and I fear that The Last of Us will suffer the same fate.

Featured image & image credits: IGDB & IMDb

Last modified: 29th March 2020

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