‘The Last of Us’ proves that video game adaptations can work

The show currently has a 96% on Rotten Tomatoes and a 9.1/10 on IMDb.


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Ellie and Joel from the original game, “The Last of Us.”

If one were to look at a “Worst Movies of All Time” list, it would not be a surprise to find many video game adaptations. From Rotten Tomatoes’ list of their 100 worst-rated films, there’s “House of the Dead,” “Bloodrayne,” “Mortal Kombat: Annihilation,” and “Alone in the Dark,” just to name a few. Gaming and film fans alike have wondered if video game adaptations can truly work in the modern age, and, although it came in the form of a T.V. series, “The Last of Us” proves that it is possible.

“The Last of Us” was first released by development studio Naughty Dog in 2013 to immediate acclaim. In 2014, it was announced that a film adaptation was in the works, likely due to the game’s widespread popularity and profound narrative worthy of the silver screen. However, the development of the film was tumultuous, and, for many years, the state of the project was unknown.

In 2020, it was announced that the project had been changed to an HBO T.V. series with Neil Druckmann, co-director of the original game, as a writer and executive producer. On Feb. 10, 2021, Pedro Pascal, known for his roles in “The Mandalorian” and “Narcos,” was cast as Joel, and Bella Ramsey, known for her role in “Game of Thrones,” was cast as Ellie. Other collaborators from the original game, such as composer Gustavo Santaolalla, returned to the series before the show’s release on Jan. 15.

With the people behind the original game having a crucial role in the development of the show, it was clear that this would be an attempt to create an adaptation both true to long-time fans and appealing to new ones. If this show was successful, it would certainly motivate PlayStation Productions, one of the production studios behind the show, to continue their work on upcoming Sony video game adaptations. With that being said, let’s see how well the show compares to the original.

Beginning in 2003, a mutated strain of fungus spreads across the world and causes a mass, zombie-like pandemic. Twenty years later, a man named Joel lives in a government-run quarantine zone in Boston as a smuggler with his partner Tess. However, he becomes worried when his younger brother Tommy doesn’t contact them after he traveled to Wyoming.

Attempting to retrieve a car battery from a group of rebels called the Fireflies, Joel and Tess are tasked with taking a teenage girl named Ellie with them in return. The show follows the post-apocalyptic travels of Joel and Ellie and the gradual development of their father-daughter relationship.

The performances of Pascal and Ramsey exceeded anyone’s expectations. Joel is the grizzly, disturbed man who warms up as the story progresses, and Ellie is the spunky, pun-loving kid who adds some much-needed humor to the often grave subject matter. Troy Baker and Ashley Johnson, the original voice actors for Joel and Ellie, have given them praise for these new portrayals of their characters.

The show’s extensive supporting cast also deserves a mention. Nick Offerman, Anna Torv, Merle Dandridge, and Gabriel Luna give outstanding performances as Bill, Tess, Marlene, and Tommy respectively. Their acting, and the show’s writing, deserve credit for making such a huge impact on viewers in such a short amount of time.

“The Last of Us” is, without a doubt, an excellent adaptation of the original game. It takes its liberties in certain areas, but it maintains what fans loved so much about the game and translates it for the T.V. audience. Despite inherently being a “zombie show,” “The Last of Us” is more of a character-driven drama that people who are not familiar with the original (or video games at all, for that matter) can appreciate.

The show is not only a source of hope for PlayStation Productions’ future projects, but it is for other major video game adaptations as well. Notably, “The Super Mario Bros. Movie” is set to release on April 5, and a third film starring Sega’s Sonic the Hedgehog is in the works as well.

The show currently has a 96% on Rotten Tomatoes and a 9.1/10 on IMDb. As of March 20, the complete first season is available on HBO Max and other HBO services, and the show has already been renewed for a second season.