Tuesday, March 14, 2023

HBO's The Last Of Us: From Game To TV (by Atty)

HBO's game to TV adaptation series The Last Of Us is a rare beast. The 9-episode live action series is an engrossing odyssey of survival during an apocalypse when humankind is rapidly being infested by a type of cordeyceps fungus.

Just like in the game created by Naughty Dog, the show's viewers follow the journey of a weary man named Joel (Pedro Pascal) and snarky teenager Ellie (Bella Ramsey) as they travel to a revolutionary militia group called The Fireflies. Ellie is immune from the fungus' effects, and the Fireflies are supposed to be able to create a vaccine with Ellie's help. While making their way through the ruined landscape of the US, Joel and Ellie fight off dangerous people as well as the infested, also known as clickers.

There have been several attempts to adapt popular game franchises to live action shows, but most of these endeavours never quite hit the mark. Live action adaptations like Resident Evil and The Halo lacked compelling storylines, and were not able to create the sense of urgency or horror you get when you are playing the games. One of the better adaptations is Netflix's The Witcher, which has managed to please most fans - at least for the first season. Fan favourite Henry Cavill's screen presence as main character Geralt of Rivia has helped make the show somewhat bingeworthy.

For most cases, Red Dot Diva thinks game adaptations fare better if they are animation shows, with Netflix's Arcane (based on Riot Games' League of Legends) at the top of her list. With its engrossing story and gorgeous animation by French company Studio Fortiche, Arcane is a must-watch.

Back to the topic of The Last Of Us series, Season 1 ended in the same bloody and emotional moral quandary as Part 1 of the game. The show racked up acclaim for the cast's performance and production values when the first couple of episodes aired, so HBO has already green-lit the post-apocalyptic drama for a second season.

Red Dot Diva's geek gal pal Atty, who is a gamer, gives her thoughts on why the series works as live action adaptation. Check out her write-up below:


Thoughts on why the HBO adaptation works.

When I first heard that HBO was adapting The Last Of Us into a show, I was skceptical. Video game adaptations, especially movies, have had a reputation for not being well-made (I will, however, admit my everlasting love for 1994’s Street Fighter).

Various factors come into play: sometimes, it’s the odd casting choice, like Jake Gyllenhaal playing Prince Dastan in Prince of Persia. Other times, it’s because screenwriters decide to stray away from the source material itself, resulting in a creation devoid of what made it enjoyable in the first place. Nevertheless, I went ahead and gave The Last Of Us a shot. Why? Because I absolutely love the game and because most HBO shows have a track record of being *Tony the Tiger voice* greeaaaaaat!

I’m happy to say that The Last Of Us was fantastic. Pedro Pascal and Bella Ramsey were both phenomenal as Joel and Ellie.

By having Neil Druckmann, the game’s original writer-director onboard, the show was able to retain the heart of the game and at the same time, gave us more. It reminded me of manga-to-anime adaptations, where each scene seemed to have been taken out of the manga shot-for-shot, and then you have filler episodes where you can get to know more about the characters. In The Last Of Us, these filler episodes were ones where they gave heart to characters like Bill and Frank (who was only mentioned briefly in the game), and gave more context to why Ellie is immune to the cordyceps.

Essentially, it’s not about adding new things just for shock value, it’s about bringing a piece of media—in this case, a very successful video game—to a new audience and not changing much of the original so that you’ll get the same reaction from new viewers as you did from video gamers.

Most importantly, they understood what needed to be done: Don’t fix what ain’t broke.

Speaking of adaptations, check out my review of Season 2 of Netflix’s The Witcher.


View one of teasers for The Last Of Us below:

For those in Asia (selected territories), you can still stream The Last Of Us via HBO Go.

Have you played The Last Of Us games before? What did you think of Season 1 of the HBO series?

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