Image: NaughtyDog/IGDB

Why ‘The Last of Us’ is on track to be the perfect game-to-TV adaptation

In news that should excite anyone who has ever had the privilege of experiencing The Last of Us, the award-winning masterpiece created by NaughtyDog, Craig Mazin, writer and director of HBO’s critically acclaimed miniseries Chernobyl, has announced he is working on a forthcoming TV adaption, accompanied by NaughtyDog’s Neil Druckmann, who originally wrote the game first released in 2013. 

Being able to secure the two for the project appears to be a massive coup for HBO. The chilling tone and atmosphere of Mazin’s Chernobyl lends itself perfectly to The Last of Us. One of the most chilling scenes in the show is an expertly crafted reflection of realistic tension. This scene involves three divers navigating a flooded, dark basement, all the while slowly realising the terror of their situation through the ever-growing clicking coming from their Geiger counter. If it isn’t already glaringly obvious to him, I hope Mazin realises he can exploit the tension of all-together different type of ‘Clicker’ in The Last of Us

The game’s focus on narrative and character development practically writes the show itself

The acquisition of Neil Druckmann for this project is arguably an even more crucial component for its success. Time and time again critics of video game adaptions point to their unfaithfulness to the source material, of which is exemplified by another, albeit different, survival horror series, Resident Evil. In a similar vein to some later instalments of the game (aside from 2017s Resident Evil 7), the movie franchise lost track of what made it so great in the first place. The films lacked any real authentic tension necessary for a horror experience, resorting instead to excessive and often unnecessary action. Druckmann’s involvement signals, that HBO aims to translate as much of the tone of The Last of Us into its live-action counterpart as possible. 

On paper, this task should be a relatively simple one. The game’s focus on narrative and character development practically writes the show itself. The choice to adapt it into a series, rather than a movie, will help ensure enough time for viewers to connect with the growing relationship between Joel and Ellie. Craig Mazin recognises this, stating in a recent podcast that “my feeling was you can’t make a movie out of this, it has to be a show. It needs length. It’s about the development of a relationship over a long journey, so it has to be a television show”. 

Time and time again critics of video game adaptions point to their unfaithfulness to the source material

If Mazin and Druckmann face any real danger, it’s that they might be too faithful. With The Last of Us’ heavily cinematic gameplay, fans of the game might feel like they’ve seen it all before. No one is suggesting a shot-by-shot remake, but Druckmann’s phenomenal writing ability in the game could make it all too tempting to follow its narrative structure strictly. This would surely make for outstanding TV but could leave those who’ve experienced the game feeling a little short-changed. The writers face a challenge between expanding The Last of Us’ world to offer something fresh for old fans whilst still remaining truthful to the game.

Regardless, this is a project I have high hopes for. With the painfully slow downfall of The Walking Dead, HBO has the chance to create a show that can recapture audiences’ love for zombies/infected. It’s a job that, given their track record, they will most likely pass with flying colours.

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