Image courtesy of HBO

HBO’s “The Last of Us” Breaks the Video Game Adaptation Curse

March 28, 2023

If the last video game adaptation you watched was “Sonic 2,” I have a genre-redeeming treat for you! 

Pretty much everyone is talking about it, but in case you haven’t heard, HBO has recently adapted the beloved 2013 video game “The Last of Us” into a series and it has seen nothing but rave reviews and critical acclaim since its release. Season 1 officially wrapped on Sunday March 12th, so what better time than now to talk about it.

To start, I was aware of the game since it came about but never really got around to playing it, so if you were looking for a review discussing similarities to the game, I’m sorry to disappoint you. Instead, I will still be dissecting the show and what I think it did well as a stand alone series, not being attached to any outside material. Many other viewers, too, have also not played the game and are just watching the show.

Nowadays, it is very rare to come across a video game adaptation that actually does the game justice. But when I heard the original creator of the game, Neil Druckmann, would be on board with this adaptation, my hopes were lifted. Along with Druckmann, Craig Mazin of “Chernobyl” worked on the series. This, along with the praise it received, convinced me I needed to view for myself.

I will admit I was a little late to watching the first few episodes, but I’m honestly proud of myself because I was able to watch the first two hour-ish long episodes in one night and was immediately immersed in their world. Mazin and Druckmann did a fantastic job with setting everything up, as they knew not everyone watching would’ve played the game beforehand.

I will try not to spoil anything in case anyone who hasn’t watched it still plans to, but all I’ll say is that it was a gut-punch of a first episode—and a gut-punch of a first 15 minutes at that. I went and watched the original game’s cut-scenes and I would say they did the opening absolute justice.

Pedro Pascal delivers an amazing performance as Joel. I’d say especially episodes 1, 6, and 9 are where he really shines and you get to see his full range as an actor. 

Bella Ramsey also delivers peak after peak performance as Ellie. I know some were skeptical of her casting choice but I think she’s since proved everyone wrong. Episodes 7 and 8 are her best work so far in the series. I wouldn’t be surprised if they both win Emmys next year for their work.

With a game adaptation there will always be things written in specifically for the show. “The Last of Us” is no exception, but I think everything they wrote in played out very well and possibly even better than the original source material. 

I, of course, have to talk about Episode 3, which stars Nick Offerman as Bill and Murray Bartlett as Frank. This episode was written almost in its entirety for the screen, as the game never features Frank’s character. In the show, you get an hour-plus episode of just Bill and Frank. Watching as their relationship grows through the apocalypse makes for one of the most heart-wrenching episodes of television I’ve ever watched.

I’d go as far to say that there isn’t a single bad or unnecessary moment in season 1 of “The Last of Us.” They stayed very true to the source material and made an addicting, intense, and sentimental show that’s able to stand on its own as well as build off an existing fictional world. 

I’m eager to see where they go for future seasons and what they plan to do with the remaining storylines, but for now I’m just in awe of what they were able to accomplish and what this could mean for any future video game film adaptations.

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