What we can expect from the “The Last of Us” live adaptation

By Gloria Alcantara, 12th Grade

Following the massive successes of the famous game “The Last of Us,”  HBO has decided to please the masses and introduce us with the first look at the live adaptation of the bestseller game. HBO’s adaptation of Naughty Dog’s PlayStation classic not only needs to win over a devoted following of fans who would criticize even the smallest deviation from the games, but it also needs to stand out in a crowded field of post-apocalyptic dramas filled with zombie-like threats. The long-awaited TV series has finally been available since January 15th, with two episodes already streaming. But how was the reception for this show at its premiere? Has it been able to satisfy the passionate fans of the legacy that this video game left?

The Last of Us has been widely renowned as one of the best story games of this decade, and one can see why. From the story beats, gameplay style, and overall atmosphere, this game feels more like a piece of art to whoever plays it for the first time. I had the privilege of playing this game when I was younger, so the praise it gets is totally deserved. 

A young woman named Ellie and an experienced survivor of a perilous post-pandemic world named Joel are compelled to travel across the United States together in quest of a glimmer of hope for humanity’s future. The relationship between these two is what holds this story together. Joel, a man who has tragically lost his daughter at the beginning of the outbreak, soon finds comfort in taking young Ellie under his wing, and their rocky relationship turns into a beautiful father-daughter relationship. A story about heartbreak, survival, loss, and finding hope in the small things in front of us is what made this game so phenomenal. 

The sequel to the game, The Last of Us Part II, portrays an even more emotional story of growth and maturity, concentrating on Ellie and how she copes with growing up in the post-pandemic world. Various accolades have been awarded to both games. Over 1.3 million copies of The Last of Us were sold in its first week, and by April 2018, 17 million copies had been sold, making it one of the best-selling video games. The game received honors at the end of the year from many gaming publications, journalists, and award ceremonies, including multiple Game of the Year awards. It is easily one of the best video games of all time.

With all this information on the table, some people were rather excited to hear about the game getting a proper live-action adaptation on a popular platform like HBO, while others were a bit warier. Video games and live adaptations have never really mixed well together before, with various failed projects of video games trying to be brought to the big screen. Reasons for this could be the staggering difference in storytelling methods between the forms of media. Such a lack of connection ensures an unstable live adaptation that doesn’t really follow the story of the original. And since the audience they are trying to please must feel like the adaptation is doing justice to the original material, it must also be a good show to watch in general. These two factors often lead to poor reviews and bad records, both from hardcore fans and the general public. With all of this mentioned, could this be the case when trying to translate the renowned plot of the original game to the big screen?

Alberta served as the location for The Last of Us, which was reportedly the biggest television production in Canadian history, from July 2021 to June 2022. Produced jointly by Sony Pictures Television, PlayStation Productions, Naughty Dog, the Mighty Mint, and Word Games, it is the first HBO show based on a video game. Craig Mazin and Neil Druckmann were named to write and produce the series, while television producer Carolyn Strauss and Naughty Dog president Evan Wells were named executive producers, and Gustavo Santaolalla, who worked on the games, was named the show’s composer. 

Already, members of the original game were working on the project, so hopes were already high. The Last of Us is a more accurate adaptation since it enables changes like character perspective changes that are impossible in an immersive game. Due to the immersive nature of video games, Druckmann felt he was able to “unplug” from the characters when scripting. In an effort to better comprehend the characters’ motivations, the writers saw the series as a chance to delve into the backstories of characters that the game had previously disregarded. Another advantage was the incredible cast lineup, with the hardcore, rough old man Joel Miller being played by Pedro Pascal and his living, feisty cargo, Ellie Williams, being played by Bella Ramsay. Two extremely renowned actors who are famous in their areas of expertise, the executive directors felt the casting did an amazing job in portraying the characters.

While Pedro’s casting was well received in its own right, Ramsay was unfortunate to not receive the same praise. Ramsey recently discussed how the online criticisms of her choice to play Ellie has affected her in an interview with The New York Times. It shouldn’t even matter that she doesn’t look like the fictional heroine, but toxic gaming fans have been complaining about it since her casting was announced. Claiming that her looks did not match the character at all, Bella Ramsey was soon the scapegoat for harassment and bullying from fans. Luckily, she did not let it phase her, as the writer of the show gave her full support in embracing the role. “We were looking for a specific combination of contradictions: someone that can be funny and quirky, and violent and rough. “I didn’t see Bella acting like Ellie—I saw Ellie,” Neil Druckmann recalled about watching Ramsey’s audition tape.

Fortunately, the writers were right about the characters’ portrayals of Joel and Ellie, since the first episode received a lot of praise for their performance. Evening Standard’s Vicky Jessop said the two “steal every scene they’re in”, while Rolling Stone’s Alan Sepinwall called them “compulsively watchable and almost instantly endearing..” In general, everything about the episode was met with amazing reviews.​​ The Last of Us has a 97% approval rating out of 147 reviews on review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, with an overall rating of 8.8/10. The overall judgment on the website is that “The Last of Us retains the most addictive features of its beloved source material while going deeper into the tale, ranking among the all-time finest video game adaptations.” And with the show having only started, who knows what the future holds for this show. And with the show having only started, who knows what the future holds for this show.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s