Thoughts on why the HBO adaptation works.
(Image credit: HBO)
When I first heard that HBO was adapting The Last of Us into a show, I was sceptical. 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.