The task of translating video games into films or TV series has so far been mostly a fool’s errand. Every now and then someone lucks out – the first “Silent Hill,” “Resident Evil” and “Mortal Kombat” movies aren’t bad (with the latter’s reboot decent). The “Sonic the Hedgehog” films have been big hits, and the odd title like indie “Werewolves Within” and Netflix’s “Arcane” have been critical darlings.
Still, there’s no shortage of films that have middling or outright duds, from Justin Kurzel’s “Assassin’s Creed” to “Monster Hunter,” “Rampage,” “Warcraft,” the “Tomb Raider” reboot, or the big-budget “Halo” TV series.
HBO’s “The Last of Us” series adaptation, however, is being seen as a real test. Boasting one of the biggest budgets ever for a TV series, solid casting, and an excellent pedigree behind the scenes, it also gets to adapt one of the most critically acclaimed and cinematic games of all time.
The apocalyptical survival drama boasts the game’s writer/director Neil Druckmann teaming him with “Chernobyl” showrunner Craig Mazin to adapt the story, and Mazin tells Empire that as far as he’s concerned, there’s no better source material he could ask for:
“It’s an open-and-shut case: this is the greatest story that has ever been told in video games. They didn’t shoot anything out of their eyeballs, they were just people. And that, in and of itself, is remarkably rare in games. The fact that they kept it so grounded, and really made you feel – I had never experienced anything like it, and I’ve been playing video games since 1977”
The human aspects of the story give the game its timelessness, the narrative famous for breaking people’s hearts multiple times. Whilst the plan is to stay true to the game, Mazin says they made changes, namely where something that might work in an interactive game doesn’t work on a more passive-watching experience:
“Games themselves are often brilliant to play, and not at all brilliant to watch when dramatised. Neil and I always knew to ask, ‘Why are we only doing what’s in the game? What can we do to expand?’”
Sony struck out with their film adaptation of Naughty Dog’s other big franchise, “Uncharted,” earlier this year which earned solid revenue and audience reviews but was notably disliked by the fanbase and starkly different from the source material.
It’s hoped the same won’t happen here, and so far, the show’s trailers have been met with a good reception by much of the fanbase. Pedro Pascal and Bella Ramsey star in the series, which premieres on HBO on January 15th.