The final episode of HBO’s screen adaptation of “The Last of Us” aired on Sunday, and while it wasn’t perfect, I’m happy to report that season one was pretty good overall — it delivered all the necessary plot twists, reinvented them brilliantly. It created the franchise’s apocalyptic setting and some memorable characters.
In fact, creating memorable characters is one thing the show does better than the video game. In the year The first game released in 2013 mainly focused on the main characters Joel and Ellie. HBO’s nine-episode adaptation spent a lot of time on backstories. Depending on who you are, you can see this as a good thing or a bad thing – on the one hand, it makes the world more fleshed out. On the other hand, such instances sometimes lead to uneven and inconsistent gait.
Ultimately, these new backstories make the world of “The Last of Us” more believable — we learn more about Joel’s daughter, the origins of the zombie outbreak, and the turtle’s immunity to Cordyceps infection. All of these elements were arguably easier to explore in the context of a show than they were in a video game.
Without going into spoilers, the diversity of the storytelling medium makes several plot points more morally ambiguous than before. The Last of Us has many themes, but “violence only begets more violence” is hard to take seriously in a video game where players are tasked with mowing down hundreds of zombies and men of ill intent.
Despite the 2020 game’s overall excellent sales and critical acclaim, Part II, which was controversial for many, made matters worse. The show’s creators have greenlit a second season, set to cover the events of the second game. As the second installment’s story is more focused on moral ambiguity and the consequences of violence and revenge, I expect the show to do a better job of maintaining the audience’s suspension of disbelief than the game itself.
Of course, there are drawbacks to adapting a video game to a television format. The zombies often felt like a secondary or even tertiary threat to Joel and Ellie, a far cry from the game where their brutality was always on display. I can fire the show’s creators for this decision, but honestly, reaping an army of creatures is only engaging in the context of a game. The few action sequences we found were suitably tense – too much and the effect is lost.
Ever since the show debuted in January, many have been saying that “The Last of Us” has officially ended the game-to-screen adaptation curse. Admiring their enthusiasm, I began to question how well we had to adapt before people began to accept that it was no longer a revolutionary concept.
In the past two years alone, audiences have gotten decent “Unknown,” “Mortal Kombat” and “Sonic the Hedgehog” movies, and a few great shows — including “Arcane,” “The Cuphead Show!” and “Cyberpunk: Edgerunners. Sonic is currently on his sixth show since 1993, Castlevania is set to receive a second sequel, and hype is building for “The Super Mario Bros. Movie” on the way to its April 5 release.
If anything, the curse has almost been lifted for a while, and the entertainment industry is looking to lean heavily on game-to-screen adaptations in the coming years. Movie treatments for Borderlands, Duke Nukem, Five Nights at Freddy’s, Just Cause, Metal Gear, Pac-Man, Portal, Saints Row, Minecraft and many other popular titles have already been announced.
Sega in particular is betting big on the new fad, planning to release movies like Yakuza, Streets of Rage and even Space Channel 5. It has been a financially conservative company for nearly two decades. So confidence is high and there is clear money.
While it may not be fair to declare a video game adaptation “The Last of Us” in Ending the Curse, it stands out as a great example of storytelling regardless of the medium. Although HBO hasn’t given us a release window yet, I’m looking forward to season two.
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