Is The Last Of Us still the best adaptation of a game? View the prints in the series

The Last of Us is the new apocalyptic future drama series from HBO Max, hailed by critics as the best adaptation of a game for the big screen. Its first episode was made available this Sunday (15th) on the cable TV channel and streaming platform. Based on the game of the same name released in 2013 for PlayStation 3 (PS3), the television production focuses on the story of survival of Joel (Pedro Pascal) and Ellie (Bella Ramsay) in a world devastated by a fungal plague that turns people into creatures violent. and cannibal.

The series is one of the most anticipated of the year and is thrilling the public for the care in the reproduction of scenarios, dialogues and characters. Not to mention the involvement of big names like Neil Druckmann, game writer and company vice president in charge of the game, and Craig Mazin, Emmy winner for best Chernobyl screenplay. But will this combination be enough to create a series that can delight fans of the game and bring in new viewers? See below for an analysis of how The Last of Us series intends to expand the game universe, while being interesting for fans and innovative for those who enter this world.

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The Last of Us is one of HBO’s big bets for 2023 — Photo: Playback/HBO Max

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Movie adaptations for other media products are quite common. Literature, in particular, is the focus of filmmakers’ attention: virtually every year at least one book adaptation becomes a film or series.

This type of practice has ensured sensational successes such as Game of Thrones and House of the Dragon, both adapted directly from the books by George RR Martin and produced by HBO. However, it also brought audiences such failures as Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief (2010), which tried to replicate, without much appeal to critics or fans, the adventures of Rick Riordan’s demigod heroes.

The House of the Dragon, also based on a book in the Game of Thrones universe, was a hit in 2022 – Photo: Handout/HBO

Despite the good retrospective of several books as adaptations, when the chosen works are electronic games, things seem to change. No wonder, even with dozens of attempts, until recently, there were few television works considered “points off the curve” in the world of game-for-series or film adaptations. Among the most recent, Arcane and Cyberpunk: Edgerunners stand out, which bring unique stories to the universes of their respective games. But they are definitely more the exception than the rule.

This is because, in addition to medium-specific assets, such as player interactivity, there is always a dead end: when the film or series faithfully adapts the story of the game, there is a sense of Already seen too from those who have already played, which causes criticism for lack of creativity. This undermined titles like Tomb Raider: Inception (2018) with Alicia Vikander, which did well with critics, but displeased fans.

However, when the series or film completely escapes the game, such as the Resident Evil franchise (2002 – 2016) with Mila Jovovich, there is also dissatisfaction. How to combine these two issues, then? That would be the big challenge for HBO’s new adaptation.

Tomb Raider: Origin managed to please critics, but disappointed fans for being too similar to the game’s reboot – Photo: Disclosure/IMDB

Episode 1 of The Last of Us: a lesson in cinema and video games

Winner of several awards, The Last of Us is one of the most important works of the scenario, as well as one of the flagships of PlayStation Studios. Even with the responsibility of adapting a game of this scale in a controversial scenario, HBO has proposed to bring the game to the small screen.

From the very first trailersit could be seen that this was done with great care, which was confirmed by the active participation of the names involved in the 2013 game. yes, a way to combine these factors.

In this first episode, lasting 81 minutes, the goal was to create a context and give strength to the symbols that permeate the entire story. In the game, the reported events perhaps correspond to the first three hours, but have been rethought and rearranged to replace the game (a factor that obviously cannot be reproduced) and give a background more consistent for the characters.

Both images deal with the same scene, when Joel, Tommy and Sarah flee their home on the day of the outbreak. The first is the series version and the second is the game — Photo: Playback/HBO Max

This means, for example, seeing a little more of Sarah’s (Nico Parker) routine before the moment of the outbreak – a very right decision, including giving more screen time to the actress, very convincing in her acting. Thus the viewer gets to know the girl better, as well as delving into the relationships that she had on a daily basis, which makes the dramatic load even greater.

The neighboring elders, with whom he made dumplings, for example, turn into monstrous creatures hours later. If in the game this is left aside to make room for interaction, in the series the chosen resource is to make the viewer empathize and think “and if it were me, what would I do?”

However, even with the space for the language of cinema to take over the work, the parallels to play are still present. They manage to get attached to the maximum to excite, but they are also subtle enough to go unnoticed by those who come into contact with the story for the first time.

In this epidemic scene, for example, some he takes they’re simply identical: enough to pay homage, but not enough to make longtime fans feel like they’re just copying and pasting the game. Furthermore, even some of the dialogues (mostly the pending ones) are strictly followed, always disguised in the midst of new content.

One of the most impactful moments from the first episode of The Last of Us — Photo: Playback/HBO Max

After the day of the outbreak, as in the game, the series picks up its story in a 20-year time jump. If in the game we take on the role of Joel and understand, from his first appearance, that the traumas have transformed him into a very different person from the loving father he was, in the series this is evident by the addition of other perspectives. Without the commitment to assume the point of view of a single character, the television production adds other panoramas that serve to deepen the setting.

There’s even a moment when a little boy arrives in the quarantine zone exhausted and hopes to find a place to stay. However, agents of FEDRA, the government force that seized power during the period of anarchy, soon discover that he has been infected and execute him.

In addition to setting the austere tone of the characters’ lived reality, the scene serves to highlight the hardening of Joel’s personality. That’s because, after his co-worker says he can’t carry the child’s body to the fire, Pedro Pascal’s character does so without flinching, which underscores that his humanity is lost.

The traumas of 20 years experienced in the cordyceps pandemic have hardened Joel, as evident in the scene where he takes over a boy’s body to burn it – Photo: Playback/HBO Max

Since the cinematic language allows for freer exploration of the environment, the asset is even used to introduce characters that only appear in later moments from the previous game. Such is the case with Ellie herself, who remains anonymous in the game until Joel and Tess (Anna Torv) recover Robert’s stolen items.

In the HBO production, the character first appears as a “hostage” of Marlene (Merle Dandrigde) in one of the installations of the Vagalumes, FEDRA’s rival militia. The choice is interesting because it foregrounds the conflict between the two factions, an issue that is not so prominent in the games. In the next few episodes, with the appearance of Riley (Stormi Reid), the tendency is for the subplot to acquire even more layers.

As with Joel, the series also uses new contexts to show Ellie’s personality, who already catches the eye with her charisma in her first scene. Bella Ramsay proves that, even with little participation in this first episode, she has managed to balance the curiosity of a girl who has not seen the world before the pandemic with the tenacity of a survivor of this context.

Despite the criticisms of many fans (if they are), who have focused on the fact that Bella does not physically look like Ellie, the actress does not take two minutes to make us accept her as such. The same can be said for Anna Torv’s Tess, who steals the show every time she appears.

Ellie’s first appearance in The Last of Us series is at one of the Fireflies’ facilities, where Marlene explains what the group wants to do with her.

In the end, When I’m Lost in Darkness was more than an excellent debut for the new HBO series. The episode proved that it is possible to create adaptations that recreate stories while paying due homage to the source material and without making everything feel like one big repetition for those who already know them. Not to mention the technical aspects such as art direction and cinematography, which contribute to making the experience even more convincing and desperate.

By captivating fans through nostalgia, captivating with the extravagant reproduction of settings, personalities and even costumes, as well as introducing a complex setting, it is safe to say that HBO has a product with high potential to become its new Game of Thrones.

Not because the works have similar histories and even less because of the possibility that this is a great series with a bad ending – which is unlikely to happen as long as the premise seen in the first episode prevails. But yes, in the sense that there is great potential for this to be a new story that unites the whole world in front of their sofas on Sunday nights, eager to see what lies ahead.

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