Movie Reviews

The Last Of Us Fully Kills The Video Game Adaptations "Suck" Argument

Its retirement is long overdue anyway, but the raves given to HBO’s The Last Of Us should finally kill the all video game adaptations “suck” argument to rest. Video games are still a relatively young art form, and it took a little time for them to reach their storytelling potential. First and foremost, a game should entertain with its mechanics and gameplay, but titles such as Silent Hill 2, Shadow of the Colossus, Red Dead Redemption and many more proved they could tell fantastic stories too. In 2013, the original The Last Of Us game joined that list.

On the surface, The Last Of Us may have looked like another zombie apocalypse game, but aside from its absorbing gameplay, it featured great acting and a heartbreaking narrative too. It didn’t take long for rumors of a movie adaptation to arrive, but despite filmmakers like Sam Raimi being attached, a film version didn’t come together. For fans of the game, this was almost a relief, as game adaptations come with a bad rep. However, HBO’s The Last Of Us might just be the one to finally break that label.

Related: What Song Plays At The End Of Last Of Us Episode 1 (& What It Means)

The Last Of Us TV series was co-created by Neil Druckman – who penned and co-directed the first game – and Craig Mazin. The first episode “When You’re Lost in the Darkness” achieved two key things. It effectively set up the characters and world for newcomers while bringing the story of the game to life. HBO’s Last Of Us is one of the few game adaptations that is loyal to the source material – and pays frequent homage to it – while also feeling unburdened by it. There are no clunky attempts to recreate the gameplay or adapt sequences that would feel unnatural for a live-action show.

Of course, it’s early days for The Last Of Us show, but unless something goes supremely wrong in later episodes, it’s shaping up to be the first truly great game adaptation. The main thing it gets right is the characters. It has the action and gore present in the games, but its main focus is on the characters and their relationships. Pedro Pascal’s Joel and Bella Ramsey’s Ellie feel like they walked right out of the game, and they give their parts a humanity that is sometimes lacking in video game movies or shows. Compared to something like Netflix’s Resident Evil, it respects and elevates its source material.

With The Last Of Us, Mortal Kombat 2021 or Netflix’s Castlevania, there’s a sense that filmmakers are slowly getting to grips with how to bring a game into live-action. However, the “video game movies suck!” reputation didn’t come about due to snobbery. 1993’s Super Mario Bros has a cult fandom now, but it is a terrible misfire that set the template for many of the movies to come. Van Damme’s Street Fighter is a turkey, Dwayne Johnson’s Doom adaptation nearly killed his career while the game movies of Uwe Boll (Alone In The Dark, House Of The Dead etc) rank as some of the worst pieces of cinema ever produced.

Even the Resident Evil franchise – which is the most successful game-to-movie series currently – often met with poor reviews. Games are a uniquely tricky medium to adapt since they take control away from players and attempt to tell a straightforward narrative. The appeal of video games is becoming lost in the world they create and getting to grips with their gameplay loops and mechanics. The Last Of Us is finally solid proof that not only can the two mediums merge, but that the idea they always “suck” can finally go away.

Next: The Last Of Us Episode 1 Ending Explained (In Detail)

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