In recent years, video game adaptations have really stepped things up. There was a point in time when the term “video game adaptation” was met with open scorn from gamers and moviegoers alike. Now, with films like Detective Pikachu and Sonic the Hedgehog showing mass markets that movies based on games can be good, there seems to be a sea change taking place.
Case in point: the recent HBO adaptation of the hit PlayStation game The Last of Us has roundly impressed the pants off of everyone from professional critics to the average TV viewer. The series takes everything that made the game great and expertly brings it to the small screen of prestige TV.
The Last of Us has an HBO-sized budget and some real all-star talent at the helm. It’s immediately clear from the first episode that this is a show that was made with love, care, and attention to detail. The cold open starts in 2003 and establishes the time period subtly, with background elements like a framed photo of George W. Bush and the presence of DVD players instead of streaming devices.
The sets, costumes, and shot compositions all speak to a critical eye from the crew. It all meshes together to create a visually-arresting show that manages to look like its source material without feeling like a rehash of locations you’ve already seen.
The show’s stars bring their A-game, as well. Pedro Pascal steals the show as Joel, the gruff survivor who is tasked with bringing a young girl named Ellie across the country. Joel has been through the wringer and lived a tough life, having once lost his daughter Sarah in the confusion of Outbreak Day.
Opposite Pascal is Bella Ramsey, who plays plucky young survivor Ellie. Ellie is somehow immune to the fungal disease that has overwhelmed humanity and created legions of zombie-like “infected”. Ellie doesn’t want to be a hero, she wants to be a 14-year-old girl, but the circumstances that she finds herself in don’t leave much room for her own desires to take center stage.
The Last of Us isn’t the first great video game adaptation to hit the scene, but it’s certainly the latest in an encouraging line of excellent new additions to the genre. It’s a genuinely entertaining and gripping show that manages to both enhance and stand alongside its source material as a proud member of a new generation of video game adaptations that manages to be awesome where so many other shows and movies have failed.