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TV Review: Can HBO Strike Video Game Gold with “The Last of Us?”

Though there has been some recent success in the world of Video Game adaptations with the general acceptance of the Sonic the Hedgehog movies and the sheer brilliance of Josh Ruben’s Werewolves Within; bringing the interactive entertainment genre to larger audiences in the form of film and TV has not gone so well. But, with the clout and popularity of HBO original programing, traditional households are about to be introduced to a very large scale video game adaptation, and many may not even know it. Can HBO’s The Last of Us help the turning of the tide for video game adaptations? 

The world is being taken over by fungal infection. Instead of a virus turning people into brain hungry zombies, their bodies are being turned into hosts for an incurable fungus that looks to pass itself on to every host possible. After the fall of society, Joel Miller (Pedro Pascal) works his way both legitimately and illegitimately to gain what he needs to get out of the Boston Quarantine Zone he is living in. He yearns to go find his brother, who he knows is alive. 

Along with his companion Tess (Anna Torv), Joel is close to getting everything he needs to head out. That is until their plans are interpreted by the head of the Fireflies, a rebel faction that yearns to get out from under the thumb of the military powers that now run the world. Joel and Tess make a deal with the Firefly leader Marlene (Merle Dandridge) to smuggle a teen to another group of Fireflies outside the quarantine zone walls. If they do, they will get everything they need to go find Joel’s brother. Little do they know though, that this teen, Ellie (Bella Ramsey), is a lot more valuable than they originally think.

As a game, The Last of Us was part of a handful of releases that offered an engaging gameplay experience for users, but thrived off of a genuinely engaging and touching story. The show, no matter what changes are made, comes already packed with enough emotion and plot to make this transition fairly easy. Yet, after watching the start of the show, it is hard to look past a few fumbles. Like any adaptation from any source, the final product needs to be judged as its own work of art. Nitpicking and complaining about differences should only be held for the most egregious of errors. Though, just as The Last of Us opens, there are some strange issues that arise.

There is a sense of mystery that is missing from the show as it cracks directly opens with a scientific discussion about pandemics, viruses, and fungal infections during a 1960s TV debate. The show front loads too much explanation and exposition before the story even kicks off. Leaving audiences who don’t know the game in complete darkness to start the show off might feel like a difficult choice, but it is the right one. Instead, viewers are greeted with  a half an hour of unnecessary backstory. The game starts its players off directly in the line of fire 5 minutes in. And while the show follows the story almost exactly in its presentation, those who already know what is coming are just left waiting for something to happen.

Overall, the atmosphere and presentation of the show are spot on. Pedro Pascal perfectly represents the unbalanced nature of Joel. Bella Ramsey understands the sarcastic, brave, and still childish nature of Ellie. There is no question that everyone involved understood what they were meant to deliver. But the ultimate question will be; does the show have what it takes to both shock and inspire those who don’t know the whole story and still deliver something fresh for those who have controlled this story themselves?

Opening Grade: B

Check out more of Matthew’s articles.

Here’s the trailer of the series.

Matthew Schuchman
Matthew Schuchmanhttps://www.cinemadailyus.com
In the early 90s, while at the video store with his friends who wanted to rent Don’t Tell Mom The Babysitter's Dead, Matthew asked the clerk if they had any copies of Naked Lunch available. A film buff from an early age, he would turn his fascination into his own review site in 2010; Movie Review from Gene Shalit’s Moustache. From there, he provided his voice to such publications as Den of Geek, Coming Soon, and Verbicide magazine as a film reviewer and talent interviewer.


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