HBO’s The Last Of Us Is At Its Best When It’s Diverging From The Video Game

One reason so many video game adaptations fail to properly capture the gaming experience is because they are faithful to a fault — in the wrong way. Some adaptations seem to forget that the experience of watching a film will never be the same as actually putting yourself in the characters’ shoes and playing as them. 

“Warcraft,” for instance, was so concerned with being faithful to the lore of its source material it forgot to be a good movie. Same with “Assassin’s Creed,” which painstakingly recreated the gameplay but without accounting for the difference in medium affecting how cool or lame things look on screen.

Meanwhile, most of the best-received video game movies are either ones not based on any particular game — like “Wreck It Ralph” — or those that radically reimagine their source material, like “Arcane” or “Sonic the Hedgehog”: taking in the very basic essence of their games but crafting entirely new stories and viewing experiences around them. “The Last of Us” offers a mixture of both. It is extremely faithful to the game, but also delivers some big changes and additions.

Take for instance the first scene of the first episode, which features neither Joel nor Ellie, but a talk show host and two epidemiologists. One of the scientists (played by John Hannah) essentially explains how climate change could allow for fungal pandemics like the Cordyceps brain infection that kickstarts the story. While the audience and the host initially dismiss his theory, they end up visibly unsettled. Likewise, other episodes take us away from the main story to show other characters’ perspectives, both to illustrate how others live through the apocalypse, or to provide a broader context for the outbreak.

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