I think there has been a hole in my heart for a good zombie show. The Walking Dead fell off the wagon years ago for me personally, and Netflix wrongfully cancelled Santa Clarita Diet. However, when HBO announced an adaptation of one of the greatest video games of all time, The Last of Us, I was tracking it like a hawk. I also had some concerns about it, because there is a bad reputation for video game adaptations.
It premiered this Sunday. Oh boy, it does suffice that show hole and reopened old wounds caused from the game’s initial release nearly a decade ago. The Last of Us is even better with more context and honors its source material in the best way a game-TV adaption could. It also teaches a lesson on how a game can lay out cinematic scenes and they shouldn’t be messed with. Spoilers from Episode One/Beginning of the Game will show up in this discussion, so here’s your warning.
The Casting: Could fill a bucket with my tears
The Last of Us announced its casting of the two leads a while ago, and it already seemed to be a perfect fit for Joel and Ellie. I have been shivering with anticipation ever since. Not to mention that HBO was already stomping ground for Pedro Pascal and Bella Ramsey. Both starred in Game of Thrones and delivered in their respective roles–Pedro Pascal’s Oberyn has one of the most disgusting/memorable deaths in the entire series. Knowing their capabilities makes them a shoo-in for Joel and Ellie, who are deeply complex and traumatized.
The icing on the cake is the casting of the supporting characters. Watching it all come together in the premiere was a satisfying yet deeply harrowing experience. Even (I would say especially) the casting of Sarah was perfect. It laid down the foundation for a perfect emotional setup for the rest of the show. The first half of this premiere was anticipated by many fans. It was just as heartbreaking if not more, and that is mostly due to Pedro Pascal and Nico Parker delivering on the father-daughter relationship in the short time they had. Tears were shed–lots of tears.
The Context: Adding to an Adaptation doesn’t need to be bad
Some concern was the length of the show and the inkling that something might change. It is common that adaptations stray from their source material, which can occur in both good and bad ways. Horror fans have been wounded before with adaptations of Silent Hill and Resident Evil going south time and time again. Unnecessary backstory can be a drag. However, if what is added adds gravity to the situation and makes the content stick the landing, I am all for it.
The Last of Us did just that. The way this show opens grounds the show in our reality with a brief explanation of the fungus and how something like this could happen. If climate change wasn’t harrowing and terrifying before, this takes it to a new level. On top of some logical explanations, we get some emotional backstory. When you’re playing a video game, you are more attached to the events going on rather than simply observing it. For the beginning to deliver, there needs to be some context. Sarah’s death is significant to Joel’s character, and the context to the events and how close their relationship was necessary.
Capturing the Game: Don’t Change Those Shots
The Last of Us remains one of the most cinematic video games out there. The shots were laid out for any adaptation to come. Therefore, there was a bit more concern than usual on how the creative vision on the show creators were going to mesh with the existing source material. The show runners seemed to be aware of this concern. The Last of Us is truly breaking that game-to-show adaptation curse simply by not messing with its source material.
The truck scene in the premiere is a near shot for shot recreation of the game’s opening. Watching it replicated with real people caused me to react like I was watching it again for the first time. When something is able to recreate that first time feeling, it’s a home run for me. The gasps of shock that would come out of my mouth even though I knew what was going to happen were loud. It shook me to my core, and it’s been a long while since an adaptation was able to do that for me. I can only hope that it continues to do so.
That is my brief thoughts on The Last of Us, which will be airing on Sundays on HBO and available to stream on HBO Max. What did you think of that first episode? Let me know down in the comments. Who knows what other horror games they will adapt, but I am expecting an Outlast adaptation down the line–if they’re willing to go there. I also would love to see a Silent Hill TV adaptation because those brilliant games need a redo. As far as what’s next on The Void of Celluloid, some reviews and other listicles are sure to be on the horizon, but currently we are the most active on TikTok and Instagram, so be sure to check those out.
Thanks for spelunking this void with me. If you’re new to the Void of Celluloid, welcome. Feel free to spelunk some other voids while you’re here and follow me on other platforms by clicking the buttons below. We post regularly and stay up to date about what’s going on in horror today, reflect on what went on yesterday, and plan for a better, horror filled tomorrow. See ya next time.