Like a lot of people, The Last of Us is one of my favorite games of all time. I mean, it was one of the main reasons I bought a PlayStation 3 back in 2013, and I have replayed the story of Joel and Ellie countless times since then. With a rich and emotionally-traumatizing story and lived-in world, the PlayStation exclusive is one of the most immersive and profound experiences on the medium. So when I heard that HBO was working on The Last of Us TV show, I was just as excited as I was in the lead-up to the game's release seven years ago.
And even though the buzz and hype around the show has calmed down since the show's announcement back in March, I have continued to feverishly obsess over the show. You could chalk it up to the release of Naughty Dog's The Last of Us Part II, the amazing group of creators who are coming together for the television adaptation, or everything that is going on in the world and how it connects to the world of the award-winning video game. At the end of the day, I am more excited than ever to see what Neil Druckmann and Craig Mazin come up with for the highly anticipated HBO series. Here are just a few of the reasons (don't worry, I won't be a jerk and ruin the game for those who haven't played it yet).
The Pairing Of Neil Druckmann And Craig Mazin Is A Match Made In Storytelling Heaven
A lot of times when there's an adaptation of a video game, the game's creative leads only come on as executive producers, but that's not the case for The Last of Us writer and co-director Neil Druckmann. Along with Craig Mazin, the writer and creator of the HBO miniseries Chernobyl, Druckmann will be writing the upcoming television series, which is amazing when you consider the two award-winning writers' masterful storytelling and attention to detail.
The Last of Us is very much a game about pain, suffering, and loss, but it's also about the redemption, new beginnings, and the enduring spirit of the human heart, even when the odds are stacked against you. Neil Druckmann's subtle storytelling techniques in the game create this massive world full of broken people looking for a shred of hope to grab ahold of. And that's very much the case for Craig Mazin's narrative style seen in Chernobyl, especially when focusing on Jared Harris' portrayal of Valery Legasov and Stellan Skarsgård's Boris Shcherbina as they deal with the consequences of their actions. Words cannot accurately describe just how excited I am to see what Druckmann and Mazin are able to come up with to expand the gripping story of Joel and Ellie.
Johan Renck, The Emmy Award-Winning Director Of Chernobyl, Is A Master Of Visual Storytelling
There have been few shows that are as visually striking as Chernobyl, and that is thanks in part to director Johan Renck, who took home an Emmy in 2019 for his work on the HBO miniseries. And it looks like the Swedish filmmaker will pick up where he left off when he directs the pilot episode of The Last of Us, according to a June 2020 report in Variety. After watching the way Renck brought the Chernobyl nuclear power plant and the Ukrainian city of Pripyat to life in the miniseries, I cannot wait to see what he does in the post-outbreak world of The Last of Us.
It's not hard to imagine the intense and bleak "Outbreak Day" scene in the beginning of the game coming to life with Johan Renck behind the camera. The way he constructed the opening moments of the nuclear meltdown and the immediate response from those in the nearby apartment buildings proves that Renck is more than capable of handling chaos and devastation with loads of fear and uncertainty. This can also be said about pretty much every scene throughout the five-episode miniseries, including the sequence in which workers at the power plant are forced to climb to the top of the structure and clear graphite from the roof.
The Structure And Emotional Tone Of The First Game Is Tailor-Made For Television
Aside from the opening prologue (set 20 years before the events of the rest of the game), The Last of Us plays out over the course of four seasons. Starting with summer in Boston, Joel and Ellie push their way across the desolate American landscape with large sections of the game being split up between fall, winter, and spring before the story comes to a close. With each section of the game closing with a highly emotional or game-changing revelation or event, the structure very much lends itself to that of a story arc traditionally seen on a single season of television.
If Craig Mazin uses this structure in a five-episode season like he did in Chernobyl, then each episode could be its own season with the pilot focusing on the the emotionally-heavy "Outbreak Day" scene with a younger Joel and his daughter Sarah from the opening moments of The Last of Us. And speaking of the emotional tone of that scene, and the game as a whole, it's a great way to sink a hook into viewers to want to come back the following week (or a second season if The Last of Us Part II is adapted next).
Working My Way Through The Last Of Us Part II Has Me Wanting More From The Game's World
It seems like it was only yesterday when Naughty Dog dropped the first trailer for The Last of Us Part II, but it's been nearly four years since the studio announced the game in December 2016. The game has had many ups and downs since the short trailer of a grown Ellie playing guitar first amazed fans of the first game, including the April 2020 leaks, multiple delays, and the Coronavirus outbreak. But finally, in June 2020, we got our hands on the game, and it's only made me more excited for the HBO series.
Naughty Dog likes to take their time with their games, and if you've played The Last of Us Part II then you know that it was worth the wait. Set 25 years after "Outbreak Day," the game's world is full of partially destroyed cities taken back by nature, countless infected roaming ever building and street corner, and factions of survivors who have all but lost their touch with humanity. I just cannot wait to see how Neil Druckmann and Craig Mazin expand on this world and flesh out some of those aspects of the game.
This Adaptation Is Long Overdue But The Timing Is Kind Of Perfect
There has been talk of adapting The Last of Us as far back as 2014 when Neil Druckmann was penning a script that famed horror director Sam Raimi would produce. There was even talk of Game of Thrones star Maisie Williams being looked at for the role of Ellie. And even though the film adaptation fizzled out over the years, it's probably for the best as now is the perfect time to bring the game to television.
It isn't hard to see the parallels between the disease-ridden world of The Last of Us and what's going on in our world with the Coronavirus pandemic (let's just hope society doesn't crumble like it did in the game). I am eager to see how Neil Druckmann and Craig Mazin use the show to make a comment on the global pandemic and government response to contagious virus.
On a more personal note, I'm excited to see how the show handles the relationship between Joel and Ellie. Now that I have three kids of my own (two of which are daughters), I can't help but relate to Joel as he tries to help a young Ellie through the devastation of their modern world. And with many fans of the series growing up and starting a family since the game's 2013 release, I am probably not alone.
We still don't know when The Last of Us will premiere on the HBO or who will be portraying Joel and Ellie, but going off who's involved with the show behind the scenes, I don't mind waiting… just as long it's not another seven years.
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Philip grew up in Louisiana (not New Orleans) before moving to St. Louis after graduating from Louisiana State University-Shreveport. When he's not writing about movies or television, Philip can be found being chased by his three kids, telling his dogs to stop barking at the mailman, or yelling about professional wrestling to his wife. If the stars properly align, he will talk about For Love Of The Game being the best baseball movie of all time.