Why HBO’s The Last Of Us Won’t ‘Undo’ The Original Story, According To Writer

Ellie and Joel in The Last of Us promo (2013)

The Last of Us is one of the most critically acclaimed video game franchises of all time, with many viewing the first installment as a game that set a new standard for storytelling within the medium. So you can imagine that some have been cautiously optimistic when it comes to HBO’s live-action adaptation. Writer and producer Craig Mazin is aware of these concerns and believes the show will do the series justice and not undo any of the source material.

Craig Mazin recently discussed the development of HBO’s The Last of Us and stressed that he understands the pre-conceived notions fans have when a new entity takes hold of an IP. Nevertheless, he believes he and his team will be able to deliver a project that’s worthy of the original game:

The one anxiety that I think fans of something have is that when the property gets licensed to someone else, those people don’t really understand it or are going to change it or make it stupid. In this case, I’m doing it with the guy who did it, and so the changes that we’re making are designed to fill things out and expand, not to undo, but rather to enhance.

The ”guy” Craig Mazin was referring to while speaking with BBC radio is Neil Druckmann, who wrote and directed both games in the Last of Us franchise. Before working on The Last of Us, Druckmann also served as a writer and game designer on other acclaimed Naughty Dog titles like Jak and Daxter and Uncharted. When it comes to the HBO series, he’s set to serve as a writer and executive producer.

Directed by both Druckmann and Bruce Staley, 2013’s The Last of Us takes place in a United States that’s been ravaged by a mutant, fungal outbreak. In the game, a smuggler named Joel must escort and protect a teenage girl named Ellie, who may be the key to finding a cure. Along the way, the two encounter various dangers in the forms of infected creatures and rogue humans. They also form a bond that grows more than either of them could’ve imagined.

Craig Mazin is definitely correct in noting the trepidation that fans have when a franchise is picked up and set to be adapted. This rings true even more when it comes to video game properties. The genre hasn’t had much success over the past few decades, especially when it comes to theatrical projects. However, productions like Sonic the Hedgehog and Netflix’s The Witcher have helped proved that it is possible to deliver effective adaptations.

The Last of Us, however, will arguably be a somewhat greater challenge given the complexity of the subject matter and the weighty expectations fans have. Still, Craig Mazin’s Emmy-winning work on Chernobyl and Druckmann’s involvement should help to keep fans at ease. Let’s hope they can put together a project that both terrifies and moves us.

HBO’s The Last of Us does not have a release date at this time.

Erik Swann
Senior Content Producer

Covering superheroes, sci-fi, comedy, and almost anything else in film and TV. I eat more pizza than the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.