The Last of Us is Flipping the Script For Game Adaptations
An apocalyptic tale captivates the nation as it teaches us to love even in the hardest situations.
March 15, 2023
**Warning: Mild Spoilers Below!**
The Last of Us is an apocalyptic show captivating the internet, and for good reason! The story follows Joel (Pedro Pascal) who 20 years ago was thrust into the apocalypse, throwing his suburban life out the window. In the present, he gets tasked with taking a girl named Ellie (Bella Ramsey) across the country so that scientists can use her to create a cure for the rapid zombie-like infection spreading around the world.
Video game adaptations have long had a bad reputation, as most of the time the films either didn’t have a good budget, or they just didn’t turn out the way fans wanted them to. From Mortal Kombat, to Uncharted, to the Super Mario Bros. of the 90s, most of the community agrees that game films don’t often succeed. However, in recent years, we have begun to fix that with hits such as Sonic the Hedgehog, Werewolves Within, Detective Pikachu, and now, The Last of Us!
Overall, the representation has been stellar. The only problem is that practically every character will not have a lot of screen time. This is one of the major downsides of having a zombie/apocalypse plotline as most characters either die or get left behind as the main characters continue their journey. Still, the two main characters happen to be Pedro Pascal (Chilean) and Bella Ramsey (Non-binary), which gives a decently diverse image.
The other representations come and go as the two meet people like Henry and Sam (African-American/Deaf), Bill and Frank (LGBTQ+), Marlon and Florence (Native American/Canadian), Tommy (Mexican), among various others. The show truly has it all. Not only that, but it is later revealed that Ellie is a lesbian and has a significant episode dedicated to that fact. While there is still a large number of white actors, it is clear that the showrunners are putting care into representing minorities (especially because the game is nearly entirely white).
One thing that always comes with adapted media is the topic of accuracy. There are people who want the new media to strictly follow the original material, and there are people who don’t mind a little artistic liberty. Not to mention casting controversies… but I digress. I have personally never played the game, but I watch it with people who have.
Overall, the show is doing an amazing job of adapting the game. They even have the game’s writer/creative director Neil Druckmann weighing in on the episodes. Of course, video games are difficult to adapt, so there are a few differences. A video game needs to entertain the player for 15 hours or more (often much more) with tasks that they themselves can complete, not cutscenes. Therefore, an arc that takes 4 hours of gameplay needs to be chopped into a one-hour episode. From what I’ve seen, the show has mostly just cut out a lot of the FEDRA plotlines by changing it to the infected or a random civilization, which no one is complaining about. In the game, a lot of the FEDRA missions are stealth missions which don’t translate well into a TV show. The spores of the infected are also a thing that makes more sense in a game where there are levels than in real life. So, they replaced the spores with fungus tendrils.
Other than that, both I and the creator of the game agree that the TV show may have even made the story better. The most major difference would have to be the deep dive into different characters’ backstories or goals. The most notable would be Bill and Frank, whose episode most agree is one of the greatest they’ve seen on television. Frank is actually not a character that you meet in the game. Well, not alive anyway… So their backstory comes from Joel’s stories, brief statements from Bill, and a few things you can find around their house. The show completely did away with that and gave Bill and Frank a beautiful life together with plenty of backstory. Another nice change was that Sam is not deaf in the game, that was just something the showrunners decided to include (with a deaf actor too!). This significantly deepened their story and made their relationship with Joel and Ellie much more complex. So, the general consensus is that this is one of the greatest video game adaptations of all time. However, I would still have to recommend playing the game.
Overall, The Last of Us is a win for gamers and TV watchers alike as its bump in inclusion and extra backstory captivate and charm. With the finale premiered, now’s the time to binge!