‘The Last of Us’ Is One of the Best Video Game Adaptations Ever

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On the television spectrum of post-apocalyptic series, on the one hand there is the comic nightmare of The Walking Dead and on the other, the literary grace and hope of Station Eleven. Somewhere between the two, but much closer to the dark zone, it is found The Last of Us (on Sky and NowTv), a relentlessly dark but resolutely human series, inspired by the famous and critically acclaimed video game.

This is an interesting fact in itself: the series, conceived by the writer of Chernobyl Craig Mazin and by the creator of the video game Neil Druckman, is certainly among the more respectable video game adaptations of the canon. But the series hasn’t taken a flimsy, childish source material and polished it to high-quality. The video game itself is a finely crafted entity (or, at least, the cut scenes I’ve seen suggest so). It didn’t need to add much to the series’ ambition to make it worthy of an HBO Sunday night.

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Mazin finds new ways to add drama. He gave the series a dual structure, similar to other limited series on cable and streaming. There is the main narrative: a tormented man, Joel (Pedro Pascal), ferries a spry (and tormented) teenager, Ellie (Bella Ramsey), across America in ruins, 18 years after a fast-spreading fungal infection turned the world into a hellscape filled with zombies, crumbling military dictatorships and marauders. During the mission there are a myriad of digressions, flashbacks to various points before and during the plague, when the lives of some secondary characters and the stories of the two protagonists are told in a dark and elegiac way.

There is some time juggling to be done. But Mazin makes it clear enough what is happening and when. The difficulty of The Last of Us is to make these tragic and heroic stories feel new, with everyday things like love and loyalty surviving in the rubble. We have already seen so many examples of this narrative theme in series such as Walking Deadin Station Elevenin I’m legend And The Hunger Games. Although many of the side stories of The Last of Us they are ingeniously staged, poignantly or terribly staged, finally coalesce into something sadly familiar; we feel the same howling desolation, punctuated by glimpses of torn life, that we have felt before.

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However, it is worth pointing out the many merits of the series. There is a particularly poignant interlude in which a stoic survivor, played by Nick Offermanmeets and falls in love with another survivor, played by Murray Bartlettan emerging of White lotus. These two doomed lovers whiz through the series, occupying just one episode, but their echoes linger. Not just because it’s rare to see one gay love story in a series like this, but because it exists almost completely outside the violence of the show. Instead, it is a small peaceful story isolationwhich dialogues in a distorted way with many of our experiences of recent years.

Further on, an episode introduces us to a preacher (Scott Shepherd) which appears refreshing and compassionate at first, but then isn’t at all. At that hour the show is in full mode horror thriller: for the most part, the series is a thriller in which fear lurks in the past or implicitly close, out of frame. An iron character interpreted, against the tide, by Melanie Lynskey effectively communicates an entire saga of past conflicts, further delineating the complex moral undertones of the series. Few characters are absolutely good or bad; they mostly live in the ambivalence of survival and the righteousness of their tribes depends almost entirely on perspective.

The tension between means and ends culminates, of course, with Joel and Ellie. The series ends (for now?) on the same note as gloomy unease – a terrible and perhaps completely unjustified sacrifice – which closed the video game. Perhaps because that ending is already so iconic, or perhaps because the series feels strangely rushed in its pace, it doesn’t come with the same grand and disheartening ambiguity as it did in 2013. Or perhaps we simply expect such structured pathos from cinematic entertainment. Ten years ago it was more surprising and new when encountered in a video game.

Being unfamiliar with the game, I have to wonder what they will think of the series the most ardent fans. It seems faithful enough to me, while making careful expansions and revisions to better fit the TV narrative. Fans will likely find something wrong with the translation. Not just because a spectator can’t make Pedro Pascal sneak and shoot like they could manipulate Joel in the game. But also why The Last of Us it comes in a medium already so saturated with analogous material. The series The Last of Us it doesn’t feel like a revolution of any kind – it’s simply a well-made television that rises slightly above some of its peers.

Maybe you will miss them original interpretationsalthough it is difficult to argue the work of Pascal And Ramsey. The two build a close and believable relationship, convincingly portraying two people hardened by circumstances in very different ways, at very different points in their lives. The haunted cliché of father-daughter bond it’s most evident in serial form, although the actors deftly work around the obvious points of the screenplay’s melodrama. The Ellie of the game, Ashley Johnsonmakes a brief appearance in the series, while the icy and formidable Merle Dandridge he reprises his original role. The series is dotted with good performances (although in many cases too short), which populate this sad world of rural life.

It may not be where one wants to be these days. We have already suffered the loss and despair of Station Eleven just a year ago: The Last of Us it just adds more brutality. But the latter series proves rewarding enough, on more than one occasion, to merit a cold winter viewing. While so many things seem to blight our path, threatening to destroy us, at least we can take some small comfort in the fact that the mushroom is, for now, still safe on the other side of the screen.

Source: Vanity Fair

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