The video game genre has been experiencing a resurgence over the last few years with Sonic the Hedgehog and Detective Pikachu scoring a rare blend of both critical and commercial success, something console-to-screen adaptations have struggled to attain over the last three decades. Mortal Kombat is the latest to win big with fans and at the box office, while HBO are betting on The Last of Us turning the PlayStation classic into top tier episodic content.
Widely regarded as one of the greatest games ever made, the title comes with a huge built-in audience, and the central concept also lends itself very well to television, given the slow-burning narrative and focus on the two main characters. Production is set to kick off this summer in Canada and continue for a whopping eleven months, with Pedro Pascal and Bella Ramsey on board as Joel and Ellie, and Terminator: Dark Fate‘s Gabriel Luna recently joining the ensemble as Tommy.
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The Last of Us was originally set up to be a feature film, though, with the game’s director Neil Druckmann penning the script and Sam Raimi named as one of the producers. Maisie Williams was even in talks to play Ellie at one stage before the project fell apart, and in a new interview, Druckmann explained why a standalone movie was never the right fit for the source material.
When I worked on the movie version, a lot of the thinking and notes were like; ‘How do we make it bigger? How do we make the set pieces bigger’. It didn’t work for The Last of Us and I think that’s ultimately why the movie wasn’t made. Our approach for The Last of Us was, ‘Let’s make it as an indie film’. Let’s approach it as an indie film team, the way it’s shot, the way how small and intimate it feels. And with the show we get to lean into that even more because we don’t have to have as many action sequences as we do in the game.”
Focusing more on the drama makes greater sense from a storytelling perspective rather than trying to cram the entirety of the sprawling narrative into a two hour blockbuster, so in those terms, The Last of Us has found an ideal partner in HBO, given that the outfit is known for its long-form storytelling and rich worldbuilding.