The Oldest College Newspaper in Pennsylvania

The Lafayette

The Oldest College Newspaper in Pennsylvania

The Lafayette

The Oldest College Newspaper in Pennsylvania

The Lafayette

Television Review: ‘The Last of Us’: The greatest video game adaptation ever made

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‘The Last of Us’ is a breathtaking nod to the original video game. (Photo courtesy of IMDb)

When HBO announced in November 2020 that the critically acclaimed and widely loved video game “The Last of Us” was being adapted into a TV show, diehard fans of the game like myself were cautiously optimistic.

The track record for video game adaptations is historically bad, with the most recent movie adaption “Uncharted,” starring Tom Holland and Mark Wahlberg and also based on a video game by the creators of “The Last of Us,” receiving a mediocre response and a 41 percent on Rotten Tomatoes.

Luckily for fans, “The Last of Us” more than exceeded expectations.

Fans first became excited when Emmy award winner Craig Mazin of HBO’s mini-series “Chernobyl” and Neil Druckmann, co-president of video game company Naughty Dog and creator of  “The Last of Us” game, joined the show as writers.

We were right to look forward to their work: HBO’s “The Last of Us” is an excellent example of how to adapt a story from one medium to another. Mazin and Druckmann took what worked best in the game and copied those moments exactly while also building and enriching other plot lines, characters and the fictional world. 

Pedro Pascal and Bella Ramsey, respectively, play Joel and Ellie, a pair connected by circumstance in a post-apocalyptic, fungus and zombie-filled world. In this world, most humans have turned into cannibalistic creatures infected by a mutated fungus found in the Cordyceps genus. Joel is tasked with escorting Ellie across the country, as she is seen as the key to humanity’s survival.

Pascal, known previously for his work on hit shows such as “Narcos,” “Game of Thrones” and “The Mandalorian,” is at the top of his craft in the show. For all nine episodes, Pascal slowly unveils Joel’s hardened shell to reveal a broken man, and it’s fascinating to watch.

However, Ramsey is the highlight of the show. Her rendition of Ellie perfectly encapsulates the superb voice acting and motion capture performance of actress Ashley Johnson in the video game while adding new emotions and further depth to the character. While Ramsey broke out in 2016 by joining “Game of Thrones,” “The Last of Us” is where she shows her full range of acting talents.

The supporting cast is also fantastic, with impressive performances from Anna Torv and Gabriel Luna and guest appearances by Nick Offerman, Murray Bartlett, Melanie Lynskey, Scott Shepherd and Graham Greene. Mazin and Druckmann also snuck in cameos by Troy Baker, Ashley Johnson, Jeffrey Pierce and Merle Dandridge, who were performers of the original game. Dandridge is the only one reprising her video game role as Marlene, while the rest played all new characters. 

When a show is on HBO, it will have a big budget. The visual effects, set design, cinematography, makeup, costumes and sound are all excellent. They all perfectly replicate the sights and sounds of the video game. “The Last of Us” is a breathtaking television show.

For fans who know the original game or for those who are coming in blind, this dark but hopeful tale of violence and its connection with love will surely remain one of HBO’s top shows and can be expected to dominate alongside HBO’s “House of the Dragon” at the 2023 Emmy Awards.

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About the Contributor
Sam Cohen, Movie Columnist
Sam Cohen (he/him/his) is a junior majoring in Film and Media Studies. He won the Special Grand Jury Prize for his Comedy short film “The Gum Run” at the 2019 Montclair Film Festival Emerging Filmmakers Competition. Sam writes weekly reviews of recent TV Shows and Movies while occasionally reviewing older, forgotten classics. When not reviewing, discussing, or watching films, Sam is also a part of many extracurriculars on campus, including being a co-captain of the Ultimate Frisbee team, a member of the Chi Phi Fraternity, and an officer of the Film Society.

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