The Last of Us was one of the most talked-about television shows in production for the last couple years and the adaptation is on track to be one of the most anticipated shows when it presumably airs in 2022. With all the fan interest and speculation on the story, there's curiosity around if the series can actually pull off its original source's material.
A television adaptation of Naughty Dog's video game of the same name was announced in 2020 and the push to deliver a finished product has been strong. Alongside the game's creative director and writer, Neil Druckmann, Craig Mazin was named as showrunner of the series, after previously working on HBO's Chernobyl. Since then, there have been numerous casting announcements and the show is currently filming in various locations in Canada.
The series will follow survivors Joel and Ellie as they trek across America in search of an organization called the Fireflies, who is looking for a Cordyceps virus cure that has destroyed humanity for over 20 years. Druckmann has kept details of the adaptation very close to his chest, but has revealed that the changes being made to the series are meant to enhance the story. The video game received universal acclaim for not only its gameplay, but for its emotional and memorable story, specifically the surrogate father-daughter relationship between Joel and Ellie.
Seeing Joel and Ellie in live-action will certainly be different for fans of the original game, but that doesn't necessarily have to be bad. While some devoted fans have rejected the castings of Pedro Pascal as Joel and Bella Ramsey as Ellie, this shouldn't discount from the actors' ability to pull the iconic roles off. Whereas Troy Baker and Ashley Johnson perfectly voiced the characters, Pascal and Ramsey's portrayals can bring in new audiences that have seen them in their previous work. And while it may not be a completely faithful adaptation of their characters' looks, it gives the show a chance to focus more on Joel and Ellie's clashing personalities as their relationship develops.
With the deeper integration of the protagonists' relationship, there will also be more dedication to enhancing the story. It will be a challenge for the writers and directors of the series to implement the story without the essential gameplay that makes up the game, but if done correctly, the end product will be worth it.
There may also be more time to dive deeper into the more interesting minor characters such as Marlene and Bill, who make up important parts of the game but are rarely seen because players spend so much time playing with Joel and Ellie. Transitioning from game to television could be a struggle for fans to cope with since video games are notoriously not the greatest source materials for films or television shows, but Druckmann's lead can finally beat the odds.
For fans, there's also a level of excitement around seeing the world of The Last of Us come to life. The game's graphics were considered revolutionary in 2013 for being wildly realistic and it can only get better though live action. Behind the scenes photos reveal locations that look almost identical to those in the game, with known sites such as the snowy town of Jackson, the milestone Capitol Building and the Boston quarantine zone. But what will define the series' potential is the realism of the infected that are defined by their looks and sounds through their different stages. The creepiness of the diseased individuals is an essential part of the post-apocalyptic story that will show the show's budget of $10 million an episode.
The creators of the show have hours of source material to work with to influence hours more of original content. Faithful location sets, extended stories and character arcs are clear indicators that the show is striving to achieve what the game managed to in the video game community but just in a different medium. With writers such as Druckmann and Emmy award-winning Mazin, the show is on the right track to meeting the high quality expectations that both HBO and the fans have placed upon them.
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