It’s been nearly three months since HBO announced they’d be helming a TV adaptation for The Last of Us. Since then, news on production has been scarce as Naughty Dog focuses on the upcoming release for The Last of Us Part II. Still, you can’t blame fans for already being excited…and rightfully wary. Video game adaptations are notorious for rarely living up to expectations, so you can’t blame people for wondering if HBO’s take on this popular franchise will end up being any good.
Not all may be lost, though. Even if there’s little known about it, a few signs already point to why HBO’s The Last of Us TV show (probably) won’t be the disappointment some fear it could be. Here’s five reasons why:
Neil Druckmann Will Help Write
There’s nothing more reassuring about a video game adaptation than knowing its original creators are on board. Neil Druckmann has long been credited for how successful The Last of Us was in its powerful storytelling, and his talents are further seen in the Uncharted series, which has been similarly praised for its compelling narratives. So, when it was revealed he’d be taking part in the TV show’s script, gamers around the world breathed in a collective sigh of relief.
Furthermore, Druckmann is partnering with Craig Mazin to bring the zombie adventure to life. Mazin should be a familiar name, as he was a credited writer for HBO’s critically acclaimed Chernobyl series. With two incredible writers at the lead, it’s more than likely HBO’s The Last of Us won’t only be a faithful adaptation, but an excellent one.
HBO Has A Great Track Record
Save for an occasional slip-up, (I’m looking at you, Game of Thrones season eight), recent years have thrust HBO into television royalty. Euphoria, Westworld, The Outsider, Big Little Lies, Sharp Objects and of course, Game of Thrones, are just some of its latest prized creations. You’ll also want to note that four of those television shows were adaptations of a previous work. So, yes, HBO knows what they’re doing–something they’ve proven by laying a solid foundation with Druckmann and Mazin’s involvement.
Of course, HBO is simply a network, and can’t be credited with all the glory. Producers, directors, writers, actors, set designers, VFX artists and more all play a part in ensuring a show isn’t a dumpster fire when it hits the small screen. Take one piece from the puzzle, and you threaten to ruin the full picture. This means it’s still up to HBO to make sure they fill in the rest of those gaps with the right people–but they’re off to a great start.
A Movie Wouldn’t Be As Good
Long-time fans of The Last of Us will know this isn’t the first time an adaptation was planned, as 2014 saw the announcement of a live-action movie produced by Screen Gems. Neil Druckmann even wrote up to a second-draft of the script, and was already in talks with a few actors.
Obviously, it didn’t work out. To the disappointment of fans everywhere, the film entered development hell, which may have been sparked due to a disagreement between Druckmann and Sony concerning differences in their vision for the project.
Flash-forward four years later, and we’re back to the start of the cycle. In a Scriptnotes podcast, Craig Mazin commented on the switch to an episodic format rather than a full-length movie and talked about why a TV show might do the game more justice.
My feeling was ‘you can’t make a movie out of this, it has to be a show. It needs length.’ It’s about the development of a relationship over a long journey, so it has to be a television show – and that’s that, that’s the way I see it. Happily, Neil agreed and HBO was delighted. So, here we are.
Mazin couldn’t have said it any better. Part of what makes The Last of Us so special is the relationship players witness, (and experience), blooming between Joel and Ellie. Unfortunately, you can’t fit every high and low of the journey into a single two-hour feature–something that’s certainly easier to accomplish in a multi-part TV show.
It Has The Same Composer
The music in The Last of Us has arguably become one of the game’s most defining features. The theme song’s evocative melody alone is enough to make any fan tremble with nostalgia, but it’s not just reminiscence that makes it so emotional–the music is simply incredible. Gustavo Santaolalla’s unforgettable score remains as haunting as ever years after release, making his involvement with the TV show a reason to rejoice.
For those unfamiliar with the full extent of his work, Santaolalla’s music has won multiple Academy Awards for films like Brokeback Mountain and Babel. For this project, it’s still unclear whether Santaolalla will reuse the game’s original score, compose a new one or perhaps concoct a mixture of the two. Based on his success with The Last of Us’ brilliant score, viewers can expect greatness.
Sony Is Involved
Speaking of good producers, Sony Pictures Television Studios is set to co-produce the show with involvement from PlayStation Productions. The latter was launched in mid-2019 by Sony, and focuses on developing projects based on Sony’s extensive library of gaming classics. The Last of Us TV show will be their first adaptation.
Sony Pictures Television Studios also has a great track record, with shows like Breaking Bad, Outlander, The Blacklist and Better Call Saul under their belt. Much like HBO, they’re a high-quality force to be reckoned with.
Even though we probably won’t see any additional news concerning The Last of Us TV show for a while, what little we do know is enough to point all signs in a generally confident direction. With a slew of quality talent behind the script, a juggernaut production force and a more-than-dedicated fanbase, there’s plenty to get excited for.
Of course, there’s still so much left to learn. For one, casting remains a large unknown, and likely what most fans anticipate most. The Last of Us is one of the strongest character-driven stories in recent memory, and the production team is going to have to work hard to find actors who represent Joel and Ellie as well as their virtual counterparts. No matter how certain things may start out, there’s always room to screw up a project like this, especially one of this magnitude.
Aside from the unknown, while we’re still barely tiptoeing into the start of this long journey together, there’s more than enough reason to hope. At least, for now.