Update no.2: Johan Renck, the director of HBO’s hit limited series Chernobyl, is no longer involved with the project due to scheduling projects. Renck was originally hired to direct at least the pilot episode was replaced by Kantemir Balagov, whose Russian film Beanpole was a runner-up for Best Foreign Language film at the Oscars but lost to Parasite. Craig Mazin and Neil Druckmann are, as of this moment, still involved with the adaptation.
Update no.1 : The Last of Us series at HBO has officially been ordered to series, meaning that the brass at the studio are impressed with the pilot script and/or vision of the entire season. The official synopsis reads as follows:
“The story takes place twenty years after modern civilization has been destroyed. Joel, a hardened survivor, is hired to smuggle Ellie, a 14-year-old girl, out of an oppressive quarantine zone. What starts as a small job soon becomes a brutal, heartbreaking journey, as they both must traverse across the U.S. and depend on each other for survival.”
Original story follows.
The Last of Us is considered by many fans and critics to be one of the greatest video games of all time. Released in 2013 on the Playstation 3, it boasts a 95/100 on Metacritic and is best known for its sharp writing and characterization, particularly its depiction of strong women in the apocalypse. Of course, with that kind of prestige around it, many have tried (and failed) to adapt the game to the big screen. Cinematic video game adaptions have ranged from the god awful to mediocre at best, which is why it’s a relief to hear that the adaptation is no longer going to be a movie, but a show.
Much like how Netflix found success with their adaptation of Castlevania, arguably the best video game adaptation ever, HBO is seeking to up their game and try to deliver a compelling live-action depiction of the show that would fit their standards. Often, video games are labelled as being mindless entertainment, but The Last of Us is more than just being a video, it’s one of the champions for the argument that games can be art.
Rather than a virus, the world has fallen victim to a terrible strain of the Cordyceps fungi, which has mutated and killed off much of the population. The fungi is also extremely contagious and has no cure. A smuggler named Joel must get a girl out of a quarantined city and escort a girl across the country to an outpost after a group of rebels learn she’s immune and can likely help produce a vaccine with her blood.
[Credit: Naughty Dog]The show is coming to HBO from Craig Mazin, the creator of the insanely good Cherbobyl series, and Neil Druckmann, creative director and writer of the game and its sequel. Both will serve as writers and executive producers alongside Carolyn Strauss of Game of Thrones fame.
What made the game so compelling was the writing and the characters, so it’s great to see that Druckmann is there to shepherd the series into live-action. This isn’t a run of the mill, shoot ’em up series. Joel was around before the apocalypse happened and is grizzled and weary as a result. He’s lost, well, just about everything and is a broken, bitter man. Ellie, on the other hand, is a child of the apocalypse. She’s known nothing but hell on Earth. The two explore what it means to be human, what family means and form a touching, albeit rocky, surrogate father/daughter relationship. I dare you to not shed a tear during the giraffe sequence. What’s also great is that this version of the apocalypse isn’t’ a derelict wasteland. Without mankind’s industrial influence, nature has reclaimed our cities. Foliage is plentiful and covers old streets, cars and buildings. It’s a stark contrast to the horrors of the reality.
This sounds like great material for Mazin to work with. Chernobyl was one of the best shows of 2019, winning two Golden Globes and ten Emmys. A mini-series, it chronicled the 1986 Chernobyl disaster from the boots on the ground experience to the scientist trying to contain the damage, to the officials trying to cover it up. In six episodes, we saw it all but were pulled into the event with these individuals. It was scary, not only due to the effects of the radiation but because of the negligence and the belief that the Soviet Union could never make a mistake. Mazin was unflinching in this depiction of events. Nothing was sugar-coated; this is what happened and you have to deal with how terrible it is. That sounds like a good starting point for adapting The Last of Us and Mazin had this to say about working with Druckmann on The Last of Us:
“Neil Druckmann is without question the finest storyteller working in the video game medium, and The Last of Us is his magnum opus. Getting a chance to adapt this breathtaking work of art has been a dream of mine for years, and I’m so honored to do it in partnership with Neil.”
The series won’t tell a side story or be a prequel to the game but will actually be an adaptation of the video game. This is great as it will introduce this fantastic story to a wider audience and will likely end up filling in the gaps between the game and its upcoming sequel, which takes place years after the first game. So while season one will likely be familiar, it will pave the way for something new more than likely. Who knows, if the series is great, we may get more adaptions from Playstation Productions, who are co-producing with HBO. God of War, anyone?
While there is no date or cast for the HBO series, we can meet up with Joel and Ellie once more when The Last of Us Part II hits Playstation 4 on May 29th, 2020.