‘The Last of Us’ Review: HBO’s Adaptation That Might Live Up to the Video Game’s Name

Video game adaptations, whether they are movies or TV shows, have grown exponentially in the last few years. While most of them are considered disappointments, we can’t deny that this specific genre is growing. Another thing we also can’t deny is that TV adaptations usually give video game fans a much better experience than the movie.

Last year, Naughty Dog’s video game Uncharted was adapted into a film starring Tom Holland and Mark Whalberg. Although a box office success (which ensured a sequel), the film received mixed reviews and was ultimately not deemed worthy of the legendary Uncharted name. Now, that other video game franchise developed by Naughty Dog is also getting an adaptation, and this one looks a lot more promising.

HBO’s adaptation of The Last of Us is one of the most anticipated TV series of the year and one of the most anticipated video game adaptations in general. This series is highly anticipated not only because it is based on one of the best PlayStation exclusives of all time, but also because this series is signed by Craig Mazin, creator of the acclaimed HBO series Chernobyl, and Neil Druckmann, writer and director of the original video game. Also, let’s not forget that this series was developed by HBO, which is known for many critically acclaimed TV shows. So, on paper, it looks like we’re going to get the best video game adaptation of all time. But the question is, will we get it?

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Judging by the first (out of nine) episodes we had the chance to see, this certainly looks like a very promising adaptation. We could say “so far so good” and I say that as a huge fan of video games. But being a fan, I can’t shake the feeling that the way the show tried to introduce us to that world felt a little too fast. But hear me out, that’s not necessarily a flaw.

Okay, the first episode is quite long and had the difficult task of introducing the audience to almost all the major main characters, which is something the game did more step by step. But still, it’s understandable why they had to do it that way; because these adaptations aren’t made for fans of the game, they’re made for everyone, and when you want to make a successful TV series, that first episode is key to getting the audience in and keeping them there.

While these adaptations are mostly made for audiences who have never seen the game, that doesn’t mean die-hard fans will be disappointed. The source material is really respected and you can see that this adaptation was made by people who love and know how to properly treat the world of The Last of Us. It is important to point out that this series will try to expand the story beyond the boundaries of the game, but judging by the first episode alone, every bit of that original content that will be added will be justified in the end.

As for the cast, we have to say that no one missed a beat. Pedro Pascal does a great job as Joel, and I must say that I was even more pleasantly surprised considering that I always saw Hugh Jackman in this role. This role suits Pascal very well and now I am even happier to see his Joel in the upcoming episodes. Bella Ramsey, although some die-hard fans weren’t happy with this casting choice, we can’t deny that she does an amazing job. True, maybe she and Ellie aren’t that physically similar, but the personality and the way she carries that character, it’s absolutely wonderful to see. I have to admit it’s pretty hard to believe they didn’t let her play the game while she was preparing for the role.

Another character that absolutely needs to be highlighted is Marlene. It’s no wonder Merle Dandridge does possibly the best job of the entire cast considering she’s the only video game actress to play the same character on the show. This is basically her third time playing this character, and she absolutely kills it. The first episode introduced us to the character of Tommy, who is very decently portrayed by Gabriel Luna. We can’t wait to meet all the other characters, and I’m personally most interested in seeing Nick Offerman as Bill, who seems really suited for the role.

The music is something that will give fans of the game goosebumps as soon as they hear it in the intro. The theme music was composed by Gustavo Santaolalla, who also worked on the video game, and that’s all there is to say about how great it is. Other technical aspects of the series are really polished to perfection. HBO didn’t want to skimp on the budget, and why would they? The locations and atmosphere are absolutely spot-on and will attract both game fans and newcomers to this post-apocalyptic world.

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All in all, after just one episode, it looks like HBO really has another successful project. They have a TV series that is well done by people who know what they’re doing, it’s well-acted and manages to deliver an atmosphere that fans of The Last of Us have experienced a few times before. The series does its best to do justice to the fans and introduce this world to an audience that has never played the game. Ultimately, judging by how video game adaptations are usually done, this is definitely something that will be placed at the very top of the genre, if it continues down the right path, and we have no doubt that it will.

SCORE: 9/10

  • A movie lover, a hardcore DC/Marvel fan, photo editor and a passionate gamer. Interested in absolutely everything that comes out of those four categories, regardless if it’s old-school classics or modern blockbusters.