HBO’s The Last of Us Review: The Greatest Video Game Adaptation Ever

Almost a decade after its release The last of us is one of the best written video games of all time. Not only the HBO adaptation keep his Sony PlayStation Harnessing the excellence of the source material and bringing it to a wider audience, it delves into its post-apocalyptic universe in a way that will delight and surprise even die-hard game fans.

The show, which premieres on Sunday HBO Max, is set in a devastated world after a fungal infection in the brain has turned much of the population into feral cannibals. Grumpy smuggler Joel is forced to escort defiant teenage girl Ellie across the United States for slightly pernicious reasons.

It’s a fascinating journey that will leave you in awe and horrified in equal measure game of Thrones graduates Peter Pascal and Bella Ramsey instilling vulnerability and humanity in this charismatic duo at every turn.

This story begins with Joel as society collapses in the horrifying early days of the outbreak and he deftly places his emotional bets in an opening that accurately reflects the game. Pascal radiates pain at a pivotal moment of loss in a nuanced portrayal, but also displays a convincing determination and hints of whimsy.

A gloomy world

Jumping forward 20 years, we are introduced to a world where survivors live in authoritarian quarantine zones run by the tough remnants of the US military. Their rule is threatened by an unpredictable rebel group known as the Fireflies, whose marauders and infected roam the land.

The show is full of images that add to its world history.

HBO

It’s fascinating to explore, if a bit overwhelming. The early episodes are punctuated with flashbacks that reveal the origins of the outbreak, an element that was not in play. co-authors Craig Mazin (Creator of HBO’s Chernobyl) and Neil Druckman (creative director of the game series) added to give newcomers a solid foundationbut it will no doubt appeal to gamers as well.

Pascal adds layers of world-weariness to his performance as we return to a hardened Joel who has done whatever it takes to survive over the years. Reluctantly taking on the mission with Ellie, Pascal and Ramsey’s chemistry gradually develops as the show patiently builds a bond between them.

Ramsey’s performance unfolds more gradually and with more dramatic color as we learn more about Ellie and her sense of wonder is revealed. Watching the impressionable teenager learn from Joel and the other survivors they meet on their journey is electrifying, especially when the focus shifts to Ellie in later episodes.

Using torches, Tess and Joel inspect an infected body covered in fungus in The Last of Us

The Cordyceps infection mirrors the images seen in the games.

HBO

The infected are used sparingly, but stick closely to their in-game appearances, emitting danger with every encounter. Some of the visual and sound effects weren’t finished in the episodes that HBO sent to the press before release, but those scenes were shot brilliantly and are likely to be extremely effective.

joy in the dark

The dark post-apocalypse odyssey is essentially punctuated by moments of hilarity and hope – chiefly from the curious and defiant Ellie. This is usually followed by memories of being trapped in a hell of a world, but you’ll definitely join in when they laugh together for the first time.

Most of the season’s nine episodes focus on this core dynamic, but it also takes some surprising detours to tell more original stories. These stories show how characters find room for tenderness and happiness amidst the terror.

Marlene has a gunshot wound to her stomach while her ally looks on in The Last of Us

Merle Dandridge (left) reprises her playing role as Firefly leader Marlene.

HBO

One of them dives into the life of rugged survivor Bill Parks and Recreation actor Nick Offerman Anchoring an episode that proves to be the most uplifting and haunting of the season. It massively expands on a plot only hinted at in the game and is a perfect piece of episodic storytelling. You may need to lie down for a bit after seeing this one.

The second of these will be familiar to game fans and will reveal a defining moment in Ellie’s past. It’s incredibly fun to see Ramsey’s dynamic with a character played by him Storm Reid (seen in euphoria from HBO)even if a threatening cloud hangs over every moment.

Original game composer Gustavo Santaolalla‘s score adds a wistful sadness to the narrative, while a few pop and rock tracks hint at the world before.

Beyond the game

Fans will be pleased to see that the adaptation largely stays true to the events of the first game, but there are a few clever additions to Ellie and Joel’s core quest. Yellow jacketsMelanie Lynsky brings a silent menace to new villain Kathleen, as her presence adds a new element to a well-known subplot of the game.

The show also takes the time to reveal previously unseen moments that will make gaming fans’ jaws drop, along with tons of subtle visual Easter eggs and a sprinkling of clever cameos.

In contrast, Scott Shepherd (from Breaking Bad sequel to the movie El Camino) appears in the later episodes as a villain that gamers will surely remember. His charismatic performance anchors a story that sticks very closely to one of the game’s late chapters.

HBO’s The Last of Us is an absolute triumph, offering television viewers one of gaming’s most intense and compelling narratives and revealing exciting new aspects of the universe to those who have played the games. It’s beautifully written and the casting is impeccable, with Pascal, Ramsey and their co-stars adding layers of emotional depth and unsettling moral grayness to every moment.

Video game adaptations have a new gold standard. roll on Part 2.

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