Video game adaptations have an infamous reputation for being… well, utter crap—at least according to reception from fans and critics. Many claimed that the studios making these projects don’t actually understand the property they’re handling.
In fact, recent reports indicated that the long canceled The Last of Us movie was ripped apart due to the exact reasons one might expect: The studio wanted the story to be bigger and “sexier.” It’s almost comedic how stereotypical those demands were.
Thankfully, it seems the upcoming series won’t be plagued with meeting requests such as those. As a bonus, it’s also clear that the creatives behind the scenes love the game just as much as most fans out there.
Addressing Concerns Over The Last of Us
In an interview with Games Radar, both The Last of Us' show creator Craig Mazin and the original game's director, Neil Druckmann, talked about fans' expectations for the upcoming series while also specifically addressing the concern from some fans.
Mazin noted how some people say they want "the characters to look exactly [the same]... [but] that's not really what they want:"
“Sometimes people say what we want is for the characters to look exactly like they did in the game. But that’s not really what they want,”
So what do they want? Mazin proclaimed how it's "fidelity" that fans really want:
“They want fidelity. When you haven’t seen a show, when you haven’t had a chance to view the characters and all you have is an image, of course that’s your only ability to judge the fidelity. But once you get into it and you’ve been under the hood, you will start to feel this other fidelity that matters more."
The show's creator made sure to clarify how he doesn't even intend on "begrudg[ing] anybody [over] their hesitation or concern [for the show]:"
“I don’t begrudge anybody their hesitation or concern. I think all of that is just a reflection of how much they loved The Last Of Us. But we are going to reward their patience and win them over through our love.”
Druckmann shared how their first step in creating this adaptation was to look into moments they couldn't imagine having a better version on screen. From there, they took aim at the blank spots in the narrative—those events "that are [only] hinted at by [the] characters:"
“Then we asked, ‘What are the things that are hinted at by characters talking about events that we couldn’t show in the game, which meant Joel and Ellie couldn’t see them?... could we build a scene out and dramatize those events, that are purely exclusive to the show?'... Working with a great storyteller like Craig [Mazin], I asked what are things that were inspiring to him from the original content, that we could add to the story? All those things felt like they enriched the world and the characters."
He continued, elaborating on how, when it came to choosing moments directly from the game or new ones altogether, "the best idea" always won out:
“We didn’t get hung up on any one moment, or thing, where we felt like fans would just have to have this... every time we took one of those points, we were like, ‘Should this go in? Should this other idea go in? What is the best idea for this story in this medium?’ And those ideas won.”
Druckmann went on to proudly mention how every conversation in the upcoming adaptation is "entirely curated:"
“Like, maybe there’s a moment where Joel and Ellie have two minutes to just sit and wait, so what do they talk about?... we hope that people that watch the show appreciate where we take that, because it’s entirely curated.”
The game's creator shared that he's excited to see fans get "startled" by their work; "not because [the show is] wildly different than the game.. but because [some moments] just [weren't] in [the original]:"
“And not because it’s wildly different than the game, or violates the game or breaks it, but because it just wasn’t in it. Everything we did is clearly connected to the soul and spirit of the game. And if you tell something honestly and beautifully, you will find one little thing – even if it’s the twitch of an eye, or the slightest change of a look – that adds something to that moment and it will be its own moment.”
Why Hesistant Fans Should Have Hope
Given the history of video game adaptations, it's completely reasonable to hold some concern about The Last of Us. However, this time around, it does truly seem like the creatives behind the scenes love the story, characters, and overall world.
The real test will come when fans start seeing content that's completely new and not from the original game—which will, no doubt, trigger some audience members.
A recent trailer already spoiled at least one scene not in the game: Ellie's birth. To add to it, the show also brought in Ashley Johnson, who was the actress for the original Elli, to play her mother.
Fingers crossed that everyone involved has been able to avoid the curse that plagues projects like this one.
Thankfully, the world won't have to wait too long to find out the answer, as The Last of Us' first episode airs on January 15, exclusively on HBO.