There is no film genre, except for maybe romantic comedies, that induces more groans than that of the video game adaptation. They are as old as video games themselves and for the most part, they have been complete duds including Super Mario Bros and the Resident Evil series. Until 2020’s Sonic the Hedgehog, the genre was stale and no one attempted to make a film adaptation for years. Video games can take hours to get through the entire story which doesn’t exactly lend itself to a two hour film format. In recent years, series like Netflix’s Castevania as well as their upcoming reboot of the Resident Evil series are becoming the way to properly convey the original story and appeal to both fans and newcomers. In 2020, HBO announced plans to develop The Last of Us into a series and with the recent cast announcements of Pedro Pascal and Bella Ramsey as the series leads, a large number of people are excited for the release date of this new HBO series.
In 2013, the landscape of video gaming was completely different than it is today. With the exception of a new console becoming available, there was more of an emphasis on single player campaigns and gamer experience as opposed to multiplayer games. Developer Naughty Dog’s The Last of Us was a huge hit having won numerous Game of the Year awards with praise directed towards its story, score and performances from actors Troy Baker and Ashley Johnson. The Last of Us takes place 20 years after a devastating pandemic has decimated most of the population and has left America in shambles when a smuggler named Joel meets a young survivor named Ellie and discovers that she may be the key to saving humanity. On a personal note, the story has managed to become even more relevant during this era of political upheaval and a deadly pandemic. The game received a remastered edition in 2014 for the PlayStation 4 and its 2020 sequel was released to critical acclaim and also winning numerous Game of the Year Awards.
Following the success of the first game, Screen Gems announced plans for a big screen adaptation that would be produced by Sam Raimi. Their plans were originally announced in 2014 and by early 2015, a script was completed and a read through was even performed by several actors. However, the director of the game, Neil Druckmann, had decided to focus his efforts on creating a sequel to The Last of Us and the film adaptation had entered developmental hell. This happens all the time in Hollywood, books get optioned into films, scripts are purchased and go through several iterations, actors are casted but later drop out and at the end of the day, it can derail production of a film. After Druckmann focused on the game’s sequel, HBO entered the picture and following the success of recent series like Chernobyl and Watchmen, announced plans to adapt the game into a new full length series.
Initially, HBO had intended to recreate the success of Chernobyl by enlisting series creator and writer Craig Mazin and had also hired him to direct the pilot but Mazin opted out of these duties as he is also working on the screenplay for the upcoming Borderlands adaptation as well as the reboot of the Pirates of the Caribbean series. Russian director Kantemir Balagov was then hired to produce The Last of Us series following the success of his Beanpole which was the darling of the Cannes Film Festival in 2019. There was also much speculation in regards to which actors would be cast to play Joel and Ellie including Josh Brolin and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau for Joel as well as Katelyn Dever and Dafne Keen to play Ellie.
HBO recently announced that Pedro Pascal would play Joel and Bella Ramsey would play Ellie in the new series. Pascal would be the anchor of this HBO series and given his success leading other shows like The Mandalorian, Narcos and Game of Thrones, it’s reasonable to think he is a good fit for this role. It will certainly require him to access a darker aspect of his mind but Pascal is a fantastic actor. Game of Thrones fans will recognize Ramsey as one of the breakout characters in the shows final seasons and while her overall resume contains films and shows unknown to American audiences, she will be a great compliment to Pascal’s iteration of Joel.
While video game adaptations have been disappointing audiences for years, attitudes are slowly changing to them thanks to the success of Castlevania and Sonic the Hedgehog and the success of HBO’s The Last of Us will determine whether or not the genre is here to stay.
Featured Image Credit via HBO
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