Why The Last of Us' Success is Good for Future Video Game Adaptations
It's had a strong start, which should instil gamers with some confidence.
Live-action gaming adaptations have had a very poor history. With releases like the Super Mario Bros. Movie in 1993 setting the bar pretty low, very few have managed to actually raise that bar, even a little.
In the realm of animation, video game adaptations can excel, as we've seen with Arcane, Cyberpunk: Edgerunners, and Castlevania, but even more recent live-action shows and movies like Tomb Raider and The Witcher have at best been mediocre. However, with The Last of Us on HBO, it seems things could be about to change.
I'm sure by now you'll have seen the rave reviews The Last of Us is getting, and while we should breathe in the success of a video game adaptation and just bask in it for a good minute, the critical and public reception of The Last of Us goes beyond just the show itself, and could mean a lot for future video game adaptations.
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The Last of Us sets a great example. By proving that video game adaptations can be more than adequate, it silences those who thought the medium would never translate well to film or TV without animation. This means, then, that we can now expect more out of upcoming video game projects because we have our standard set by something that is genuinely good.
Now, does that mean that we're always going to get great video game adaptations from here on out? No, of course not. The stinkers will stink as always, but the fact that we've managed to get a The Last of Us means we can get something else just as good, and a lot of that comes down into whether a studio is willing to recognise the source material for what it is, and if there's enough story to work with in the first place.
The Last of Us sets a very solid foundation for a TV adaptation, and even though there are some changes it's clear what we're seeing is what we played through nearly ten years ago. However, we've seen great stories stick out in video games before, and then have them altered beyond recognition by Hollywood.
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But, now The Last of Us has shown what a successful adaptation looks like, hopefully we can see more studios follow suit. This should especially be the case for games that already have strong narrative cores. God of War, and Horizon, which are both getting adaptations at Amazon and Netflix respectively, have great stories built into the core of their games. If these are left out it's only going to anger fans of the original work, who are expecting to see at least some of their favourite titles make it into the adaptation.
A lot of gamers don't want to see something that only shares a name with their favourite games, and though it might not be the most original thing, it's best to keep the fans on side rather than have a rabid horde ready to critique everything. The Last of Us encapsulates this incredibly well, as even though there are changes, these are minor when compared to the overall accuracy we've received.
Every decision made to alter the original product has been explained to us as well, either by Neil Druckmann or Craig Mazin. Rather than the audience find out the game they remember is being changed on their own, they are informed of the minor alterations so they don't then immediately flock to the internet saying they're starting a petition to replace the tendrils with spores in The Last of Us.
Through The Last of Us showing a clear dedication to its source material, fans don't go in feeling as uneasy as they would with another adaptation, left to spin the wheel of misfortune to see which of their favourite moments, characters, and stories would be changed beyond recognition.
Of course, plenty of showrunners have stated in the past they love and respect source material only to then go entirely against what it represents. But, The Last of Us is a good sign that studios are taking the right approach when it comes to actually treating video game narratives as stories worth telling, and so if HBO's latest hit sets an example for the future, this means we could be in for some very strong TV shows and movies based on video games.
It's probably not wise to put all of our hopes on The Last of Us, as there's always the chance even with one really successful show based on a video game studios just won't get why it worked. But, if we sit in the realm of optimism for a moment, The Last of Us sets the bar very high for what a video game adaptation can and should look like, if given the right source material and attention to it from the showrunners. The fact that it exists means that hopefully someday soon we can see more shows like it.