HBO’s The Last of Us review: hope for a zombie apocalypse — for some

If we accept as a fact that Our Last, the 2013 PlayStation 3 video game from a studio called Naughty Dog, is a remarkable achievement in digital storytelling — and why not? All sorts of achievements — its HBO adaptation is a long-awaited form of vindication. Here, the online definition of “prestigious TV” in the minds of many viewers, is a live-action version of the video game’s most celebrated story, Cormac McCarthy with the joystick. Time rolls on its own: In 2013, the game was compared to an HBO series in jest; in 2023, the tongue-in-cheek chorus is now real and animated performers give way to flesh-and-blood people reproducing their pre-programmed movements with dizzying realism. The content singularity belongs to us, and it’s actually quite interesting.

Our Last according to Joel (Pedro Pascal), a smuggler living in a time after the world succumbed to a mutant version of Cordyceps a fungus that turns people into violent zombie-like creatures. It’s a really unsettling twist to traditional zombies, take a group of parasitic fungi that actually infect insects and imagine what would happen if it jumped to humans. However, like the most successful zombie apocalypse in recent memory, Zombie, Our Last less concerned with its characteristic monsters and more concerned with what happens to humanity after the collapse of society.

Our Last‘ post-apocalyptic America survey begins when Joel gets a job he doesn’t want and doesn’t ask for: smuggling Ellie (Bella Ramsey), an obscene teenager, across the country to hiding places refuge of Firefly, a militia vigilante who opposes what remains of the federal government. For reasons no one knows or understands, Ellie is immune to Cordyceps infection, and Firefly, played by pragmatic Marlene (Merle Dandridge, one of the only actors to take on their roles in the video game), hoping that Ellie is the key to healing the world.

Ellie and Tess duck face to face in the tall grass past a dilapidated building as light shines down from above in the HBO series The Last of Us.

Photo: Liane Hentscher/HBO

This familiar dynamic forms the backbone of Our Last, in which a tough older man must protect an intrepid young woman, and their relationship over time turns from resentment to appreciation. Like this kind of pairing (double for fans of the game), Pascal and Ramsey get along really well on screen together. Pascal’s Joel is more haunting than gruff, and Ramsey brings a more mean side to Ellie, which does a lot to transcend what begins in the video game as a conduit for her affections. father.

And yes, Our Last is a video game adaptation, perhaps the most honest film made for the screen to date. In its first season — which spanned nine episodes, I watched them all — the series followed the blueprint outlined by the PlayStation 3 (and 4, and 5) game, with all scenes and dialogue removed verbatim from there, digital acting became authentic again. What the series adds to the original story is a bit more perspective: When the video game is limited to Ellie and Joel’s subjective experience, the series occasionally takes time to step away from them and let viewers see what other people’s lives are like when Joel. and Ellie didn’t come through.

Easy moments are the best Our Last must offer, as fleeting as they are. (The show’s best episode is an hour almost entirely dedicated to an off-screen relationship that’s barely hinted at in video games.) It explains the people filling the recreated worlds. this is real Our Last can settle down and become an excellent TV show. But in their haste to move on and get to the tweaked sequel, hosts Craig Mazin and Neil Druckmann (who are the original game’s co-directors themselves) constantly skim over characters yearning to fill the gap. the void that the new medium of the story brings.

Marlene and Kim, two Fireflies, injured stand in a dimly lit hallway facing the camera in HBO's The Last of Us series

Photo: Liane Hentscher/HBO

The annoying thing about this is that the HBO series’ addition to the story is what makes Our Last still feels worthwhile in 2023, a full decade after video games made waves with prestige TV aesthetics. The main plot of Our Lastas reimagined in the series, plays out as bleak as you’d expect — a series of encounters in which Joel and Ellie meet someone else, they reveal that they have a heartbreaking story or a terrible secret. terrible, and then they meet a horrible end before our heroes have to go.

However, when taking the time to consider the inhabitants of the world that Joel and Ellie are traveling through, Our Last makes a case for itself as opposed to is different major cultural background that it will likely be compared to. Unlike Zombie, it seriously examines the idea of ​​community in the post-apocalyptic era. In fact, community is the ultimate goal of survival in Our Last, as Joel and Ellie constantly watch how others live — under the strict FedRA regime, the closest thing to the federal government; alone with their loved ones; in a socialist camp moving toward normalcy; in a religious sect that brings solace from fear.

Our Last It’s not rigorous in its exploration of these ideas – the show, like its source material, has a pretty clear view of what the “right” way to live in the community is – but it’s just enough to make the series The story feels more hopeful than most of its peers in post-apocalyptic fiction. How much of that hope is felt will depend on the lens viewers bring to the show, as it (in a blunder similar to its source material) frequently features gay/gay characters. BIPOC was brutally killed. As a result, it’s hard to make a case for Our Last aside from its novelty as a video game adaptation. On its own, it’s one of dozens of zombie-infested wastelands that viewers can stream, from the US and beyond. When you can choose your own apocalypse, it’s hard to say why anyone would choose this apocalypse.

secret to Our Last‘success as a video game not necessarily unique. Zombies is old in 2013, like Zombie are at the peak of their popularity among the non-gaming crowd, and game publishers are happy to market violent titles that involve hordes of surviving zombies or zombie-like creatures. Our Last‘ Then the trick is to bring some humanity back to a medium that is often eager to burn it, getting players rooted in the characters they play and making them feel guilty about the violent behavior they done to people they didn’t do. In terms of context, it surpassed the memorization story and became an important milestone for the entire industry. Its TV adaptation arrives in a medium with no such baggage. Here, the story of Our Last live or die the way most art does: in the ways it is human, and the ways it is not.

Our Last premieres on HBO and HBO Max on Sunday, January 15.


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