Will The Last of Us go from great game to great film?

WHEN you think about movies adapted from video games, its hard to think of a resulting film that impressed.

The pitiful Resident Evil series of films has largely destroyed the notion of good films, while Lara Croft, Hitman, Far Cry, Prince of Persia, Mortal Kombat and Super Mario Brothers have been among the titles to have struggled in the transition from console to cinema.

In the latest attempt to make a good non-playable game, the newest attempt is the adaptation of what is essentially a playable film in itself.

Released last summer, The Last of Us was a compellingly grim post-apocalyptic survival game that is set 20 years after a zombie-like infection has ravaged the world’s human population.

The game itself followed Joel, a Texan hit by tragedy during the outbreak and now living his days as a smuggler of various stuff in and out of the heavily militarised zones in Boston, MA. He is asked to smuggle a 14-year-old girl called Ellie out of Boston at the behest of an anti-government militia, but it soon turns into a cross country sojourn for reasons that will not be spoiled here.

The journey is fraught with many different perils, such as zombies, cannibals, rival clans of survivalist nutjobs, and gambling with limited supplies.

As well as being a very good (if not quite a perfect) game, it was an astonishingly detailed vision of post-apocalypse America. With the game essentially acting as the swansong of the Playstation 3 before the PS4’s arrival, the game design was a superb realisation of decaying cities ravaged by abandonment, the rise of nature and destructive survivalists.

The game was also well-written, ranging from good characters to a number of throwaway one-liners remarking on contemporary society from a girl who was born into the ghost of our world, and also down to its central compelling atmosphere. The game continuously ramped up the sensation and feelings of knowing one false move is the one that will kill the character. Or at least it did when you didn’t notice AI allies breaking the rules you had to observe.

The Last of Us 2 has already been greenlit, with Naughty Dog anticipating it to be their first foray into the world of the PS4. But the main move announced by the game developers is their involvement in The Last Of Us: The Movie, which had been rumoured for a while before its confirmation earlier this week.

The way this might work is that involving the people who wrote, directed and produced the game will allow them to cultivate the essence of the game, which can allow them to maintain the quality of the material for the director Sam Raimi to run with. Raimi’s links to horror film history could also work in its favour.

One thing that would certainly be of use to the adaptation keeping the original Gustavo Santaolalla score, which added a magnificently haunting quality to the original game.

Despite this, the movie does have potential for trouble. Any attempt to pander for a wider demographic by lowering the age range, for example, would be an awful move as it would neuter the visions of the zombies. Convincing make-up also has to be a must, to fully capture the gruesome reality of the ruthless Clickers.

But one way with potential to cause trouble is the aspect of condensing it to fit into a film-standard timeframe. The shortest “in full” cut on YouTube lasts over 6 hours. Even accounting for the increase of longer films in cinema, such as the ridiculously long Wolf of Wall Street, something will probably go in the film. But it has to be careful – either completely cutting, reducing the length or diluting scenes from The Last of Us is exactly the kind of thing that would reduce the game’s suspense factor and make it less compelling.

One required reading may also be of the many different pratfalls World War Z infamously fell into on its tortured journey from book to screen. The film was rewritten several times and even had its final third re-shot. Keeping to the core storyline from The Last of Us rather than deviating or using it as a brand for a different and weaker story has to be done, although there is confidence this will be done.

Right actors are also needed too. There is a faint irony in Ellen Page complaining Ellie looked too much like her when she is now being talked about as a frontrunner for this film’s lead actress, but a newcomer is likely, given Ellen Page is likely too old to play a 14 year-old girl.

The Last of Us is not the only game being commissioned into a film. Its Naughty Dog stablemate Uncharted has already begun its own development into a film, while Michael Fassbender is reportedly spearheading a project to bring the Assassin’s Creed franchise to big screens. This is without mentioning the upcoming Need for Speed movie, which is out next week, and the further plans to adapt Angry Birds, Mass Effect, Metal Gear Solid, Splinter Cell, Rachet & Clank and World of Warcraft for the big screen.

Clearly, Hollywood has decided that now is the time to try and make worthwhile films out of console games. The Last of Us could be the movie that bucks the trend, but a lot of work has to be done to make a film worthy of association with such an acclaimed game.


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