HBOMax’s The Last of Us Series First Thoughts
At the time of writing, the first three episodes of The Last of Us have been released on HBOMax. As a fan of the video game of the same name, it was a given that I would have to check out this television adaptation. Here are my thoughts on the series thus far:
(Note: I will be talking about some details of the first three episodes, but I will not give any spoilers to the plot line or character arcs as a whole.)
The Last of Us follows the same plot as the game. The world is thrown into chaos when a fungal virus begins infecting the world’s population. Decades after the initial outbreak, surviving in a post-apocalyptic society proves to be increasingly challenging.
One positive I can give this series is the costuming. So far it has kept close to the source material, which was a nice detail. They clearly valued realism over fashion, which helps with the immersion into the setting of the apocalypse.
The characters portrayed on screen are interesting, though they are unlike their video game counterparts. If you haven’t played the game or watched gameplay, then this will not bother you. However, the main characters have strayed personality wise from the source material. Their strongest personality traits seemed to be greatly exaggerated in this television adaptation. For example, Joel was always a strong, protective character who was willing to do anything to get a job done. In the series, it highlights Joel’s violence and mistrusting attitude. Ellie has always been a sarcastic teenager, but in the series it seems like every bit of dialogue exemplifies this trait. Even when she is being threatened, she is back-talking.
Hope is the overarching theme of both the video game and this series. Ellie is the symbol of humanity’s hope in both as they work towards finding a cure for the virus. However, there are other messages that are brought up in the series that I do not agree with.
During the third episode, there is a double suicide. One of the characters involved in this event even calls it “romantic.” At the end of the same episode, a character talks about how they have no purpose in life without their loved one.
These are relatively small scenes in the grand scheme of the apocalypse, but it stood out against the overarching gloss of hope this series is trying to portray. In any context, these messages should not be present.
The series is pleasing to the eye and is directed nicely. The CGI stands out in a few scenes, which is to be expected in a series like this. The video game is visually more cohesive, since both the settings and the characters are computer generated. It is more jarring in a live action piece of media where the actors are against a green screen. The “infected” clearly had a lot of disturbing details put into them which adds to the horror of the apocalypse. Regardless of any nit-picking, it is a nice series it sit down and watch if you enjoy dystopians.
I love that the creators decided to give more details to the start of the outbreak, but the pacing of these episodes is too slow. The opening scene of the pilot episode did not grip me the way the beginning of the game did. The video game was filled with action and, since the player is in control of the characters, it was able to hold consumers’ attention constantly. With the slower, more drama focused scenes, it is harder to stay locked in throughout the episodes. There are some odd scenes where there is very little dialogue that feel uncomfortable. The length of the episodes range from 50 minutes to 81 minutes so far. Even as a fan of the game, it feels like the series hasn’t progressed very far story wise, despite the long episodes.
There was a lot of swearing in the original game, but it feels different in a show. Sitting down to watch it, curses seem to pop up every other word. This has become a trend as series make the shift from live television to online streaming. With more flexibility, many shows have run with the lessened limitations.
I loved the opening credits sequence, heavily inspired by the game, and the musical score. The small details, like pins on Ellie’s backpack and the artistic shots through the white curtained windows, are nice touches. It is clear that the creators paid close attention to the sets and props.
I understand taking creative liberties when adapting a story from one form to another. While I wasn’t expecting an exact adaptation of the game, this series has me torn. I’m curious to see what other changes they have made, so I will be watching the remaining episodes of the series. I desperately want this series to succeed. With the climax of the story approaching, I have high hopes that the issues with pacing will no longer be present. So far it is a good show to watch, but I cannot see myself sitting down a second time around. I would rather sit down and watch the first few seasons of The Walking Dead again if I find myself in the mood for a story about the apocalypse. Hopefully, with the remaining episodes, I end up changing my mind.
Have you watched The Last of Us? Let me know your thoughts in the comments!