We were lucky enough to be able to preview the 9 episodes of The Last of Us, i.e. the entire series, and the American critics were right for once, not only is it the best adaptation of a video game in films / series, but it is above all a brilliant work on all points.
A legitimate question arises: can we really be spoiled if we have already played and know the Naughty Dog video game by heart? Well, the answer is yes! Because where Craig Mazin and Neil Druckmann were clever is that yes, the main frame of the video game is kept, but the universe is extended and you will discover new things that the video game had not yet explored. . The series is therefore made up of 9 episodes which bring together the entire first video game, with durations which vary from 43 min for the shortest episode to 81 minutes for the one which lasts the longest, and that is elsewhere the first episode, the one that the world will discover on January 15 and January 16 for France, which brilliantly lays the foundations of its lore. The deal between Amazon Prime Video, Warner Bros and HBO came late, to the point that the VF dubbing was done in the wake of the French reveal. Each episode is directed by a different director. Some have had the chance to make two, like Jeremy Webb, but overall, it changes each time. For those who are interested, the first episode is directed by Craig Mazin and it is the second which is boxed by Neil Druckmann, the one where we discover the Clickers for the first time.
AUTHENTIC, FAITHFUL AND DIFFERENT AT THE SAME TIME
On the other hand, the episode that will be talked about the most, I think, is episode 3. Totally unexpected and completely in tune with the video game, and which is proof that the series extends its story in paths never explored. and allows you to go deeper into the personality of the characters, but I’ll say no more, we’ll talk about it when it airs. And to be completely transparent with you, when we had access to the 9 episodes, the whole series was not entirely finalized. Only the first two episodes were completely finished, but the rest is still in post-production. We also had a disclaimer before each episode to tell us that the special effects were not finalized, that some sounds could be missing, and that the color grading was not done on certain sequences. And in real life, seeing an unfinished work is also super interesting. Sometimes you could see blue backdrops in the set that hadn’t been replaced, some 3D clickers that weren’t finished, but did that bother me? Not at all. Why ? Because the power of the series lies elsewhere, and as in the video game, it is its story, its narration and its actors who sublimated the experience.
It’s simple, from the first episode, and in just a few minutes, Pedro Pascal and Bella Ramsey impose their presence and their charisma and have literally become imbued with their character, to the point that they automatically become Joel and Ellie. Difficult however to pass after the performances of Troy Baker and Ashley Johnson, who are more in the film, but their implication is such that one believes in it immediately. And it’s even more true for Bella Ramsey who masters the role of Ellie like never before. It’s simple, she is the Ellie of the video game, in her attitude, in her facial expressions, in her outspokenness and even the tone of her voice, she is the big surprise of this series, and a nice revenge for her, in the face of all the people who doubted her, because she did not physically resemble the character of the video game, or that some find her ugly. Is it also useful to remember that the resemblance to the original character is not just a detail, and certainly not the main element of a live adaptation, because it is the performance that counts . But the other cast members are not left out. Anna Torv as Tess is masterful and what happens to her has been revamped and magnified. Gabriel Luna, whom we saw in Terminator Rev9 in Dark Fate, is impeccable in the role of Tommy and Nick Offerman in Bill is simply touching like never before.
So what makes the HBO series The Last of Us a success, where other adaptations (almost all of them) have failed royally? Quite simply, because Craig Mazin and Neil Druckmann have been able to keep the very essence of what the story of The Last of Us is, an intimate, touching and above all human story, with a backdrop of an epidemic of cordyceps which will literally bring down humanity and its society that goes with it. And this story has a very special echo after what we went through in 2020 and 2021 all over the world with the COVID crisis, it helps to anchor this story even more in our reality, especially since we must remember that cordycepts or fungi is a fungus that really exists in nature. But fortunately, it only attacks ants in our reality. As we said above, The Last of Us is a series that respects the source material as never before, but also allows to expand it. The pace is slow, the action not very present (by the way, if you think you’re going to see a lot of combat with infected and clickers, you may be disappointed, these moments are quite rare throughout the series It’s true, we would have liked to have a little more over 9 episodes, and we regret that the scene of the chain with the head upside down is not there, but the series immerses us so much in its universe that ‘We do not see the time passing.
Where this series surprises is in this way of respecting what was done in the 2013 video game (and this year’s remake), while managing to emancipate from it. The series even allows itself to rewrite the destiny of certain characters. Yes, all the characters you saw die in the game die in the series, but not necessarily in the same way. Moreover, where certain characters were relegated to the simple rank of NPC finds a new dimension in the series, with episodes which are totally dedicated to them. Better, you will even discover elements in this season 1 that we are supposed to see in The Last of Us 2, and which already allows us to glimpse a Season 2. The series loves the original work so much, that it is even allowed to get the main actors of the video game. Troy Baker who plays Joel, Ashley Johnson who plays Ellie, and Jeffrey Pierce who plays Tommy in the game all have different roles on the show. It’s even confusing sometimes, especially when there are crossovers between them and their fictional character. So that’s the Multiverse…
Another thing that makes The Last of Us series smarter than any other video game adaptation is that it doesn’t just cut and paste footage from the video games, it goes deeper into the proposal, even if it means doing better than the original work (hi Tomb Raider with Alicia Vikander, hello Uncharted). Yes, you will see Sarah die in Joel’s arms, yes Tess will sacrifice herself, yes Joel will commit the irreparable in the end in the hospital, but the treatment is smart enough to surprise us. There is, however, one element that may be deceptive in the series and which has been the subject of a slight debate recently on social networks, and that is the absence of contagion of cordyceps via spores. Craig Mazin explained that they opted for another way of infecting people to avoid the actors systematically wearing gas masks. Already one, in the video game they don’t always have a gas mask on their head, but in addition it could have kept the dramatic leverage around Ellie who has to hide her infection from the rest of the world, and this mask allowed her to make believe that she was not contaminated. This is perhaps the only black point of the series.
For the rest, it’s almost faultless, plus a frankly successful aesthetic. The post-apo world ravaged by cordyceps is ultra believable, the tension is always present and palpable, the characters vulnerable, touching and human, the music of Gustavo Santaolla placed at the right time, that of A-Ha also added to prepare us for a Season 2 and the tragic events of The Last of Us 2. Honestly, this series is made to exist, to extend the video game narrative, but also for people who don’t know the PlayStation title to be a superb story to tell, even if we know that Neil Druckmann had already been inspired by another poignant story: that of The Road by John Hillcoat. Not disgusting as an inspiration…
OUR RATING: 9.5/10