The Last of Us first made its debut on console back in 2013 on the PlayStation 3 and since then has gone on to make huge splashes in the gaming universe. Neil Druckmann, the writer and creator of the game, has gone on to bigger and better projects, but not before watching his pride and joy spin-off into a stage play and picked up for an official Hollywood make-over.
For gamers who are also lovers of the cinema, there was some mixed emotion when the announcement of an live-action film based off The Last of Us was hitting the streets. At first it was sheer excitement, which quickly turned into nervous doubt after consideration of how the game’s length is a major aspect of telling this story. Sure you can gut out all the gameplay and just recreate the cinematics in order to tell the tale, but moviegoers (who are not gamers) will never experience what it’s like to actually hold Joel’s burden and weight of his journey with Ellie.
The average viewer will not be able to build that bond that is slowly and expertly crafted between the two main protagonists that are just trying to survive in a bad situation. They will never understand the first moment you hear Ellie cry out for help across the map, which causes your heart to sink into your chest as you race towards her, as she desperately attempts to hold off an infected or human enemy at bay. All the emotions you go through from the beginning of the game with Sarah all the way to the end with Ellie will be missing. Sure film can invoke emotion, but it cannot break the fourth wall and make you believe that Ellie is not just a character model, but a character model that embodies your born or unborn child.
Spoiler Alert for those who have not played the game yet. At the end of a first playthrough before you know what the characters outcomes will be when racing down the hall to save Ellie, you come crashing through operating rooms doors to see her unconscious with a team of surgeons standing over her limp body. You can not sit there and say (unless you have no soul) that you didn’t act on the primal instinct of a mother or father protecting their own by making a quick and rash decision in a split second, only to realize after your gruesome acts have been carried out what in reality you have actually done without even thinking about it.
This parental relationship between the Joel and Ellie that grows throughout the game and on the player cannot be recreated in film unless you are already a parent and will be able to identify with Joel and his grim situation. The game does a miraculous job at not only simulating the parental unit relationship, but also making all types of gamers, especially those without kids, understand what it’s like to be a parent in a hostile world and sends a message about what it truly means to do whatever it takes just to survive the day; something the film will undoubtedly struggle to convey to its audience. This is not to say that the film version won’t be good, but rather that this story is best experienced through a controller in your hands.