Television Review: The Last of Us 1

The Oscars set me back on my Last of Us viewing, but I finished the first season last night and wanted to take a minute to talk about how good it was. Note, I haven’t played the video game, though I was familiar with the general gist of it. So this isn’t a “compare it to the original” post. It’s a “how good was it by itself” post. And the answer is “very very good.” (That’s right. I broke out two very’s. Things just got real, folks.)

More than anything else, I was happy to see them treat a video game respectfully. Now, I realize there are some out there who would roll their eyes at that. It’s a video game. It’s for kids. Those people have clearly not played any video games in the last forever, or at least, not any video games in the same vein as The Last of Us. These aren’t your standard side scrollers where you just jump and bounce your way to the finish line. These are essentially interactive films. You take on the role of a character, and you play that character through the plot, making decisions for them, and helping them get to a (hopefully) happy ending.

Too often, it feels like people who are adapting video games (or any other pop culture, genre work) approach it with the assumption that the fans of the original are basically morons, willing to shell out money for anything, so long as it has their favorite character depicted in it somehow. When you treat genre work as something less than “real” art, you do it a great disservice. Just as movies started with short clips of trains pulling into stations, or people eating dinner, video games have their roots in simple things like Pong. But to continue to view them as childish says much more about the viewer than it does about the game.

It’s baffled me that so many movie adaptations of video games stray so far from the source material, since the source material is often right there in a visual format already. There’s not nearly as big of a leap going from a game to a movie as there is from a book to a movie. The Last of Us is a generally “faithful” adaptation of the game, from what I’ve read. It has the same beats. It has the same plot arcs. It has the same look. What did they change? Well, there aren’t nearly as many monsters to kill, but that makes sense. In a game, the expectation is that there will be things for the player to do, and there’s the additional expectation that the game will take a while to get through. The game version of The Last of Us takes about 15 hours to get through. The series takes around 9.

In any case, this was a very good watch. Scary and engrossing. I gave it a 9/10. Every now and then it felt like it dragged a little, but by and large it just kept barreling forward, and it was a blast to watch. I’m looking forward to the next season.

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