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HBO’s ‘The Last of Us’ has ‘no plans’ to go off script from the PlayStation games
“We won’t run into the same issue as Game of Thrones,” says Naughty Dog’s Neil Druckmann.
When The Last of Us arrives this month at HBO, it’ll come poised to achieve something many previous video game crossovers have tried and failed to do: actually succeed with both critics and fans. In the case of Naughty Dog’s hugely acclaimed PlayStation game franchise, the bar couldn’t be higher, either. Both The Last of Us and its ambitious 2020 sequel stand as some of the gaming world’s most highly-reviewed titles of all time.
Some game adaptations don’t so much adapt their source material as take inspiration from it, yielding results that, at least at the movie box office, can be either brutal (think 1993’s Super Mario Bros. movie starring Bob Hoskins and John Leguizamo) or a big-time score (as the recent pair of Sonic the Hedgehog films finally proved).
But The Last of Us at HBO isn’t looking for loose story inspiration to spin far-flung new tales that the games themselves don’t cover. Instead, as its creators recently told The Hollywood Reporter, it’s squarely aiming for a small-screen adaptation that hews faithfully close to its game-based story roots.
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“I don’t have any interest in a spinning-plates-go-on-forever show,” explained co-creator Craig Mazin, who helped land the series as part of his overall deal at HBO after his Chernobyl limited series at the network notched a whopping 10 Emmy awards. “When it becomes a perpetual motion machine, it just can’t help but get kind of … stupid. Endings mean everything to me.”
In practical terms, that means HBO’s TV take on the game franchise’s story reportedly will devote its whole first season only to the events that unfold in Naughty Dog’s original 2013 title, The Last of Us. Debuting on the PlayStation 3, the first game introduced players to bereaved father Joel and his unlikely traveling companion Ellie — a young girl whose immunity from an apocalyptic, society-wiping illness makes her the target of survivalist factions both benevolent and nefarious.
The Mandalorian’s and Game of Thrones' Pedro Pascal plays Joel in HBO’s upcoming adaptation, alongside fellow Game of Thrones acting alum Bella Ramsey as Ellie. Naughty Dog co-president Neil Druckmann, who co-created the TV series alongside Mazin, alluded to GoT's own late-series struggle with stretching beyond the limits of its book-based source material as exactly the kind of trend The Last of Us is determined to avoid.
Mazin and Druckmann didn’t explicitly say that the show’s second season is being conceived as a direct analogue to The Last of Us Part II, an enormous game packed with parallel storylines that seems more ambitious than its predecessor to adapt in the span of only a single season. But staying faithful to what players of the series have come to expect is a big priority, regardless of the show's final episode count.
“We have no plans to tell any stories beyond adapting the games,” Druckmann told THR. “We won’t run into the same issue as Game of Thrones since [The Last of Us] Part II doesn’t end on a cliffhanger.”
Druckmann also didn’t definitively say whether there’s a third video game in the works for the PlayStation franchise, one that would no doubt afford the TV series even more future story material to work with. But it does sound like the creative wheels are already turning. “I think there’s more story to tell,” Druckmann said.
The Last of Us sets off across the spore-infested wasteland with its series premiere at HBO beginning Sunday, Jan. 15.
Looking for more scary TV in the meantime? Stream SYFY's Chucky on Peacock, along with Peacock originals like The Girl in the Woods and Wolf Like Me, right now.