In mid-March, the last episode of the first season of The Last of Us was released. Its plot is based on the popular survival horror computer game of the same name. It’s a unique experience for HBO, having never adapted a video game to the big screen before. The company spent a hefty $100 million on this project. What is the series about, why is it hype, and is it worth watching at all?
What is the series about?
Almost no spoilers – especially for those who missed the game of the same name in 2013.
The series is set in an alternate world where a zombie apocalypse began 20 years ago due to a Cordyceps mushroom mutation. Infected people turned into the walking dead, while healthy people continued to live in quarantine zones guarded by the military.
All this madness was preceded by a speech by Dr. Newman, an epidemiologist. Back in 1968, he warned the public from television screens that the greatest threat to humanity was not viruses, but fungi. According to him, some of them not only cause diseases, but are also able to subjugate living people. The expert feared that the moment would come when mushrooms would evolve due to global warming and enslave humanity.
His prophecy came true.
Next, the audience is transferred to 2003. It all starts calmly and measuredly: a man named Joel and his daughter Sarah live an ordinary day in Texas. The only thing that confuses him is some disturbing stories on TV, flying helicopters and a lot of policemen on the streets. Daughter and father do not yet know that serenity will soon end. Already late in the evening chaos will cover the city, and an emergency will be announced on TV.
The main plot of the series takes place 20 years after the start of the zombie apocalypse. Before the audience is the same Joel, now he lives in Boston and works as a laborer at the local administration. More precisely, he does all the dirty work: he burns corpses, sweeps the streets and cleans the sewers. And in his free time, he trades in smuggling.
A state of emergency has been introduced in the city, after the onset of the curfew, civilians cannot leave their homes. Anyone who disobeys the order will face a public execution without clarification of the circumstances. Dissenters with the regime united in the Cicadas group (in the Russian dubbing of the series – Fireflies), which was recognized as a terrorist group.
Joel, along with his partner Tess, go looking for a stolen battery. They need him to start the car and find the missing brother of the protagonist. But instead of thieves, the couple finds members of a banned group.
The head of the Cicadas, Marlin, offers a deal: the group is ready to give the smuggler a battery and other benefits of civilization in exchange for one favor. She wants Joel and Tess to deliver Ellie, a 14-year-old girl, to the old town hall outside the city. And so the trinity sets off on a journey through the ruins of America.
Starring Pedro Pascal, known for the series “Game of Thrones”, “The Mandalorian”, the film “Kingsman: The Golden Ring”. Matthew McConaughey was considered for his role, but he turned it down. Ellie plays Bella Ramsay, whom we saw all in the same “Game of Thrones”, the series “The Worst Witch”.
Ironically, the preparatory work fell on the Covid-19 pandemic. Because of this, the casting of some actors took place via Zoom-conference.
Comparison of the series and the game
Minor spoiler for video game fans: you will be delighted with the treatment of the original source. No wonder Neil Druckmann, the creator of the computer version, acted as a screenwriter and director, and Craig Mazin, the creator and screenwriter of the Chernobyl series, became his partner.
And now for those who in 2013 were far from the world of games: The Last of Us came out on PS3 and immediately captivated gamers. The video game sold 1.3 million copies in its first week. She confidently surpassed even GTA 5, taking the main awards and receiving the title "Game of the Year". The success was so sure that Sony re-released The Last of Us on two generations of consoles. For the 10th anniversary of the game’s release, Neil Druckmann shared that fans have purchased 37 million copies in all time.
Let’s get back to the series. It reproduces (frame by frame in places) many scenes from the video game. But there are also small changes: for example, the main character is humanized. Killing indiscriminately, not this time. But on the other hand, Pedro Pascal is very similar to his prototype and organically fit into the image.
Ashley Johnson (known for her roles in AWOL, What Women Want) plays the role of Ellie’s mother on the screen. An interesting move by the directors: 10 years ago, in a video game, she voiced the girl herself.
If you want a little nostalgia, listen to the musical accompaniment: it is straight from the game and perfectly complements the images. No wonder, because the same composer worked on the film as 10 years ago – Gustavo Santaolalla.
In general, the series reproduced the game almost frame by frame, but some moments were omitted or shown in passing. The casting isn’t perfect either. If Joel in the movie looks just like in the game, the role of his daughter, brother and Ellie could be found more convincing candidates.
The viewer, as the most severe critic, highly appreciated The Last of Us, but not everyone has such an opinion:
- Kinopoisk: 8.2
- IMDb 9.0
- Metacritic 6.4
Film critics were also divided in opinion, but in general they highly appreciated the novelty. So, The Telegraph journalist Ed Cumming noted that regardless of the knowledge of the original source, the visual of the series is on top. However, in his opinion, the plot dragged out a bit. His rating is 4 out of 5.
Daniel Feinberg of The Hollywood Reporter writes, “HBO’s The Last of Us is by far the best video game adaptation ever made for the big and small screens.” The critic was pleased with the third episode:
“The third series is what turns The Last of Us from horror into something on the verge of really special. The rare 75-minute TV episode that never made me look at my watch once is basically a portrait of an unexpected and downright heartbreaking relationship between survivors.”
Daniel D’Addario notes in Variety that the characters’ relationships are under-developed:
“Sensitivity and Relationships "One of us" on high. But at times there is a sense of stinginess when it comes to things related to these relationships – like in a video game, the player had to go right through certain conditions in order to reach the next goal. But that doesn’t stop the series from being recognized as worthy of attention.
Below is a small spoiler, so you can not read this review.
The New York Times critic James Poniewozik praised the series quite highly. He notes that for the first time in his practice, he even watched the full walkthrough of the game, he was so affected by The Last of Us. He notes, “What complicates the scene is that no one here is a completely good guy. The fireflies didn’t give Ellie a chance to choose her fate. But the last scene doesn’t offer easy consolation either, portraying Joel as a loser who beats the bad guys. There are only people who make lousy choices trying to survive.”
By the way, the series broke the House of the Dragon record for HBO streaming views. Each episode of the post-apocalyptic drama was watched by an average of 30.4 million viewers. For comparison, the prequel to the cult “Game of Thrones”) was watched by an average of 29 million viewers after the premiere, which took place in the summer of 2022.
Where to look?
Streaming service HBO Max, on which the series was posted, is not available in Russia. You can subscribe only through intermediaries and watch with VPN turned on. There are no other options to legally watch season 1 yet. All hopes for “Amediateka”, but so far the company does not know when the series may appear on their channel. You can find it on IVI, but it is not available for viewing.
If you can’t wait to see it, then The entire first season has already been posted online. with good simultaneous translation. If anything, we do not encourage you to download pirated copies.
Why is it worth spending a few evenings watching a series?
Let’s start with the fact that this is one of the most successful HBO projects in recent times.
If you love the post-apocalyptic genre, you are a fan of the theme of zombies and the danger to humanity, this series is for you. If you played the game of the same name 10 years ago, then you should definitely form your own opinion.
You shouldn’t expect single-valued characters here. As the TV critic of The New York Times noted, there really are no divisions into good and bad. And the unfolding story makes you think and discuss what you would do.
Even if you are not a fan of computer games, the series can be great. Of course, the pictures can not be called beautiful, only if you do not adore destruction. Even the ruins of Boston have their own charm, although there are not so many views of it. Although filmed quite high quality and believable. Especially in the first series, the special effects with falling planes are impressive.
Who really shouldn’t watch it? For those who do not like the release of adrenaline in the blood. We do not recommend watching this series at night for impressionable people, although there are not very many zombies and other horrors in the first series.
When will the second part of The Last of Us be released?
Producers have not yet announced the exact release date for the second season. It is only known that it will definitely be and the same team will be engaged in filming. Rumor has it that his show could take place in January 2024, but there is no official data yet. Also, the creators of the series Craig Mazin and Neil Druckmann blabbed that in the second season there will be more monsters of different types. So we are looking forward to it.