Criticism of The Last of Us, the first season of the HBO Max adaptation


The best adaptations don’t just imitate their source material, but are meant to enrich those familiar with it, while serving as an entry point for those who aren’t. HBO’s The Last of Us does exactly that.– A brilliant adaptation of one of gaming’s most beloved stories that gathers the lightning of what made it so special to so many in the first place, letting it strike again to amazing effect. Powered by a pair of phenomenal lead performances and a wonderfully executed vision of what it means to find hope and love in a world bent on denying it, The Last of Us thrills from first episode to last.

The shape of the story will be familiar to anyone who has played the original game, but that does not mean that I will know exactly what is going to happen next, since deviations are frequent. A post-pandemic world in which some human groups try to stay afloat in the midst of a sea of ​​infections, a place that Craig Mazin, the director of the series, has brought to a harsh reality with the help of the creator of the video game The Last of Us. , Neil Druckman. The plot revolves around Joel, a smuggler tasked with taking a teenage girl west from an America ravaged by a deadly fungus pandemic for the past 20 years. Of course, things don’t go smoothly, as danger lurks around every corner, both in human and posthuman form, ready to break their ever-closer bond.

Ellie, who could have easily been reduced to a plot device, is the most charismatic beat in the series, while reminding Joel of what he’s lost and instilling in him a sense of purpose he hasn’t felt since his darkest day. Lost love is one of the master lines of the series, but The most important thing about The Last of Us is the paternal love that arises between the two. Bella Ramsey is simply electrifying as Ellie, effortlessly switching between delicate vulnerability, youthful arousal and determined power. She is a true revelation and deserves all the credit in the world for putting her imprint on a character whose previous portrayal was so firmly ingrained in people’s minds. She’s dynamite from the start, but Ramsey is going from strength to strength in Joel and Ellie’s relationship as the season progresses.

Pedro Pascal, for his part, brilliantly gets into the skin of Joel Miller, with his southern accent and compelling experience. He is often brooding and quiet, as a counterpoint to Ellie’s infectious energy, and is able to express deep emotions with a mere glance. He fits the role perfectly: stoic in the face of adversity and able to position himself at each end of Joel’s emotional spectrum, from affectionate affection to ruthless violence.

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Bella Ramsey is just electrifying as Ellie.

The couple is flanked by strong performances of characters going in and out of Joel and Ellie’s journey. Among them, Anna Torv as the steely Tess, Gabriel Luna as Tommy, Joel’s estranged brother, and Lamar Johnson as the complex and compassionate Henry. Nick Offerman and Murray Bartlett deserve a special mention, unforgettable as the melancholic Bill and Frank, respectively. We have a fleeting time with some great performances that act to constantly remind us of the fragility of life. If The Last of Us drew a Venn diagram made up of circles of good and evil, the zone in between would be overcrowded.

The first season packs a lot into its nine episodes, which can make you feel a bit rushed at times as you rush towards the end. However, the conclusion is as forceful as it is necessary and, ultimately, deserved. That being said, I know the world of The Last of Us well from having played each of the games several times, but I wonder if the uninitiated will have a problem with the amount of new concepts and words that are constantly being thrown at them in the first few episodes. , when the pace is more hectic.

The series is at its best when room to breathe is given, and it is in these moments when The Last of Us shines the most. Yes, seeing recreations of pivotal scenes from the game brought to life offers its own kind of thrill, but it’s most exhilarating when exploring less-trodden paths, a case best exemplified by the arrival of Nick Offerman’s Bill. He’s a character who gains incredible depth when a handwritten note from the game becomes the best TV hour of the season. A heartbreaking tale of love found in a world that too often tears it apart, a special story gracefully brought to life through tender performances.

Explore themes reflected through Ellie’s eyes in another later featured episode and is a testament to how the love between two people (no matter who they are or who they choose to share it with) perseveres even when the world and the bodies that physically channel it fade away. It’s to the credit of the show’s creators that two landmark episodes so firmly foreground gay relationships when they could have been so easily slipped in as a footnote. They are presented without judgment and with total celebration. In a post-apocalyptic void that denies all air of happiness to thrive, these rare sparks of life are all the more important and impactful, like fireflies illuminating an abandoned mason jar.

It is to the credit of the creators of the series that two iconic episodes so firmly bring gay relationships to the fore.

Visually, The Last of Us is often a sight to behold, even when the camera is pointed at strongly ugly subjects. Details like crusty old paint on the walls and veins of fungus crawling across the floor run convincingly through most of the buildings. The vast landscapes are reminiscent of classic westerns, especially when the seasons change and snow covers the ground. But while The Last of Us is a visual spectacle, it is in the sound where it stands out especially. Distant screams and nearby clicks often echo terrifyingly across scenes in a world so silent that any sound can be alarming. The original soundtrack is also superb, as the familiar refrains from Gustavo Santaolalla’s iconic soundtrack sing in harmony with pulsing original pieces that weave their way through some of the most action-packed moments.

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Tone-wise, obvious comparisons can be made to The Road, but The Last of Us rarely reaches the levels of unrelenting desolation of Cormac McCarthy’s novel. nor of its subsequent film adaptation. For every bit of the macabre, there is a small dose of levity or a ray of light. The Last of Us may present itself as a world without hope, but over the course of one season it reveals many things worth fighting for, and in that sense it is more reminiscent of Alfonso Cuarón’s Children of Men, both in its themes as well as its visual identity. Undersaturated greys, greens and browns give way occasionally to bursts of flame or the flash of gunfire. The bombed-out cities still bear glimmers of life and echoes of a civilization worth saving, both stories ultimately boiling down to the success of smuggling a young woman and the powers of love and the human spirit when fighting against the will of the dead. cruel mother nature.

There is hardly a fixed camera shot in all the footage, which thematically ties into the ever-moving nature of the story as we’re hurtled from place to place across America. There are no glamorous Hollywood choreographies or superhero feats. Everything is very human and rustic, bordering on clumsy in its action scenes. You can smell the fear and sweat Joel gives off during a fight, making the action more stake-oriented in each matchup. While there are some standout moments of combat, The Last of Us is actually more interested in showing the aftermath of violence than the violence itself, letting the echo of each shot echo long before the next.

The action is used sparingly, but often to shocking effect, as well as the appearances of the infected. Close-ups of the infected and their fibrous new biology are downright sickening, with hairy tendrils sticking out of their mouths like nesting xenomorphs. Their mushroom hair adds layers of fear to each of them, each feeling like a true deadly threat no matter how well armed Joel and Ellie are. In the game, the presence of the infected is primarily perceived through gameplay and combat. Since the series isn’t built around constantly giving the player something to do with their hands, it opts to focus on the human stories that exist in this world, and does so to great effect. That said, I couldn’t help but wish for one or two more appearances of the infected throughout the nine episodes, as we sometimes go through several episodes without realizing the terror they can cause.

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She is more interested in showing the consequences of violence than the violence itself.

In general, the plot doesn’t stray too far from its source material, but it does stray from the path every once in a while to illuminate unexplored corners of the world. Certain shots or lines of dialogue will have players doing their best Leonardo DiCaprio pointing out the TV similarities, but most importantly they never feel forced, instead fitting in perfectly with the game’s aesthetic. A liberal use of flashbacks offers a broader picture of the world at large, bringing additional context on both a personal and global level and providing social snapshots of life before and after the outbreak.

It gives the feeling that Druckmann enjoys revisiting his story and adding sections, such as a first stop in Indonesia, which would not have made sense to include in the game. He also takes time to explore themes shared with Mazin’s earlier work on Chernobyl, primarily the courageous struggle of the working class against hopelessness and government failure. However, at no time does she lose sight of the human and personal impact that a world changed forever has on its inhabitants in different ways. There’s a real sense of a creative partnership working at the peak of its power here, as old and new ideas mingle and ultimately triumph.

HBO’s The Last of Us is a stunning adaptation of one of the most powerful stories told in video games. and brilliantly brings Joel and Ellie’s journey to a whole new audience. Taking the essence of what made the original story so enduring, it fleshes out the game world while changing some aspects to almost wholly amazing effect. Anchored by two outstanding lead performances from Bella Ramsey and Pedro Pascal, it offers an uplifting spectacle for fans of the PlayStation hit, while still managing to be cozy exciting for newcomers.