Review: ‘The Last of Us’ is a Better, More Elevated Version of ‘The Walking Dead’
Published on January 16th, 2023 | Updated on January 16th, 2023 | By FanFest
Just like The Walking Dead forgot it was a comic book, The Last of Us forgets that its a video game. That said, The Walking Dead should have held tight to its comic book plot-lines and the show would have thrived. The Last of Us will thrive because it ignores video game the video game trappings that so many other video game-based shows have fallen into.
We don’t mean to put video games down, but the interactive nature of gaming and the absorption required for movies or TV shows are entirely different. It can be tricky to take a concept from one format and succeed in another – particularly if you’re going from games to screenplays- which is why so many adaptations have been unsuccessful.
The Last of Us video game is renowned for its powerful cinematic approach, with cutscenes just as captivating and immersive as the gameplay itself. Set two decades after a zombie apocalypse demolished life on Earth, it follows Joel—a stealthily violent loner—as he escorts teenage Ellie on an uncertain trek across America.
Along with its thrilling action, The Last of Us offers a delectable mix of character development, drama and humor. This is the game that could finally redeem video game adaptations in the eyes of critics and non-gamers alike. HBO‘s announcement to make it into a live-action series has increased anticipation for the project since then, proving how worthwhile this adaptation will be!
Co-created by the masterful Neil Druckmann and the 2019 Emmy winning Craig Mazin, who is behind Chernobyl’s miniseries, The first episode of this show is a testament to both media form. Written by Mazin and Druckmann as well as directed solely by Mazin himself, it feels like an incredible interplay between these two creative geniuses.
In the tranquil moments before civilization is decimated by a zombie outbreak, some scenes will explore Joel (Pedro Pascal from The Mandalorian) and his teenage daughter Sarah’s (Nico Parker) relationship. Other sequences will depict what life has become for Joel and all other survivors in 2023 post-apocalyptic world.
Mazin’s action sequences are shot from a POV perspective, as if we’re suddenly on Twitch or YouTube controlling the events. For example, there is an extended chase scene where Joel, Sarah and Tommy (Gabriel Luna) drive out of town amidst chaos; it’s almost impossible not to feel like you should have control over which way they turn next!
Episode one of this show is ensconced with skill and some gripping moments. However, as someone who isn’t a gamer, I was left wondering why my friends were so enthusiastic about the series’ debut. Then two things happened pretty quick! To begin with, Mazin and other directors stopped copying the visual language from games which meant that when violence occurred it had more impact; instead of feeling like something you weren’t allowed to play yourself, it felt like a scene straight out of an action movie.
What’s more, Druckmann and Mazin delve deeper into these characters and have put together an astonishing ensemble of actors to portray them. As a result, The Last of Us captivates one just as much in its tranquil moments as with its horrifying scenes; it is even potentially more fascinating when spotlighting who they are instead of the terror that threatens them.
Once more, Pedro Pascal excels at playing a silent action hero forced to protect an innocent young companion through treacherous lands. This time he’s backed up by fellow Game of Thrones alum Bella Ramsey as Ellie; her character is much happier and wiser than Lyanna Mormont ever was in the show, yet still faces the emotional effects of being exposed to too much violence due to their broken world. It’s truly remarkable how fittingly each actor has been cast for this show!
Despite their previous experience with these types of roles, both actors really shine and create an immediate bond with the audience. Their performances are mesmerizing and utterly captivating to watch.
Ramsey brings an immense emotional weight to the story, yet also adds a brightness that could have otherwise been oppressive. Despite her entire life being shrouded in despair and terror amidst the zombie apocalypse, Ellie is still able to recall memories of life before it all began; enjoying these relics from the past as if they were gifts. Her astonishing resilience even allows for moments of lightheartedness with her renowned – albeit cheesy – puns! In fact, one might say that her most prized possession is actually a book full of them!
Pascal consistently conveys what he is thinking without ever speaking a word, making his Texas accent come and go with ease. His emotions are so powerful that it doesn’t matter if you can understand him or not; you feel exactly what Mando’s helmet tries to conceal.
All of the characters have been casted in an incredibly effective way, taking full advantage of their unique personalities. A prime example is shown in episode three, which highlights the bond between Bill and Frank; two polar opposites. Nick Offerman and Murray Bartlett were both superb choices to play these roles – it’s hard to find better suited actors!
It is quite difficult to envision two actors who could portray the roles of Bill and Frank with such realism, sympathy, and charm in just one episode; this installment has already been deemed as a frontrunner for Best TV Episode of 2023.
Melanie Lynskey’s character as the leader of a heavily-armed militia, and her ability to portray both an intimidating presence and disappointed third grade teacher simultaneously is one of the best examples of duality that has been seen throughout her career – especially in Yellowjackets. The casting choices also provide great insight into each character quickly which allows viewers to get straight to the heartwarming emotions explored. Anna Torv plays Joel’s partner Tess perfectly, achieving this impact effortlessly.
The Last of Us is a high-caliber, better produced version of Walking Dead with top production values. The actors are fewer in number but demonstrate greater strength and intensity. (I’ve always been impressed by Andrew Lincoln’s performance yet no one can deny the brilliance that Pedro Pascal brings to this story.)
Climate change has caused a certain form of mushroom to go haywire and release a zombie plague that produces an entirely new kind of undead. These infected zombies are terrifying, with fungus growing over parts or all of their bodies – it’s unbelievably grotesque.
Eventually, the character development becomes so compelling that there are extended periods without any infected individuals – yet this does not diminish the intense drama or iconic moments of the series.
I was truly taken aback in one particular episode of the show due to its ability to successfully establish a narrative that drove both human and zombie conflicts. It’s this element which lends itself well to stories reminiscent of HBO Max’s Station Eleven: post-apocalyptic tales, similar to Bill and Frank’s story or even seemingly contained episodes like Ellie and Riley exploring an abandoned mall.
While Ellie has gleaned a wealth of knowledge about the past from her educational institution led by what remains of the army, she still delights in listening to Joel elucidate facts. In one episode, he breaks down football regulations for her. “So basically,” she asks, “just moving in one direction.” He agrees, “Basically — but violent.” This is something of a metaphor for The Last of Us as a whole. It is extremely straightforward and simple in what it’s trying to do, but hard-hitting about it. I’ve never played the game, but Druckmann and Mazin have turned it into something that works incredibly well as a television show.
HBO debuted the long-awaited show The Last of Us on January 15, with a new episode coming out each week.
Covering superheroes, anything dark, horror, and more! Lead writer for Fan Fest