HBO's The Last of Us must be the blueprint for all adaptations moving forward
When word spreads of a well-loved game coming to the screen, it's quickly followed by a collective groan. We've spent hours with our most beloved characters on console, only to find that their stories are rarely well delivered by live-action translations. Take two of my favourite series: The Last Of Us and Uncharted. Both were developed by Naughty Dog, and both were received very differently by myself when it came to their on-screen iterations. After spending an unfathomable number of hours guiding Joel and Ellie through an apocalypse and keeping Nathan Drake from falling into a ravine, it's safe to say I was wary of both adaptations.
Highly visible, actors are one of the most important contributors to a show or film, yet the writers are the ones who have the original characters deep in their marrow. On learning that Neil Druckmann, Naughty Dog's co-president and writer of The Last Of Us, had many roles within HBO's adaptation, I breathed a sigh of relief. Sadly, neither Druckmann nor original Uncharted creator Amy Hennig were responsible for penning Drake's first big-screen adventure – not merely raising a red flag, but doing so with an "Oh crap!" as Drake dangles from the proverbial flagpole.
Most players understand that there will be differences from the source material; appealing to fans has always meant walking a metaphorical tightrope, and it's impossible to please every player. For me, The Last Of Us has honoured its origins superbly. Details that appear unremarkable to the casual viewer are unmissable for fans; we're going to notice Ellie's whimsical keyring and inclusions of dialogue from the game. These elements and new additions have left me ugly crying, forever unable to look at a punnet of strawberries. Uncharted, however, produced the opposite reaction.
Panning for gold
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If you've never played the series, the film serves as a palatable action-adventure starring Tom Holland and Mark Wahlberg as Nathan Drake and Victor Sullivan. However, slapping a 'tache on Marky Mark and calling him 'Sully' just isn't going to cut it for me.
Obviously, we're able to spend more time with characters over a nine-part series, yet rather than Uncharted utilising its 116 minutes wisely, what proceeds is a mishmash of moments taken from the games. We're handed snippets but given no time to process them. The camaraderie between Nate and Sully feels contrived as there's not enough focus on forging key relationships. Instead, we're supposed to nod along and put a lot of faith in a helicopter's winch cables. Even tender moments that focus on Nate and his estranged brother don't hold the same gravitas as Joel and Ellie's, due to the way things rapidly shift onto the next scene.
Every element from The Last Of Us game feels intentionally worked into the TV series, yet with Uncharted everything taken from the game feels like a fascia. Amendments to source material feel janky and thrown in to appease rather than intrigue. It's as if the makers have slapped the game's branding on it at the last minute. It may have struck gold at the box office, but unless I can dig it up in parts week by week, I'm happy for any future treasure to stay buried.
Read more: The Last of Us changed the video game industry, and now it’s done the same for video game adaptations