The Last Of Us Co-Director Had One Rule For Changing Game Canon On HBO TV Show
While most of The Last of Us on HBO sticks to established canon, there are some major changes on the way.
We are less than two weeks from the premiere of HBO's adaptation of The Last of Us and you could say fans of the franchise are getting pretty hyped. With Mandalorian star Pedro Pascal as Joel and Game of Thrones standout Bella Ramsey as Ellie, this post-apocalyptic zombie drama has all the makings of a hopefully instant classic--something that is quite rare for video games brought to life as movies or TV shows. There's no doubt, though, that fans are going to be worried about changes being made to the story. And yes, changes are made--but with good reason--over the course of the first season, which covers the first game.
Speaking to GameSpot, TV Guide, and Metacritic, The Last of Us game writer and co-director Neil Druckmann--who is also a writer and executive producer on the show--was quick to explain. "There's things that work in the game that would just not work in the show," he said. "The game is about--sometimes--immersion and these continuous sequences through continuous space and time to get you to feel like you're that character. And the show, if we were to shoot it exactly like that, it would just get boring, the violence would get rote in a way that it doesn't in the game because there’s certain mechanics and stuff that really affect you."
It's hard to argue with Druckmann's reasoning here. While the games are a fascinating and creepy dive into Joel and Ellie's experiences in a zombie-filled wasteland, a camera simply following them around while they kill off clickers and anyone that gets in their way can only be entertaining for so long when you're not personally controlling their actions. What about the story changes, though? For showrunner Craig Mazin (Chernobyl), that was something they were constantly working hard to figure out.
"Neil would always say, 'We can change anything, but we need to talk about why. And if there's not a good reason--if we can’t do better--let's deliver what we have,'" he explained. "And there are places where I thought we came up with really interesting ideas. Sometimes I would call him, and I would be like, 'I'm scared to say this idea,' and every now and then he would say nothing for a bit, and then he would say, 'Aw, you know what? We should have done that in the game.' And then I'm like, 'OK, aha, OK, we're onto something.' The big secret is, Neil Druckmann was so confident and secure in the story of the game that he was then able to be flexible with me to go wander and fill in and change and alter."
Knowing that Druckmann is so open to changes, provided they make for a better viewing experience, is reassuring given that he was the sole writer behind both The Last of Us games. After all, nobody is going to be more protective of Joel and Ellie than their creator. Still, Mazin wants fans to know this show isn't about reinventing the wheel, adding, "If you're a fan and you loved that first game, you're going to have that experience again, wholly but in a different way."
What remains to be seen, though, is where the show would head in a potential Season 2. After all, The Last of Us 2 is set four years after the first game, with a young adult Ellie and an older Joel. While Season 2 could certainly go that route, there's also room to explore what happens to these characters in the immediate aftermath of the first game. Whatever the case, there is plenty of story for the show to tell and hopefully multiple seasons to tell it over.
The Last of Us premieres on January 15 on HBO.
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