Last of Us premiere: Best game adaptation excels

Last of Us, the highly anticipated series based on the award-winning video game, premiered January 9 at the Fox and Bruin Theatres in Westwood, Los Angeles. The series is being praised by both critics and fans as one of the best video game to live action adaptations. It streams January 15 on HBO Max.

Photo: HBO; Merle Dandridge and Gabriel Luna by Djeneba Aduayom.

Cast Pedro Pascal, Bella Ramsey, Storm Reid, Lamar Johnson, and more walked the black carpet with post-apocapltyic faded step-and-repeat, a perfect tie in to the post-apocalyptic series. \

The series is based on the award-winning video game, developed by LA-based Naughty Dog, and published by Sony Computer Entertainment on PlayStation. It released a decade ago in 2013, with rave reviews for its storytelling, mood-setting, and bonds of hope and support for survival between lead characters, among the desolate world.

In the game and the film, Joel (Pedro Pascal) is a smuggler paid to escort immune teen girl Ellie (Bella Ramsey) across the United States in a post-pandemic future where the Cordyceps mutant fungus has infected people, turning them into vicious Clicker creatures. Along the journey, hardened Joel and quirky Ellie come to depend and support each other, forming a unique connection in the game – and in the series.

 

PREMIERE

Monday’s premiere continued despite a rainstorm, which tied in perfectly to the apocalyptic feel of the series.

The heavy rain mostly vacated the streets, except for the brave premiere attendees scurrying down the tented black carpet into the Fox and Bruin theaters, and then afterwards into the themed after-party with a large Los Angeles street sign.

Posters with Pedro and Bella cover art decorated both theatres.

“When you’re lost in the darkness, look for the like” graffiti tag posters.

REVIEW

The nine-episode Last of Us series is excellent in its acting, mood-setting, and emotional connection with the characters. It requires no knowledge of the game, fulling developing and exploring the world. It is one of the best game-to-live action adaptations. 4.5 of 5 stars.

Pedro Pascal gives an amazing performance as Joel, His arc from tough, weary and battered loner who learns to trust and connect with Ellie over the series is fascinating to watch.

Bella Ramsey is perfect as Ellie, combining a childlike innocence, with wisdom-beyond-her years, and action-and-agency resourcefulness. She is a refreshing break from teen girl characters, who have tended just to be things to be rescued without much agency til the finale (e.g. America Chavez in Doctor Strange and Multiverse of Madness).

The supporting cast shines in their roles: Anna Torv plays Tess, Joel’s smuggling partner. Gabriel Luna plays Tommy, Joel’s brother. Murray Bartett, who won a Supporting Actor Emmy for Armando in White Lotus, plays survivalist Frank who has a relationship with Bill, played by Nick Offerman. Their relationship adds to the series queer representation; Ellie is also a lesbian, revealed in the game’s sequel. Storm Reid plays Riley, an orphan in Boston.

The series set design follows the post-apocalyptic look of the game very well. From the burned out, deserted, crumbing cities, to the scenic Western landscapes and sunsets, every frame is gorgeous to look at.

The series is executive produced by Craig Mazin (Chernobyl) and Neil Druckmann, who directed the original Last of Us game. Druckmann’s insolvent ensured the series faithfulness to the source material.

When the Last of Us game debuted in 2013, the idea of a post-pandemic apocalyptic world where a fungal virus has infected the population, desolating cities, and forcing quarantine zones was so far-off futuristic. After the pandemic of 2020-2021, it seems prescient and uncomfortably close to our daily reality.

Watch the Last of Us, releasing Sunday January 15, 2023 on HBO Max.

 


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