Review without spoilers
An adaptation that claims to be faithful to its original source is always doomed to repeat the same question: If aesthetics, plot and all kinds of characteristic ingredients of the original are replicated, what’s the point? Why repeat an experience that we have already lived, what does it give us? ‘The Last of Us’, which flies the flag of absolute fidelity and the most official product (Sony for production, Druckmann -director of the original game- as producer and screenwriter), does not offer much controversy in that sense: it is devilishly faithful to the original.
So much so that it is often allowed to replicate passages from the video game as is, and not as a mere meta wink (as it can be, let’s say, that in ‘Mortal Kombat’ the fighters say their iconic phrases), but as narrative constructions that work. Although in later episodes the thing distances itself from the original, the pilot is almost a point-by-point repetition of the start of the game.
In fact, the first relief that ‘The Last of Us’ provides is that does not resort to the very conventional and already tiresome flashbacks chunks that provide context what happens in the present of the story. Here, as in the video game, we will learn about the outbreak of the lethal mushroom epidemic at the start of the story (and after a stupendous and unprecedented mini-prologue on a television show in the sixties), how chaos breaks out, and how tragedy fly over Joel’s life for the first time.
‘The Last of Us’ manages in its first chapter to make its intentions clear: be it a more creative solution or less, what we have come to here is to see a replica of the video game with real actors. The result is, from that point of view, perfect, and it has its good part if we consider it as a mirror maze (here they deviate from the original, there they have replicated a dialogue word for word) and its bad part when it devalues the impact from the original because we already know it. The best example of the latter is obvious: the death of that character who is very dear to Joel doesn’t impact him remotely as it should because since he appears on the screen we know that he is going to die shortly.
Better the less it seems
Paradoxically, the best moments of ‘The Last of Us’ are not found in fidelity, but in quite the opposite: in stray off the beaten track, reflect on the game and what it can and can’t do each medium. In that sense, Druckmann and his co-writer Craig Mazin have studied the possibilities well and have decided, for example, that it is not worth focusing excessively on horror and action sequences, something in which the intimate and intense experience of the video game comes out. winning.
However, the narrative of the series allows us to expand the characters of the characters, delve into their traumas and motivations, and focus on the details that enrich them, something that in the video game must be polished to the maximum because it cannot forget that there at we have come to play. ‘The Last of Us’ faithfully replicates something leaden at times what is already invented, but at least it allows itself to look for the holes in which it can make a wedge and broaden the narrative.
For example, ‘The Last of Us’ finds much to tell with little effort in the relationship, still incipient in the first episodes, between Joel and Ellie, which as we all know is also the core of video games. However, here the expressiveness of the real actors shows why, depending on what things, the video game still has a long way to go, no matter how hyperrealistic its cinematics are. Here there are silences, looks, microgestures that are a world, and subtleties in the dialogues that are reinforced by the superb interpretations of Pedro Pascal and Bella Ramsey.
In fact, it is the latter that is the furthest away from the original Ellie with a more brusque and aggressive character, without hiding her initial antipathy towards Joel. Ramsey’s physical difference with the Ellie of the game reinforces this distance, and gives us moments as wonderful as the continuous mockery of his partner by force, which in the game was mere adolescent grumbling and here they acquire a more black and brutal corporeality. And with this, ‘The Last of Us’ makes her teaching clear: it is a very good adaptation when it approaches the original, but much more so when it strays from her model.