Taking a bite out of ‘The Last of Us’

HBO+Max+has+released+the+first+episode+of+%E2%80%9CThe+Last+of+Us%E2%80%9D+which+is+based+on+the+video+game+with+the+same+name.+Photo+courtesy+of+HBO+Max.

HBO Max has released the first episode of “The Last of Us” which is based on the video game with the same name. Photo courtesy of HBO Max.

Meagan Elizabeth García, Arts & Culture Editor

While making live adaptations of popular books, mangas, animes and animations is not a newfound trend for television networks or movie studios, there has also been a recent rise in the production of video-game adaptations.  

Naughty Dog, a game developing company based in Santa Monica, Calif., has had two of its series greenlit for big screens and streaming services across the globe. “Uncharted,” starring Tom Holland as Nathan Drake and Mark Wahlberg as Victor Sullivan, premiered in February 2022. It was then announced in November of the same year that “The Last of Us,” or TLOU, would have its own series on HBO Max the following year.  

The first episode of the highly anticipated show was released Jan. 15, with a feature length run time.  Set in 2003, the story opens on a cordyceps fungal infection that has mutated into a strain that can severely impact humans in a parasitic manner.  TLOU follows Joel Miller (Pedro Pascal) guiding Ellie Williams (Bella Ramsey) through a post-apocalyptic U.S.A in order to restore hope and order to a humanity lost. 

Producer Greg Spence and the game’s writer Neil Druckmann, have worked together to match the two iterations of TLOU’s original plot, but certain aspects of the disease and lore have changed during production. Meaning audiences who have already seen or played the game will have to wait for any new creative decisions.  

One thing fans can anticipate is the use of early concept designs being incorporated into the show and more screen time for beloved characters like Sarah Miller (Nico Parker), Tommy Miller (Gabriel Luna), Tess (Anna Torv), Marlene (Merle Dandridge), Bill (Nick Offerman), Frank (Murray Bartlett), Henry (Lamar Johnson) and Sam (Keivonn Woodard). 

Ashley Johnson and Troy Baker, the original voice actors for Ellie and Joel respectively, will also be making cameos throughout the series as different, yet equally important, characters. 

Although the game does have a playing time of around 21 hours, there are still character developments that were left completely unexplored or only hinted at. According to recent trailers and teasers though, Spence and Druckmann have decided to expand on different plotlines so that any missed groundwork can be covered. 

The first episode was a hit with older fans and newcomers to the franchise. Cinematically TLOU excels in its expansive, imaginative settings. The buildings and roads being overcome by nature due to Earth’s apocalyptic future generates a truly eerie atmosphere. Specific scenes within the show are almost frame-by-frame identical to the cutscenes within the game.  

Since the whole plot revolves around Joel and Ellie, the chemistry between the new leads portraying them was a main concern for some viewers. However, Pascal and Ramsey have both set strong foundations in their roles. Pascal brings all the heart and stoicism to Joel that players are familiar with as well as Ramsey showcasing Ellie as the true determined, spitfire she is. 

Music lovers and fans of TLOU will also appreciate the soundtrack backing the show. While there is the inclusion of 80’s hits by Depeche Mode for outros, the opening song is from the game. “The Last of Us” is the overall theme song for the game, created by Gustavo Santaolalla in 2013. 

All in all, the first episode is a solid 10 out of 10. The beginning of Joel and Ellie’s journey is sure to give new viewers a sense of anticipation while creating nostalgia for viewers who grew up with the game. The setting feels just as beautiful, the infected just as creepy and the characters just as loveable. 

TLOU is streaming on HBO Max, releasinga new episode at 7 p.m. MST every Sunday and is set to have nine episodes for its first season. 

For information on streaming services by HBO Max go to https://www.hbomax.com/ 

Meagan Garcia is the arts & culture editor and may be reached at [email protected]