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Critics Say The Last Of Us Beats The Video Game Adaptation Curse

For many, the awful history of video game movies is enough to dissuade viewers from new adaptations. It's difficult to forget how far some film adaptations of games have strayed from the source material, like the "Resident Evil" movies. Even more recently, video game adaptations have bombed with fans. The "Halo" television adaptation had many differences from the game series, some of which fans just couldn't understand.


That said, the hype for HBO's adaptation of "The Last of Us" has reached a fever pitch, and many gamers hope the show beats the video game curse. Trailers for the show had fans going wild with speculation about how the show would reimagine the games' world. With Neil Druckmann, the original creator of "The Last of Us," on board for the production of the series, many fans hoped that the show would remain faithful to the games. Now that reviews are rolling in, it looks like both gamers and TV critics have something to be excited about.

Though you'll have to wait until this weekend for SVG's full review of the pilot episode, here's what critics are saying about HBO's "The Last of Us" adaptation.

For some, it's perfect

While many gamers expected "The Last of Us" to be a good show, some critics are declaring that it's nearly perfect. Empire reviewer John Nugent gave the show a 9/9, praising the show's careful balance of new details and faithful recreations. Nugent explained that the show was "comfortably the best adaptation of a video-game ever made: one that deepens the game's dystopian lore, while staying true to its emotional core. Like the game, it's a masterpiece, too."


Similarly, Ross Bonaime at Collider gave "The Last of Us" an A+, the highest rating possible. Bonaime noted that "The Last of Us," unlike some video games, works because of the intense character development of both Joel and Ellie. By the end of the game, players feel like they know the duo enough to be emotionally attached to them. More importantly, that attachment translates into an emotional finale when Joel is faced with a difficult decision. Because characterization is at the heart of "The Last of Us" as a game, it also makes for interesting television that similarly features a character-driven story. Bonaime explained, "While the narrative remains largely the same, Druckmann and Mazin take the opportunity to tighten up ideas, explore the lives of these characters with more depth ... to expand this universe in a truly stunning way."


Bonaime also calls attention to something "The Last of Us" expands upon in its adaptation: side characters. By exploring the lives and stories of characters featured only briefly in the game, the show expands the universe and the viewers' understanding of the world while still remaining true to the source material. It's a win-win for fans of the game and lovers of good television.

For others, it's not ideal -- but it's close

Other reviews – especially those from gaming outlets – didn't think "The Last of Us" on HBO was perfect, but it was close. Simon Cardy at IGN rated the show a 9/10, saying that the show manages to stay fresh because it takes detours that enrich the world while maintaining a focus on Joel and Ellie's relationship, which is what makes the game so compelling. Cardy particularly praised Bella Ramsey, who plays Ellie, for the range in her performance. "She's a true revelation and deserves all the credit in the world for making her mark on a character whose previous interpretation has been so firmly ingrained in people's minds," he elaborated.


The reason for Cardy's near-perfect score lies in the show's pacing. He argued that the show crams a lot of information in the early episodes, using lingo or concepts that viewers might not understand at such a breakneck pace. Because the show is only 9 episodes, there's a lot of ground to cover, and the pace felt a bit too quick, especially for those not already familiar with the material.

Small criticisms for an overall winner

It's understandable for gamers to be more critical of video game adaptations, and Polygon's review of "The Last of Us" brought up valid points about problems in the game that migrated to the adaptation. While Polygon's Joshua Rivera didn't give "The Last of Us" a numerical score, he did praise the show. Rivera commented that it's odd to see an adaptation of such a popular video game, especially when the show pulls lines from the game and recreates memorable moments. However, he applauded the show for its tendency to step away from Joel and Ellie to explore other characters' lives – something the first game never quite manages to do. However, these side stories don't happen frequently enough, according to Rivera, and the overall tone of the show is understandably bleak even when exploring side characters.


Rivera also noted that the show, like the game, often kills off its BIPOC and queer characters, and "as a result, it's hard to make a case for The Last of Us beyond its novelty as a video game adaptation." When adapting the game into a new medium, creators had a chance to rethink some decisions in the game, yet it sounds like the show still manages to dispose of some of its most diverse characters instead of giving them a chance at having interesting plots of their own.

Even though there are some complaints about "The Last of Us" on HBO, most critics agree that it's a stunning adaptation that's worth checking out whether you're a fan of the game or not