The Last of Us is one of the most fiercely beloved video games of the past few years, and there’s a belief among fans that this is the game which will finally crack the code of being translated into a great movie. While it isn’t actually the biggest franchise out there, it does seemingly have some distinct advantages over larger ones. Unlike Grand Theft Auto, it is focused on a single story thread, unlike Call of Duty, it features characters you care deeply about throughout their journeys, and unlike Metal Gear Solid, it has a coherent story.
Common wisdom seems to be that The Last of Us is the great white hope for movies adapted from video games; that its combination of top-tier performances, mature subject matter, and cinema-influenced visual style will be the magic formula that transcends the niche appeal of video games to film audiences. Here are a few reasons, however, why it’s not likely to be the one that pulls it off.
The Last of Us is Already Pretty Much a Movie As it Is
Adapting something to film is in many ways the same thing as remaking an old movie. In the case of remakes, the general approach is to only deal with material that has issues in its previous form. There’s no point in remaking something that was great to begin with; that’s why Psycho was a terrible remake and why the Ocean’s Eleven one was fantastic. With adapting a game to a movie, there’s a similar challenge in that a new type of media should add something to the core experience. If it’s not adding anything, then what’s the point of even bothering? While The Last of Us is a terrific game that tells a moving story, what can a movie adaptation of it REALLY offer that the game already hasn’t?
As a counterpoint, Duncan Jones’s Warcraft movie is actually in a much better position to be successful precisely because it doesn’t have such a narrative to live up to. Its universe is so massive and far-reaching that he’s basically free to tell whatever story he wants so long as it adheres to the boundaries of the fiction. With The Last of Us, its creators will quickly find themselves being pushed into a corner where they will need to choose between one option or the other: Retell the game’s story, which is redundant, or tell a unique story within that universe, which nobody will care about.