I am yet to play Naughty Dog’s award winning video game, The Last of Us, and based on the regular verbal abuse I take around the office for this oversight, this is apparently akin to roundhouse kicking puppies. Which, by the way, is apparently an apt comparison for how the post-apocalyptic game puts your emotions through the wringer.
With this dramatic heft, and a pair of really strong lead characters, you would think that a feature film adaptation would be a cinch. But according to what MCV UK was told by the game’s writer and creative director Neil Druckman – who is also penning the screenplay for the recently announced Sam Raimi produced feature film adaptation – things are not quite so straightforward.
“In two hours you can’t tell the same kind of story that you can in a game like The Last of Us, which is 15 hours. I’m in the middle of it now, and it’s been super difficult because there’s so much that happens in The Last of Us – even just in the cinematics – that can’t fit in a film, let alone all the gameplay in-between and dialogue.”
While there will be changes, fans shouldn’t worry that Joel and Ellie – the game’s lead duo who are trying to make their way across an America that has been ravaged by a zombie-like plague twenty years previously – are getting kicked to the curb though.
“It almost has this novel quality as far as how much content there is,” he explained. “And a film works really well when it’s laser-focused, so the first part of it was like: well, what is this story really about? It’s clearly about Joel and Ellie. What are the most important beats that we can’t lose? Start with those, and cut everything else out.
“It’s been really difficult to cut certain things out, but what I’m starting to get is this really focused narrative that’s about these two characters. Some parts will be similar to the game and some parts will be quite different, but it’s kind of interesting in helping me understand this other medium and its strengths compared to video games.”
With this movie, along with Michael Fassbender’s Assassin’s Creed and the Splinter Cell adaptation being put together by Doug Liman and Tom Hardy, we seem to be on the cusp of a video game adaptation upswing, where top Hollywood talent are giving these stories the attention they truly deserve, instead of just adding to the dirge of horrendous video game movies (with a few notable exceptions) we’ve seen up until now. One of the reasons for this, is that it’s finally being more readily accepted that when it comes to storytelling, video games is not really an inferior platform when compared to movies and books. This is an issue that Druckman and Naughty Dog are hoping to champion with their game and movie.
“I think it’s just our perception. In many ways games surpass those other mediums.
“Fatal Frame 2 is the scariest kind of experience in any medium; I haven’t seen a movie that comes close to the fear I feel when I play that game. Ico has me connecting to another character in a way that no book ever has. Likewise, a lot of games can make you feel guilt, make you take actions that you don’t necessarily want to take, but you have to in order to proceed, and that’s something a film can never do.
“Different mediums have different strengths, and games just have this bad perception that they’re slowly overcoming. One of the kind of things I’m trying to do is promote the idea that games are this compelling narrative form, just as strong as any of these other mediums.”
I’ll have to agree with several points that Druckman makes. No movie of recent memory has punched me in the gut as savagely as when I was playing Telltale Games’ The Walking Dead video game. That level of interactivity – that you’re the one initiating/performing these actions, instead of just watching somebody on screen perform them – adds a layer of emotional investment that is very hard to top. But from the sounds of it, Druckman and co are going to try and hit those heavy notes on both mediums.
Last Updated: August 12, 2014