The Last Of Us Has Achieved A Huge Record

The Last of Us is HBO Max's second-largest debut since 2010's Boardwalk Empire.

By Jason Van Tatenhove | Updated

According to Deadline, approximately 4.7 million viewers tuned in to HBO Max this Sunday evening for the premiere of The Last of Us. It was one the most significant releases on HBO since Boardwalk Empire was released in 2010, except for the history-defying House of the Dragon last year. But is it fair to compare a video game adaptation to a spin-off of Games of Thrones? Well, maybe.

House of the Dragon was released last year to 9.9 million viewers, the largest audience for a new series in the history of cable TV. But will the initial success of The Last of Us be enough to break the Hollywood video game curse? 

From the start of video game adaptations in 1993, with the first-ever adaptation of the wildly successful Super Mario Brothers video game, the genre seems to have been cursed. The movie lost $27 million and scored a paltry 15 percent on Rotten Tomatoes.

But The Last of Us may be tailor-made to break the stigma. It seemed destined to succeed in cinematic form even before there was talk of an adaptation. In 2015, two years after the game’s release, a YouTuber named Grant Voegtle released a long-form video tribute using in-game footage that cut down on the action scenes and focused on storytelling. It went viral. 

The Last of Us wasn’t your typical video game, either. Originally released on the PlayStation 3 platform, it was remastered later for the PS4 and the PS5. It had critical acclaim for speaking to the issues of violence, trauma, hope, and found families. At its heart, the series is the story of a father who has lost his daughter and a teenager who has lost her father, who team up to navigate a world gone awry. 

The first episode takes us deep diving into the characters with whom we will travel the hero’s journey and the world they live in—starting with a TV interview that sets the stage. A pair of epidemiologists are discussing potential contagions that could wreak havoc across the globe—referring to a real-life fungus that takes over a host’s body like a puppet, creating a zombie out of the victim, foreshadowing what we should expect from the new series. 

the last of us
The Last of Us

The main storyline starts out 20 years after the collapse of civilization in a highly militarized quarantine zone. It follows the character Joel Miller, played by Pedro Pascal (the father figure) and Ellie Williams, played by Bella Ramsey, an orphaned teenager who may be humanity’s only hope for a cure from the fungal apocalypse.

At first glance, the new series will take a more literary approach to the video game storyline, focusing more on human, character-driven storylines rather than glitzy action scenes. But the question remains whether The Last of Us has what it takes to overcome the curse that video games seem to have in Hollywood adaptations.