The Last Of Us Became A Series Because A Movie Wasn’t Sexy Enough?

Last of Us creator Neil Druckmann, frustrated over movie producers that wanted a big and sexy version of his hit video game, pitched a television series as a much better medium for the small-scale story.

By Danyell Marshall | Published

The last of us

Despite the mixed success of the finished films, game-to-screen adaptations continue to be announced. Video game creator Neil Druckmann told The New Yorker he instinctively feared that a Last of Us movie could not convey the full content of fifteen hours of gameplay in one feature. So Druckmann went to HBO with the idea that they could help him adapt his work for a new medium without cutting out important parts of the story.

Instead of cramming a full day of content into an hour-and-a-half theatrical experience, Druckmann proposed creating a mini-series to engage audiences with video games’ dynamic storytelling. Gaming relies on a deep level of interaction to pull players into the story. Unfortunately, screen adaptations don’t have the benefit of inviting the audience to participate in the story.

Movie audiences are passive observers of the story, which must be carefully paced and structured to achieve the same immersive feel that video games provide. Unfortunately, many screen adaptations of games fail to strike a happy medium between playing to the fans and telling a stand-alone story that makes sense within the limitations of the format. A Last of Us movie could easily fall victim to the trap of losing too much content for the sake of time.

For thirty years, filmmakers have tried to capture the essence of games for the big screen with mixed results. Big studio releases like Sonic the Hedgehog and Detective Pikachu prove that fans will turn out to see nostalgic video game characters on the silver screen, even if the film’s plot doesn’t directly connect to the franchise. Unfortunately, nostalgia may draw audiences to the box office, but they don’t guarantee glowing reviews, as Jim Carrey and Ben Schwartz both received mentions when critics picked Sonic the Hedgehog apart with a fine-tooth comb.

Pedro Pascal as Joel in The Last of Us

Hitman: Agent 47, Ratchet and Clank, Uncharted, and Warcraft are all examples of valiant attempts to bring gaming to the silver screen. 2016’s Warcraft was one of the highest-grossing video game adaptations of all time and was well-received by fans in many parts of the world, but despite this, critics were not overwhelmingly impressed with the adaptation of Blizzard’s legendary RTS. By creating a series instead of a Last of Us movie, Druckmann may make an adaptation that finally shows critics what this genre is capable of.

Turning a popular video game into a series isn’t new. From the intentionally campy Super Mario Brothers Super Show! to the dark, gritty, and popular Witcher adaptation on Netflix, games have been made into more than just movies. The serial format allows the story to unfold closer to the pacing of the source material, making it a more authentic experience.

The nine-episode Last of Us series will debut on Sunday, January 15, 2023, on HBO Max and HBO. Druckmann believes this will be the most accurate video game-to-screen adaptation audiences have ever seen. A Last of Us movie could have been great, but a nine-episode series gives the story more room to breathe, and hopefully beat the rocky odds game-to-screen adaptations face.