The Last Of Us’ Success Proves This 2022 Video Game Adaptation Made 2 Fatal Mistakes

HBO’s The Last of Us success highlights how games can blend into live-action effectively. It also shows how 1 other adaptation made 2 big mistakes.

Pedro Pascal as Joel and Bella Ramsey as Ellie in The Last of Us TV series

Summary

  • The Last of Us series achieved great success by staying faithful to the game and introducing practical changes while keeping beloved moments intact.
  • The Uncharted movie’s lack of creative direction from Naughty Dog resulted in a mixed reception, despite financial success and positive audience ratings.
  • Unlike The Last of Us series, Uncharted made unnecessary changes and omitted important elements of the games.

HBO’s adaptation of the popular Naughty Dog video game The Last of Us achieved great success, proving that one other video game adaptation made two primary mistakes. The Last of Us season 1 introduced fans to Pedro Pascal’s Joel and Bella Ramsey’s Ellie with some smaller practical plot changes while keeping some of the franchise’s most beloved moments intact. Since The Last of Us season 2 is confirmed, it’s clear that audience reception is positive.

While The Last of Us did steer away from the game sometimes, it was typically for the better and didn’t detract from what fans enjoy about The Last of Us Part 1, namely Joel and Ellie’s dynamic. In fact, one of the best The Last of Us episodes was one that leaned into and changed a story arc only suggested in the game – Frank and Bill’s love story. Despite The Last of Us‘ acclaim, it doesn’t act as blanket confirmation that any and all video game adaptations can work as live-action installments. Interestingly, one other Naughty Dog title supports this.

The Uncharted Movie Didn’t Have Naughty Dog’s Creative Director (Like The Last Of Us)

Tom Holland holding his top over his mouth in front of a picture of Nathan Drake from the Uncharted games

The Uncharted movie was by no means a failure. From a financial perspective, Uncharted made a profit and was ranked the sixth highest-grossing movie based on a game (via The Numbers). Moreover, fans rated it fairly highly, with its audience score reaching 90% on Rotten Tomatoes. However, from a critical angle, Uncharted wasn’t received as well. Combined, these results highlight that the film had merit but also point to something lacking, potentially the necessary creative direction The Last of Us received.

Ellie in The Last Of Us Part 2 Game and HBO show
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Unlike The Last of UsUncharted wasn’t given the same hands-on approach from Naughty Dog or the studio’s head of creative, Neil Druckmann. The film faced development hell for over a decade before entering production. When Uncharted was optioned in 2008, Naughty Dog handed over most creative control. Druckmann himself shared, “I helped create Uncharted, but it didn’t come from me the way that The Last of Us did. If a bad version of The Last of Us comes out, it will crush me” (via The New Yorker). This involved championing the inclusion of specific plot points in The Last of Us and having him co-create the show with Craig Mazin, who created HBO’s Chernobyl.

Nathan Drake in the Uncharted game and Tom Holland in the Uncharted movie
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The Last Of Us Series Was More Faithful To Its Source Material Than Uncharted

Most likely a product of Naughty Dog’s distance on the creative direction for the Uncharted movie, details were starkly different from the games. Granted, the Uncharted movie needed to make some changes since the games were already very cinematic, but some differences were unnecessary. For instance, the Uncharted movie introduced Nathan Drake (Tom Holland) at a younger age never explored in any of the games and, similarly, Victor “Sully” Sullivan (Mark Wahlberg) was aged down. The film also re-imagined how Sully and Nathan met – at a bar instead of in Colombia trying to steal a rare treasure.

The Last of Us, on the other hand, mirrored the game’s chronology, including plot points like Joel meeting Ellie before traveling across America and Ellie defeating David. An exception was the inclusion of episode 7 based on the game’s DLC “Left Behind” which formed the basis for one episode when Joel was incapacitated after an injury. Uncharted blurring together all four games with mere nods to villains and story beats, while also ignoring other elements, was not as strong an introduction to a cinematic offshoot in the franchise. For example, Elena, who Nathan met in the first game, was not included at all.

Ellie in The Last of Us season 1 and Abby in The Last of Us Part II
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How Uncharted 2 Could Learn From The Last Of Us

Custom image of Tom Holland as Nathan Drake and Pedro Pascal as Joel Miller

Although sequel news is very scarce, the most recent Uncharted 2 update from Wahlberg confirmed the script has been written. This offers hope for a sequel, but further suggests the Uncharted movie’s popularity doesn’t compare to The Last of Us, which is already ready to start production on season 2. Thus, Uncharted‘s story should ideally focus on Sam Drake and Nathan’s relationship. One element the film handled well was setting up their dynamic, using flashback sequences of the brothers when they were kids. This would allow the franchise to draw on the teased glimpse of Sam in Uncharted‘s post-credit scene and many moments in Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End.

If development stays slow, it might help the Uncharted sequel improve upon the first film. Using inspiration from Roman’s villain arc in the first game (since he was teased in the film’s post-credit scene) and delaying production could bring Holland closer to Nathan’s age when the game franchise kicked off. Then, including Sam, Elena, and Roman would allow Uncharted 2 to follow The Last of Us‘ balance between creativity and faithfulness, since it would be a fresh way to draw on both the first game and the fourth game. This could potentially help the Uncharted film franchise taste some of the expected longevity of The Last of Us‘ TV adaptation.

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