"The Last of Us" premiered on January 15th, 2023. (HBO Max)

Arts and Entertainment

Review: HBO’s ‘The Last of Us’ makes its fascinating debut

HBO has finally released its highly anticipated "The Last of Us" adaptation, and it’s incredible.
<a href="https://highschool.latimes.com/author/aubreybertino/" target="_self">Aubrey Bertino</a>

Aubrey Bertino

February 9, 2023

After its release in 2013, the video game “The Last of Us” has gained a massive following of dedicated fans. The beautiful graphics combined with a heart-wrenching story made it an instant classic. Then, in 2020, fans of the game got amazing news from HBO: an adaptation was on its way. Being a huge fan of the games, I was ecstatic, and after years of waiting, this show does not disappoint. 

Created by Neil Druckmann, writer of the video game franchise, and Craig Mazin, most known for his Chernobyl miniseries, this show is a faithful recreation of the game down to a tee. The premise of the show is that a fungal infection without a cure is spread to the entire world, kickstarting a classic zombie apocalypse. Our protagonist is Joel Miller, a brooding, jaded man making his way through the post-apocalyptic world after suffering a great tragedy. 

Pedro Pascal does a wonderful job playing him, bringing grit and a stalwart nature to the character. He manages to show a multitude of emotions in a single glance. His character is a true survivor, willing to do whatever it takes to protect the few people he loves — and Pascal portrays this perfectly.

Our other lead is a snarky, witty, and brave young girl named Ellie. Being born into an apocalyptic world molded her into a survivor, but the curiosity of a child still managed to survive in her. BAFTA winner Bella Ramsey has perfected the duality of the character, keeping the fire in her alive while still revealing the playful nature of her character underneath. 

The show is a master at including its audience in every scene. Everything from set design and costumes to SFX absorbs you into this dilapidated world, engrossing you in the broken environment. While watching the show, a feeling of constant fear seeps into viewers through every scene. Everything about the setting is threatening, and it creates an amazing experience for those watching. 

Speaking of SFX, let’s discuss the clickers. Although these zombies can’t see, they have impeccable hearing. The recreation of these creatures is a carbon copy from the game. From the noises the creatures make to the looks of them, they are terrifying and utterly gorgeous. For previous players, the stress of fighting these creatures stays well and alive during the show, and the difficulty of killing them makes every scene with the clickers a tense adventure. 

This show has received outstanding reviews, with some calling it the best video game adaptation of all time. While the show has barely even started, so far I have to agree. The show has stayed incredibly loyal to the source material, some scenes being exact replicas from the game. Whenever beloved media is being adapted, there are always concerns from previous fans, but the pilot of this show has proven that there is nothing to worry about. The story is in good hands, and if nothing else, HBO is loyal to the game. 

The problem with many video game adaptations is how much they stray from the source material. I’m a big fan of “if it’s not broken, don’t fix it,” and The Last of Us storyline is an amazing one. HBO made the best decision they could have by sticking to what they were given, instead of trying to change a beloved story.

Bella Ramsey especially has done an amazing job bringing Ellie to life. Her personality, sarcasm, and presence are a perfect match for the character. Ramsey clearly did her homework, as even her voice is almost eerily similar to that of the original character. Along with this, Pedro Pascal is just as wonderful as Joel, fitting the archetype of the lone survivor like a puzzle piece. 

Overall, whether you are new to the story or a dedicated fan of the games, this show is something all viewers can enjoy. While I’m usually hesitant to call anything perfect, so far this show has only failed at one thing, and that’s disappointing me — I’m not-so-patiently waiting for the next episodes to air. If you have the chance, I would highly recommend giving “The Last of Us” a try. It’s not your average zombie story; it’s filled with adventure, heartache, and tense situations that will keep you on the edge of your seat. At the end of the day, it’s a story about family, and one everybody should check out.

“The Last of Us” is streaming on HBO Max now.

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