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Neil Druckmann's Update on the Movie Version of 'The Last Of Us' Is Good News/Bad News

By Petr Knava | Industry | April 6, 2016 |

By Petr Knava | Industry | April 6, 2016 |

The gamers among you will be aware of The Last Of Us, and as such the mere mention of the name should elicit a certain reaction.

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Yes, that’s the one. That’s fine. That’s natural.

For the rest of you, to describe it with something so prosaic as mere words, The Last Of Us was a game by Naughty Dog Studios for the PlayStation 3 that followed two post-apocalyptic survivors, Joel and Ellie, as they made their way across a destroyed and dangerous United States in the hopes of finding a possible cure for the virus that had decimated humankind. Part zombie-ish survival horror; part gripping adventure; and part elegiac meditation on humanity; The Last Of Us was a devastatingly beautiful and achingly well-written work of art. To this day if someone mentions a giraffe a single tear threatens to run down my cheek.

It was also a deservedly successful game.

It was only natural, then, that talk of a movie version reared its head. As a rule of thumb (and as the existence of Uwe Boll will attest) this is an often bad and unnecessary idea. Video games occupy a unique space in our cultural spectrum: rising up meteorically out of their primordial ooze they have evolved in leaps and bounds and have admired and often attempted to ape their cinematic cousins, and yet by virtue of being interactive have always retained a distinct identity of their own. The best games take the grandeur and the visual storytelling techniques from cinema and they wed this to the singular mechanics that arise from their own medium.

The Last Of Us did this perfectly, and perhaps better than any game thus far (apart from Shadow Of The Colossus), and it thus seemed even more redundant than usual when the idea of a movie version began to simmer. But when Neil Druckmann — the incredibly gifted writer-director of the game itself — was brought on to write the movie, and Maisie Williams was tapped to potentially play Ellie, well, things started to look slightly less pointless. Alas, according to a recent interview with IGN, no good production decision goes unpunished, as Druckmann relates:

I know I said in an interview a while back we had a table read, got the script to a good place and it kind of entered development hell like these things tend to do. There hasn’t been any work done on it in over a year and a half.

I don’t know how the rest of you guys feel, but this news has an odd, zero displacement effect on me: on the one hand I’m sad for Druckmann and his team that something they clearly cared about has gotten trapped in an industry quagmire, and I would’ve been very curious to see what they could’ve done with a movie version; but at the same time I was always slightly bemused about the idea of adapting one the greatest video game experiences I’ve ever had into a story that I would only be able to sit and just watch.

So: I’m not sure what to feel.

Maybe I’ll just go back and play the game again.

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Petr is a staff contributor. You can follow him on Twitter.