Don’t get your feathers ruffled yet. It actually makes perfect sense. HBO’s “The Last of Us” tv series adaptation will be dialing back on the violence of a world overtaken by cordyceps. Violence will be shown only when necessary, and it won’t be nearly as graphic as the game. The reason being the game’s brutality was used as a vehicle for players to inhabit the character of Joel. An adaptation for television needs a level of passivity to create the intensity of a threat.
“We need a certain amount of action, or violence, that we could use for mechanics so you could connect with Joel and get into a flow state,” Co-president of Naughty Dog and series co-creator Neil Druckmann told SFX Magazine. “Then you would really feel like you’re connected with this on-screen avatar and you’re seeing the world through his eyes.”
Some of the best films or TV series spend a good long time building up unease in viewers until reaching a peak. It’s textbook for any story writer. Initially, your introduction to the cordyceps-infected humans in the video game is nerve-wracking and tense. And some of the stealth portions of the game certainly make you nervous. But after 10 hours of gameplay, you’re used to it. It’s no longer threatening, it’s just a challenge to puzzle out.
Less violence could mean less action, and more time to spend with and learn about the characters. “HBO’s been great in pushing us to move away from hardcore action to focus more on the drama of the character. Some of my favorite episodes so far have deviated greatly from the story, and I can’t wait for people to see them.” Druckman told IGN previously.
This might be an instance where a deviation from the story helps to fill a few gaps. Players get background wandering through levels while characters have snippets of conversation. But for television, characters will need times of passivity and calm to build relationships.
Given how strong the characters of the game already are, this actually seems like a shrewd and effective formula for bringing it to TV.
“The Last of Us” is set to hit HBO Max on January 15th, 2023.