Adapting a video game into a movie has always been a process fraught with danger. However, that hasn't scared off major studios from buying up the rights to various successful video game franchises. In the the coming years we can expect to see Assassin's Creed and Deus Ex on the big screen, but perhaps most excitingly of all, is news of The Last of Us movie.
[The Last of Us](movie:1190382), which released in 2013, very quickly snapped up a movie deal with Screen Gems back in March of this year. Luckily, it seems like the project is currently under the control of the game's original writer, Neil Druckmann, who is also handling the film scripting duties. However, it seems Druckmann is having some minor issues adapting a 15 hour long game to a 2 hour big screen experience. With this in mind, he's expecting to cut quite a lot of material. He explained to MCV:
In two hours you can't tell the same kind of story that you can in a game like The Last of Us, which is 15 hours. I'm in the middle of it now, and it's been super difficult because there's so much that happens in The Last of Us – even just in the cinematics – that can't fit in a film, let alone all the gameplay in-between and dialogue.
In order to make an adaptation possible, it seems Druckmann will be forced to severely strip down the video game in order to reduce it to its most important and basic component - the relationship between Joel and Ellie. He continued:
It almost has this novel quality as far as how much content there is, and a film works really well when it's laser-focused, so the first part of it was like: well, what is this story really about? It's clearly about Joel and Ellie. What are the most important beats that we can't lose? Start with those, and cut everything else out. It's been really difficult to cut certain things out, but what I'm starting to get this is really focused narrative that's about these two characters. Some parts will be similar to the game and some parts will be quite different, but it's kind of interesting in helping me understand this other medium and its strengths compared to video games.
As well as writing, Druckmann will also be co-producing along with Naughty Dog Co-Presidents Evan Wells and Christophe Balestra and Evil Dead and Spider-Man director Sam Raimi. Hopefully, by keeping Naughty Dog involved in the project, The Last of Us will not become another beloved video game that is bastardized by the film industry. Furthermore, the last we heard, Game of Thrones' Maisie Williams had been approached to play the role of Ellie, although that is yet to be confirmed.
With this in mind, here are five significant scenes that must be included - one way or another - in The Last of Us movie. Of course, expect major game spoilers.
That 'Opening Scene Death'
The death of Joel's daughter, Sarah, early into the game is of course a central scene in the entire narrative of The Last of Us. As well as showing the origins of the virus that wipes out humanity, it also sets the basis for Joel's later nihilism, and then ultimately, his protective and fatherly attitude towards Ellie.
Of course, this scene could simply be referred to in dialogue or with a corny battered old photo in a wallet. But I imagine Druckmann will be wanting to maintain this scene in order to give the opening of the film some emotional clout.
I'm sorry to keep it morbid, but we are talking about a post-apocalyptic world after all. When we heard major parts of The Last of Us were being cut, some fans were worried this would include various ancillary characters such as Tess, Tommy and Marlene. Although some of these characters could have their roles reduced, I think Tess should be included for various reasons. Firstly, her death could become the next emotional beat of the film, carrying Joel and Ellie's adventure into the next act and offering a crux through which their relationship can change.
Furthermore, her death can also act to upset viewer expectations. Viewers familiar with standard Hollywood flair might see Tess as the cliche movie love interest, however this expectation can be flipped on its head by killing her off and once again reaffirming The Last of Us as a gritty, desolate and unforgiving world.
Giraffes in The Last of Us
Let's get away from all the death to focus on something a bit more positive. Part way through the game, Joel and Ellie encounter some giraffes who have presumably escaped from a zoo. The peaceful scene not only provides some massive vistas, but also allows Ellie to temporally become a child again - whilst simultaneously allowing Joel to also enjoy himself for a mere moment.
The scene, in many ways, is similar to the iconic Jurassic Park moment in which Grant and the kids meet some Brontosaurs (and not only because they both feature long-necked, leaf-munching vertebrates). It allows a moment of respite between action and also gives the the characters the chance to bond, therefore increasing the emotional heft of later scenes between Joel and Ellie.
I don't think any of us doubt this important scene will make it into the movie, but I include it here just to reiterate its importance. Now, this scene could certainly be quite controversial, but it is also central to the story of Ellie and Joel.
Instead of allowing Ellie to undergo fatal surgery to uncover the secret of her immunity, Joel instead decides to break her out of the facility, saving her life, but ultimately condemning humanity. The scene, which could be extended into a climatic action sequence, shows how flawed Joel's character can be when faced with losing something he holds dear. However, having traveled with both of them for the length of the game, we find it hard to blame him. This is a dynamic that needs to exist in the film if it wants to stay true to the source material.
The Final Scene
Again, not terribly surprising, but the film version of The Last of Us should also strive to replicate the ending as closely as possible. Hollywood movies often feel the need to provide absolute closure at the end of a film, but this desire might have to be ignored in the case of The Last of Us.
The final scene sees Joel lying to Ellie, telling her there are others who are also immune. The key to this scene is Ellie's unambiguous response - it's not clear if she believes Joel or not. If the movie version feels the need to give her a strong emotional response, it could ruin the subtle subtext of the scene.
Are you optimistic for The Last of Us movie?