There is a reason why The Last of Us continues to thrive on HBO Max. Apart from showrunners Neil Druckmann and Craig Mazin sticking to their end of the bargain in their promise of a game-accurate depiction of the Naughty Dog video game, The Last of Us is successful due to its episodic release. Now, why does that matter?
Druckmann was initially offered by Sony’s Spider-Man director Sam Raimi himself in adapting the game into a two-to-three-hour movie. Unfortunately, Druckmann believed that a mere two- to three-hour film would suffice in telling the story of Joel and Ellie on screen, which eventually led him to meet Chernobyl creator Craig Mazin. Despite Druckmann’s immense trust on Raimi, he couldn’t trust Sony in their vision of how over 17 hours of The Last of Us game would appear in their film.
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“As good as it was, it was never gonna be a great movie,” Jeffrey Pierce, who played Tommy Miller in the video game and Kansas City rebel Perry on the HBO show, claimed on Entertainment Weekly, “In a two-hour runtime, how are you gonna tell 14, 17 hours of story? Then I think that there was some conversation about it maybe being an animation motion-capture movie series at some point, and that seemed like a good idea, but we’ve been down that road.”
Despite having read the script Sony’s Screen Gems prepared for Tommy’s part in a secretive read-through for the scrapped movie adaptation, Pierce voted all the more for the Druckmann and Mazin tandem: “The second that I heard Neil [Druckmann] and Craig [Mazin] had lunch together, I knew that the two of them were gonna make something just about perfect.”
It was definitely good riddance to another hit-and-miss animated video game adaptation. As Pierce said, “We’ve been down that road”, pretty much indicates how less likely its success would be today, unless Druckmann and Mazin were on board with it. Thanks to the showrunners, The Last of Us even landed a Season 2 renewal ahead of Season 1’s ending!
Meanwhile, The Last of Us Episode 5 is now available to stream on HBO Max.