How the zombie apocalypse turned into a captivating drama
Even the wildest expectations from the public’s reaction to the series “The Last of Us” do not reflect the excitement that is developing around the project. More than ten million people have already seen the first two episodes in one day of the show, the show was extended for a second season, and the characters of the project were turned into anime. “MK” is trying to understand what is so special about this series.
The series is based on the computer game of the same name, which became a global hit. Perhaps such popularity allows the creators of the adaptation to do without long explanations about what the series will be about, but at the same time, the intention to transfer a computer game to the screen can become and regularly becomes a reason for a surge of jealousy and indignation among gamers who are very suspicious of any attempt to interpret their favorite entertainment.
There is a fundamental difference between a computer game and a movie. Despite the general visual form, in the game you control the character, and in the movie you just watch how he solves his problems. These are different forms of excitement and, of course, different perceptions. In the game, you fight zombies and try to survive in the coming end of the world; in the movie, you have the opportunity to form your own opinion about the set of actions and motivations of the characters, and also evaluate the acting.
We can say that the main creators of the series have formed just the same in an ideal tandem. Showrunner Craig Mazin (“Chernobyl”) got Neil Druckmann, the creator of The Last of Us, as an associate, and given that no one slammed the door in the process, the result apparently suited everyone.
The first episode of the series lasts eighty-five minutes, and during this more than respectable time, the creators managed to show in detail how the familiar world turns into ruins, and the characters find themselves in completely new conditions. The action begins with a dive into 1968 and a scene in which two scientists talk about a very possible epidemic that could completely change life on the planet during a television interview.
Thirty-five years later, in 2003, Iraq War veteran Joel (Pedro Pascal) leads a rather quiet life in Boston, unaware of how quickly the calm turns into chaos. A deadly fungus virus has spread like a hurricane, turning infected people into zombies. Twenty years later, the cardioceps settled almost everywhere, enveloping the planet in a single “nervous” system, to which both zombies and living branches of the fungus are “connected”. Survivors hide behind huge walls, where lawlessness and military dictatorship reign. Joel lives in one of these clean zones, smuggling and gets a chance to get behind the barbed wire to lead across the country to the camp of the rebels fighting for the old democratic norms of life, the girl Ellie (Bella Ramsey), who has developed immunity to the virus.
The pilot episode was supposed to be directed by Russian director Kantemir Balagov, but during the course of work he left the project and was replaced by Craig Mazin. Nevertheless, several scenes of Balagov, namely, the heroes escaping from the city by car and the plane crashing, still made it into the final version and look very convincing.
In addition to Balagov, Russian cameraman Ksenia Sereda (Chernobyl, Dylda, Mom, I’m Home, Call DiCaprio and other projects) was involved in the work on the series, and she completely filmed at least the first two episodes. Even critical gamers noted that visually, the series is very close to the game. And viewers far from the world of computer games see what is happening on the screen not so much as a zombie horror or post-apocalyptic horror movie, but as a drama of heroes who are in mortal danger.
And the picture of the series, despite the fact that zombies appear in the second series in all its glory, is more human. Ksenia Sereda’s camera often takes close-ups and medium shots, and this brings the audience closer to the characters, the documentary style, hand-held “trembling” shooting add disturbing sensations, claustrophobic scenes convey horror and despair much better than rich special effects.
Many have not yet let go of the memories of the covid lockdown, when going out for food or to walk the dog, we saw a deadly zombie in everyone we met, especially if he was without a mask. And these associations make the emotions of the characters of the series understandable in many respects. It is probably almost impossible to convey the entire dynamics of a computer game by transferring its action to the cinema format, however, the creators of The Last of Us managed to do something more important, namely, to turn the characters of the game into real ones of us, that is, into people who can be scared, but who do not leave hope.
The success of the series is likely to further increase the interest of producers in computer games. The other day it became known that the British actress and screenwriter Phoebe Waller-Bridge (Fleabag) is writing a script for the series based on the game Tomb Raider. Fans of the adventures of the tomb raiders are probably already tense.