Last month, we were bestowed an impressive and gritty cinematic zombie experience. No, it wasn't World War Z. It was The Last of Us. A rare game that was both critically and commercially acclaimed, The Last of Us possesses that elusive combination of a compelling story, compelling characters and compelling gameplay.
It also draws some of its inspiration from the film world, and even though the film version of Naughty Dog's other hit franchise, Uncharted, has been languishing in development for some time, it's not a stretch to imagine that things will one day come full circle for The Last Of Us. But to do it justice as a film would require that elusive combination of the right director, the right cast and the right screenwriter.
In this second instalment of Geek Nation, we take a look at what a The Last of Us feature film might look like.
Directing The Last of Us
Any filmmaker that tackles a project like The Last of Us needs to be capable of balancing the bombastic and the quieter moments. They need to deliver spectacular action set pieces (like the explosive sequence near the beginning of the game), yet have the finesse to handle the disturbing horror of a Clicker attack and the intense human drama of a world gone to Hell.
Guillermo Del Toro is an easy pick as director. He's taken a recent turn into more action-oriented films (Blade II, Hellboy, Hellboy II and Pacific Rim), but he's best known for his horror dramas (The Devil's Backbone and Pan's Labyrinth) and uniquely disturbing creature designs (hello, Clickers, anyone?). Not to mention, the maws of the Reapers in Blade II actually remind us of Clickers.
Or consider Park Chan-Wook. His Vengeance Trilogy is a showcase of his prowess in delivering inventive action sequences (see Oldboy's side-scrolling hallway fight), suspense and gut-wrenching drama; and his horror film, Thirst, was a visceral and disturbing take on Vampire mythology. His first foray into English language features, Stoker, offers more proof that his distinctive style knows no cultural bounds.
Then there are frequent Joss Whedon collaborator Drew Goddard and Neil Marshall. Goddard is a veteran of the horror/survival genre, having worked on Cabin in the Woods, Cloverfield, World War Z and Lost. His take on a The Last of Us film adaptation would be something to consider. Neil Marshall made a splash with his debut horror film, Dog Soldiers, and went on to impress with the suspenseful The Descent. The subterranean creatures in that film were so genuinely creepy and terrifying that we have faith he'd do the Clickers and Bloaters justice. And although his subsequent film, Doomsday, didn't fare as well, it still gives us a good idea of what his take on a post-apocalyptic society might look like.
Casting The Last Of Us
As a grieving father and gruff survivalist, Joel needs to be portrayed by an actor who can not only tread that line between sensitive and tough but can also pull off an awesome Movember beard (seriously). Game of Thrones' Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Gerard Butler or Joel Edgerton seems like a good pick for the role. All of them can play the tortured soul and you can believe they'd be man enough to fight off a bear.
Likewise, the actress behind Ellie needs to be able to play both vulnerable and tough, as the situation demands. Not tough enough to fight off a bear, but tough enough to kill someone if it came to self defense. Plus, she needs to be able to swear like a sailor. She doesn't have to be 14 years old either. We can take some liberties with the character's age. Juno Temple (Killer Joe), Elizabeth Olsen (Martha Marcy May Marlene) or Chloë Grace Moretz (Hick) would be an excellent choice.
|Ellie come to life (From L to R: Juno Temple, Elizabeth Olsen and Chloë Grace Moretz)|
Round out the cast with Rosario Dawson as the Fireflies' leader, Marlene, Jason Clarke as Joel's brother, Tommy, Carrie-Anne Moss as Tess and Sam Rockwell as the villainous David, and you've got yourself a picture. While we're at it, let's find some roles for Bryan Cranston (as Bill), Clifton Collins Jr. (as James) and Michael Shannon (as any ol' bad-ass).
Writing The Last of Us
Finding a scribe who can communicate the nuances of a character drama through a multi-layered horror script is perhaps the trickiest of all. Without a good story, everything else falls apart. Our top pick here is definitely Alex Garland. Not only did he pen 28 Days Later, one of the insprirations for The Last of Us, but he also gave us the excellent (though commercially unsuccessful) Dredd reboot last year, and he wrote the script for the acclaimed videogame, Enslaved: Odyssey to the West. He understands horror, action and videogames, so he has the chops to craft a film adaptation that stays true to the core of the game.
Reality vs. Fiction
But will a film adaptation of The Last of Us ever see the light of day? Comic and graphic novel adaptations have enjoyed great success recently, but videogame adaptations (outside of the ongoing Resident Evil series) haven't been quite as bankable (see Hitman, Max Payne and the Wing Commander film from years ago). An Assassin's Creed film is our next best hope. Even other mega IPs like Halo and Bioshock haven't been as lucky. Clearly, Hollywood hasn't yet figured out the proper treatment for these films. But The Last of Us is a different beast. Cinematic, gritty and more grounded in reality than most games, it would translate easily to the big screen ... with the right talent.
Follow this author, Ben Mk, on Twitter @BenMkWrites