Developer Naughty Dog’s hit video game The Last of Us was not only one of the best games released in 2013—and chosen as the Game of the Year by many, myself included—but, to put it boldly, one of the best ever we the gamers of the world have been fortunate enough to play.
Because of this, it should come as no surprise whatsoever that a movie adaptation of the game is officially in the works. Naughty Dog’s Evan Wells, Christophe Balestra, Neil Druckmann, and Bruce Straley will produce, as well as Sam Raimi through his Ghost House Pictures banner. Screen Gems will distribute the movie.
The Last of Us is primarily set 20 years after a devastating virus ended the world as we know it, turning most humans into horrifying mutated creatures and leaving the rest to do whatever it takes to survive. It follows Joel, as he attempts to get a young girl named Ellie who might hold the key to finding a cure for the infection across the country and into the hands of a group known as the Fireflies.
Instead of going out and finding a Hollywood screenwriter who’s not familiar with the game to adapt it into a movie, Screen Gems made the very wise early decision to let Druckmann, the game’s Creative Director, write the screenplay himself.
Here’s what Screen Gems president Clint Culpepper had to say about the announcement:
“Screen Gems’ Brian Dukes and Eric Ling brought this game to my attention insisting we go after it. When I saw the quality of the storytelling, I knew the audience for this project was far greater than just the gaming community and that Neil Druckmann must write the screenplay. I am thrilled that SCEA’s Riley Russell was able to get me in front of Neil and Evan Wells to plead my case. And Sam and his team at Ghost House round out the perfect team to help realize Neil’s vision.”
Wells talked about Screen Gems being a perfect fit:
“Since our game released last June, we’ve talked with many companies about making a film, but we couldn’t have found better partners who share our creative vision and high standards.”
This of course is not the first Naughty Dog game to get Hollywood’s attention. An adaptation of their hit action-adventure series Uncharted has been in the works for quite some time now, but has struggled to find the right creative team to bring it all together. It was recently announced that Seth Gordon is the latest director to try to make the movie a reality.
The best thing about Naughty Dog’s games is that they’re like playing movies, which means they’re either perfect for a film adaptation or that film adaptations of them are unnecessary (depending on who you ask). Even their trailers have played as good as or better than most movie trailers we see these days.
What may make fans of the game a bit nervous is Screen Gems’ past productions. They’re the studio behind movie franchises like Resident Evil and Underworld, so an important goal will be not letting The Last of Us become anything like those. Sure there’s vicious zombie-like infected humans in it, and it is set in a harsh, unforgiving post-apocalyptic environment, but the primary focus should be the characters and their struggle with what’s right, what’s wrong, and how to survive. Just like with Uncharted choosing a director and the right crew will be crucial. Screen Gems is a subsidiary of Sony Pictures, so in that regard they make sense for an adaptation of the PlayStation 3-exclusive game.
If the movie does get made, it will be very interesting to see how they approach it. But especially interesting will be to see how they handle the ending (the game’s ending—without spoiling anything—was extremely popular with some, and not so popular with others) and the musical score. The game has one of the best video game scores ever crafted by two-time Oscar-winning composer Gustavo Santaolalla, so you have to wonder if they’ll just use what already exists or try and give the movie its own unique score (I vote former).
Are you excited to see The Last of Us turned into a movie?