The Last Of Us HBO – The DVDfever Review – Sky Atlantic – Pedro Pascal, Bella Ramsey

The Last Of Us HBO The Last Of Us HBO is how – for SEO purposes – I’m referring to the new series that’s coming out next week HBO and Sky Atlantic, a TV series adaptation of the 2013 Playstation game, starring Pedro Pascal and Bella Ramsey.

This is a series I’ve been very sceptical of ever since I first heard about it, since the videogames – the first, in particular – are amongst my favourites of all time. When you get involved in the story and the lives of the characters and all the perils they go through, it’s difficult to see and hear something different.

So, I’ll get into aspects of the first episode, but I’ll avoid spoilers, assuming that not everyone reading this has played the first game (let alone played through the entire thing, as it can last from 20 to 40 hours depending on how much you want to do within it), so I’ll attempt to get across some changes you’ll come across between this and the game, but still avoid revealing anything you wouldn’t want to know until you come across it for the first time, whether in the game or series.

I may go into more detail about each episode later, but only once the respective episodes have been broadcast, and would add the content in behind a spoiler header so you can’t trip over it accidentally.

So, for the opener, the first thing you see is something brand new, and like any additionally-created scenes, I don’t know if this was part of the original lore or just hasn’t shown up until now, but we begin in 1968 with a TV discussion about a pandemic virus potentially happening, with two epidemiologists, one being played by John Hannah, talking about how viruses can make us ill, but fungi can alter our mind and tell us what to do, where to go and control us, with the potential happening if the Earth got warmer (uh-oh, a global warming thing… and there was me thinking it was only Channel 4 News and the BBC which had the monopoly on such scaremongering nonsense).

Then, with timeframes changing, such that the series proper starts in 2003 (rather than 2013 for the game), we’re also introduced to Joel and Sarah on the morning of Day Zero, but this is all leading up to the evening at the point when the actual game STARTS – albeit the first scene in the game taking place at ten-to-midnight, and in the TV show, it’s 10pm and she presents him with a present for his birthday. (identical to the game’s first scene). However, this time round, one of his gifts is a DVD of Curtis And The Viper 2, the game referenced by Ellie to Dina in the second game while they’re on a recce, as a film she’s going to suggest that she and Joel watches back at the compound, since he’s into cheesy ’80s action movies. Now, it’s Sarah who first brings this up.

I will also add that the early morning scene features a clip of Sarah in school, but as it’s 2003, they have to suffer a fate worse than zombies – having to put up with a picture of George W Bush on the wall!

Seriously, though, and again, I don’t want to give spoilers, so I’ll just say – if it looks like not a lot is happening in the foreground, also keep one eye on the background…

We still see the same in-car camera as Joel drives Tommy and Sarah in search of safety, and beyond that, without giving spoilers for anyone who hasn’t played the game, all I’ll say is that the first 30 minutes of the first episode are largely faithful to the game’s opening chapter, before we see “Twenty years later“.

The Last Of Us HBO Series Spoiler-Free REVIEW! – HBO/Sky Atlantic – DVDfeverGames

At this point, the game shows us a conversation between Joel and Tess, whereas the TV series sees the cops dealing with a young girl they’ve chanced upon, who’s out walking on her own. It’s not Ellie, but it does lead into Joel and Tess’ introduction in 2023.

In fact, like a number of characters, Jess also gets an early introduction when she’s talking to Robert about getting a truck battery, rather than speaking to Joel and how they need to go and see him.

Similarly, in another scene not in the game, we’re introduced to Ellie who’s chained up for reasons not yet explained – unless you’ve played the game and know what makes her unique. However, in the game, we don’t see Ellie until Joel’s been to see Marlene and is tasked with taking her to the Fireflies, who offer humanity a chance for salvation.

But these intros for the two female characters give us a bit of extra backstory to chapter 2, before the game would normally tell us time has moved on to “20 Years Later” (’20’, not ‘Twenty’), before it moves on with the plot.

Oh, and then another intro, this time for Marlene, with one of her staff asking why she has a girl locked up in her room, who responds about where they’re planning to take her, but without explaining why – to us dear viewers, at least. Naturally, if you’ve played the game, you’ll know why. There’s also a subsequent discussion between Marlene and Ellie, but the former makes reference to Riley, who you’ll have seen if you’ve played the DLC from the first game, Left Behind. As always, I’m having to omit plot details which non-gaming viewers won’t know about.

Flicking through some of the early chapters in the game, these additional scenes means that rather than the series lasting forever and ever, it will cut down time so it can advance the events on a little bit, so for example, it doesn’t show me spending forever looking for spare ammo on the ground. An hour of that would have people fast-forwarding in their droves.

The Last Of Us HO – Trailer & Cast Images REACTION – HOT TRASH?!

But now let’s get onto the massive elephant in the room… the casting. Oh, boy…. I’ve certainly mentioned this a time or two in my videos, here, but let’s be brief so as to save my fingers.

Ellie in the videogame version of The Last Of Us is more likely to drown any baddies in the game, or shoot them in the face, but for the show, Bella Ramsay, doesn’t look like she’ll hurt a fly. Apparently, over 100 young women were auditioned for this role, so I can’t believe there weren’t any actresses who actually looked more like her and/or were a lot more suitable.

And then we move on to Joel, changing from Texan to Chilean… no, wait, it turns out ‘Joel’ is from Texas after all. But actor Pedro Pascal is from Chile, whereas the original videogame actor, Troy Baker is from Texas. Yes, he’s not a big name, but seeing his picture on Wikipedia, he could be dolled up to be Joel. In fact, Pedro even says, as Joel, that he’s from Texas, but he certainly doesn’t sound it. Why not just get an actor who can do a Texan accent? Like… Troy Baker? Hmm…

Gabriel Luna, as Tommy, was actually born in Texas, but doesn’t seem at all how I’d envisage Tommy after the game.

Anna Torv, as Tess, is fine, though, and for Marlene, Merle Dandridge is the original videogame actress, so she’s technically the best casting here. Now, for Ellie, in case you’re not aware, she’s voiced in the game by Ashley Johnson… who is almost 40, so she wouldn’t pass for a 14-year-old girl any more than I would. And I’m a man!

But we still have one more character left to discuss… Sarah. She’s changed from a white girl, aged around 10 to 12, to a black 18-year-old (played by Nico Parker). Doesn’t make a lick of sense. Ok, technically, you could argue that the best thing about Channel 5’s Anne Boleyn drama was Jodie Turner-Smith in the titular role, but while she’s a great actress, the rest of the show wasn’t up to much, so it seemed less of an issue. Here, the change is just too ridiculous and I’d love to know the thinking behind it.

The Last Of Us HBO Series – First Teaser REACTION!

Early on, there’s lots of walking around and plot exposition, which works in the game because you have to look around and work out where to go next, such as when there’s a blockage on the path. Since it’s fiction, there’s always a way to get from A to B, unlike reality. Then again, in games, sometimes even a small mound of grass can fox a character, whereas in reality, you’d just step up onto it.

Doing a game to TV or movie conversion rarely works, which makes you wonder why people still bother. Do you know which is the only really successful one, in my eyes? 2018’s Rampage. As for why, I’ll let you read that review on my website which I’ll link below, but, hey, at least for this one, the music comes from the same man – Gustavo Santaolalla – and they use the same Clicker sounds from the game!

Oh, and nothing beats trying to get past the Clickers in the game by yourself, though, including one underground scene where the room’s completely full of them, as well as a Bloater, but if you manage not to disturb them, you can actually sneak right past them. And sneak slowly… since unlike most zombies, Clickers are the worst to deal with. You can’t just simply punch them in the face and run off, they generally take a few shots to the head before they finally capitulate. And ammo is usually scarce.

One of the items you’d find and use in the game, and which also comes up here, is the use of rolls of tape. Unlike real life, in this programme, it doesn’t take 100 tries to pick at the end of the tape before you can actually use it.

Some things that are nice to see (albeit a bit grim) is the cordyceps wrapping around a corpse when someone dies. That’s not something you’d concentrate on in the game because you’re too busy trying to save yourselves, but here, the camera is allowed to linger. So, hey, a plus!

Also, it’s fascinating to see the city and the depiction of the zombies – including an image which was shown online some time ago, with the two skyscrapers where one has crashed into the other at an angle, in a scene from the game – but…. every time the camera cuts back to Mr Pascal or Ms Ramsey, and my suspension of disbelief is unsuspended again.

Y’know, towards the end of the opener, Pedro does try to make his voice sound a bit more gruff, but he still isn’t Joel. And I think it was in episode 3, I heard him sound a lot more like Joel, but as soon as I watched episode 4, it all went out the window. I have since come to the end of the series, but… well, I’ll add more in-detail thoughts about each episode after they’ve been individually broadcast.

I still can’t get over how some of the casting is so unfortunate. While I’ve gone through the first game in full twice, along with a few chapters of the remake, I’ve been just as affected with the opening chapter in every single version. However, when it comes to this TV show, this is not the case and I was left cold. YMMV.

However, do you know who DOES work in this series? Nick Offerman as Bill, a friend of Joel’s, and Murray Bartlett as Frank, and if you’ve not played the game, you’ll learn about their characters before too long.

The 2013 game – in original PS3, remastered PS4 and remade PS5 flavours – is, as I’ve mentioned, one of my all-time favourite games. The chemistry between Joel and Ellie is beautiful, and while I’ve mentioned the two lead actors for that game already, it’s pleasing that both are getting small roles in this actual series – as has already been confirmed online. I won’t go into detail about who they play, however, but once each episode ends, I may go into more detail, as previously mentioned, with added spoiler banners.

As an aside, there’s also an issue for some that there are no spores in this series. Perhaps because that would cause the actors to have their faces covered while wearing masks, but then there’s tendrils instead, which it appears were already a part of the game – as the video below shows. That said, there’s a number of issues with the series anyway, which I’ll get into as it goes on, each of which will air after the episode has ended, and EXPECT SPOILERS WITHIN!

UPDATE Episode 1:

For my first episode update, I made a video for this, which you can see below:

UPDATE Episode 2:

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UPDATE Episode 3:

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UPDATE Episode 4:

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UPDATE Episode 5:

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UPDATE Episode 6:

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UPDATE Episode 7:

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UPDATE Episode 8:

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UPDATE Episode 9:

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Thanks to our friends at Sky for the screener prior to release.

NOTE: Original review post after ep.1 on January 10th 2023 at 3.00am, then updated weekly as per the embargoes.

The Last Of Us HBO is not available to pre-order on Blu-ray or DVD, but is on Sky Atlantic from Monday January 16th at 2am, and it’ll be a weekly series.

The Last Of Us HBO – Official Trailer | HBO Max

Detailed specs:

Running time: 45-85 minutes per episode (9 episodes)
Release date: January 15th 2022
Studio: Sky Atlantic/HBO
Format: 2.00:1

Series Directors: Ali Abbasi, Jeremy Webb, Neil Druckmann, Peter Hoar, Liza Johnson, Craig Mazin, Jasmila Zbanic
Producer: Cecil O’Connor
Developers: Neil Druckmann, Craig Mazin
Writer: Neil Druckmann, Craig Mazin
Music: Gustavo Santaolalla

Joel Miller: Pedro Pascal
Ellie Williams: Bella Ramsey
Tommy Miller: Gabriel Luna
Marlene: Merle Dandridge
Perry: Jeffrey Pierce
Theresa ‘Tess’ Servopoulos: Anna Torv
Frank: Murray Bartlett
Bill: Nick Offerman
Anna Williams: Ashley Johnson
Kathleen: Melanie Lynskey
Riley Abel: Storm Reid
Sarah Miller: Nico Parker
Henry: Lamar Johnson
Sam: Keivonn Woodard
Head Stuttering Passenger: Kevin Sateri
Young Firefly Solider: Riley Davis
Robert: Brendan Fletcher
James: Troy Baker
Marlon: Graham Greene
Infected Girl: Marlee Grace Becker