Adapting modern videogames for the cinema has so far been a notoriously unsuccessful business. While Uwe Boll seems content to plumb the depths of cinematic quality with repeat offences like House of the Dead, Alone in the Dark, Postal and Bloodrayne, even the more successful of transitions have been nothing more than passable at best, while the less said about the embarrassing Street Fighter or Super Mario Bros movies the better. When the highlight of the bunch is arguably Christophe Gans’ wildly uneven Silent Hill (which at least managed to get the tone right, if little else), you know it’s generally not a worthwhile investment to put much stock in a film that’s swopping in popcorn-munching for button-bashing. The forthcoming Need For Speed, a starring vehicle (pun intended) for Aaron “Yeah, bitch!” Paul, may change that, but it’s doubtful – I’m calling it now as a pretty empty action flick, a Fast-and-Furious-lite.
So it’s with a fair amount of trepidation I can report that Sam Raimi’s Ghost House Pictures has announced its plans to adapt the 2013 Sony Playstation 3 title The Last of Us. Released by development giant Naughty Dog – earlier responsible for the incredible Uncharted series – it was one of the biggest gaming hits of the year, and with a cinematic tone and story that makes the suggestion of a big screen take seem, as they go, a no-brainer. From the official press release:
‘The rich and visceral story of The Last of Us, which was released in June of 2013, follows hardened survivor, Joel, and Ellie, a young and capable girl, on their journey through a radically transformed world. Set twenty years after an infectious pandemic spread by the cordyceps virus ravaged the course of humanity, these two people, who were brought together by chance, must make life-altering decisions in order to survive. The Last of Us explores themes of survival, loyalty, love, and redemption in an emotionally charged expedition across a post-epidemic United States.’
While this might have been an innovative experience in terms of gameplay and storytelling within its original medium, as a film concept this is hardly something we haven’t seen before. Do we really need another story of an odd couple struggling to survive in a zombie-strewn, post-apocalyptic America? Distributor Screen Gems seems to think we do. While it’s obviously too early for any casting confirmations, it’s worth noting that this game garnered a small degree of controversy upon release – namely, that actress Ellen Page accused designers of blatantly using her likeness for the Ellie character. This was likely in large part because she actually did star in a PS3 game which at that time was not yet released (Beyond Two Souls), but it’s pretty obvious she had a point. Although she loves the feisty independent young lady roles, I doubt this is one she’ll be knocking on doors for any time soon.
The creative director and writer of the game, Neil Druckmann is onboard to write the screenplay and Sam Raimi’s attachment brings further pedigree to the project, but whether this one will send audiences skulking back to their consoles – it’s still too early to tell.