From the kind of noise that accompanied the leaking of plot details from The Last Of Us II, the sequel to Naughty Dog’s hit 2013 survival horror game, it’s easy to see why HBO announcing a TV adaptation of the franchise was so warmly received. Now, more details on the adaptation have emerged, including that Johan Renck is set to direct the pilot episode.
Renck has a fine directorial pedigree, having worked on Breaking Bad and the music video for David Bowie’s Blackstar, but he’s best known by far for directing HBO’s 2019 miniseries Chernobyl, which was acclaimed by audiences and critics alike and was quickly placed in best-TV-ever territory, racking up any number of awards including three Emmys and two Golden Globes.
“I’m an executive producer on [The Last Of Us] and attached to it,” Renck said in an interview with Discussing Film. “It’s an ongoing TV series. So that’s not something that I will be able to take on to that extent, but I’m part of that series and I will be directing at least the pilot.” In this he rejoins his old collaborator, Chernobyl creator and writer Craig Mazin, who was already attached to The Last Of Us as a writer and producer, and stated “Can’t wait to get out there with Johan again.”
Renck’s comment about “at least the pilot” seems to leave the door open for him to do more on the adaptation, a prospect the fanbase would likely welcome – the post-apocalyptic setting and tone of The Last Of Us is similar enough to the post-disaster horrors of Chernobyl that they could probably use some of the same sets. In a 2017 interview with Café magazine, Renck said “There are two kinds of TV projects that I still agree to do, one is television series where each episode is a separate “entity”, like Black Mirror, and the other is miniseries where you can do all the episodes, which I did with The Last Panthers” – an all-or-nothing approach which could limit him to the pilot, or see him directing the whole run.
Even if Renck is only involved with the pilot, it would start the adaptation off on very firm footing indeed. Chernobyl was characterised throughout by a pervasive bleakness and moments of exquisite, edge-of-your-seat tension, both things that fans of The Last Of Us will be more than familiar with. What’s more, the strength of The Last Of Us was not so much the actual gameplay (fairly generic stealth-based third-person-shooting) but the narrative and worldbuilding, and even Chernobyl’s critics had to grant it built a compelling world – too compelling, in the view of those who slammed it for giving an inaccurate view of Soviet life.
The adaptation of The Last Of Us is to cover the events of the original game, although in their first announcement of the adaptation Hollywood Reporter suggested that there is “the possibility of additional content” drawn from the upcoming sequel. Mazin will be co-writing with Neil Druckmann, the writer and creative director of the game, whose involvement will hopefully avoid the kind of problems that usually plague adaptations of video games.
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