Video game movies aren’t even a punchline any more. At this point, it’s simply an accepted fact that the majority of them aren’t very good. Sure, there might be exceptions; Resident Evil has had an improbably successful run at the box office, although those films have little to do with the games they’re based on, and Raúl Juliá steals the show as M. Bison in Street Fighter. However, both of those films trade solid storytelling for low-budget, campy charm, and they’re considered among the “best” of their ilk. The message is clear: Hollywood doesn’t take video games very seriously.
And for a while, that may have made sense. Super Mario Bros. is a great game, but it doesn’t have much of a plot to hang a film on. However, games are changing, and the medium that used to relegate story to the back of instruction manuals is quickly relying more and more on an underlying narrative. Unfortunately, major studios haven’t caught on yet (remember when Uncharted was going to be a family drama starring Robert DeNiro?).
As such, it’s easy expect the worst when the The Last of Us screenwriter says that the film adaptation of Naughty Dog’s 2013 blockbuster will have “some big changes.” After all, The Last of Us blew audiences away with its deep, mature storytelling, and is often held up (alongside The Walking Dead and Gone Home) as one of the recent examples of just how powerful video game narratives can be. Thankfully, there’s a silver lining: the screenwriter in question, Naughty Dog’s Neil Druckmann, didn’t just work on the The Last of Us, but both wrote and directed it.
Nobody knows The Last of Us better than Druckmann, and his presence at the heart of the film adaptation should ensure that the project remains faithful “in tone and story,” if not in plot specifics. Druckmann says that he recently finished a second draft of the script, and that he held a table read with “a bunch of actors,” which went well. Druckmann doesn’t specify whether those actors are in consideration for the final film or not.
Other than Druckmann’s involvement, there’s not much information out there about The Last of Us. The film doesn’t have a director, although Sam Raimi (the man behind the Spider-Man and The Evil Dead trilogies) is involved in some capacity. Game of Thrones star Maisie Williams confirmed that she talked to Raimi about playing Ellie, the game’s female lead, although nothing official has been announced.
Even if The Last of Us gets stuck in production hell – or worse, comes out and flops – the production marks a significant shift in Hollywood’s attitude. For the first time, the creators aren’t just involved in the adaptation, they’re driving the entire process. With Druckmann taking an active role, it seems possible that The Last of Us could do for video game movies what it did for video games themselves: proving to the world that game stories can stand toe-to-toe with other, non-interactive narrative formats.