Video Games: Upcoming Live Action Projects

Screenshot of Joel (Troy Baker) and Ellie (Ashley Johnson) in ‘The Last of Us’. Copyright goes to Naughty Dog and Sony Entertainment.

Hey! Hallie here!

Recently we got some major news about two different video game franchises getting adapted to live action formats. The first is ‘The Last of Us’ which is getting an entire series on HBO. The second is a ‘Borderlands’ movie from director Eli Roth. Adaptations of video games have been notoriously bad on most occasions, so there’s definitely reason to be skeptical of both projects. But one of these is looking much more dismal than the other so far. Of course, I hope both of these do well. But many video games fans know that one of them being good, let alone both, is a lot to hope for. So let’s go through each project and see what the newest attempts at bringing video games to other media formats will look like.

‘The Last of Us’:

One of the most promising things about this series is that Neil Druckmann, the creative director for the game, is the co-writer for the show. The other writer is Craig Mazin, the writer for the show ‘Chernobyl’. I’m not familiar with the show, but I do know that it was a dramatic retelling of the events that occurred after a nuclear plant disaster. That seems to align pretty well with the events of ‘The Last of Us’. The difference between a real life disaster and a zombie apocalypse is large, but the ideas behind showing characters realistically react to tragedy aren’t so different. As of now we only know the director for the first episode, Kantemir Balagov, a Russian director. I’m not familiar with his work either, but he also seems to be more interested in the character-driven dramas that align with a plot as bleak as this one.

Our two main characters have already been given actors as well. Joel will be played by Pedro Pascal, who seems to be making a lot of money playing disgruntled dads. I’m not complaining. He’s very good at being both endearing and badass, which is essential to Joel. I also like that they decided to go a different route than the typical southern white man. Ellie will be played by Bella Ramsey. I’m not a ‘Game of Thrones’ fan, so I can’t speak on the work she’s done so far. I can say that I’m extremely happy they cast someone around Ellie’s age, rather than an older actress pretending to be young. Ellie’s somewhat childlike nature is one of the brightest parts of the original game and no one can pull that off better than an actual teenager. The story of ‘The Last of Us’ relies a lot on player interaction. The harrowing experiences you feel while playing as Joel, and sometimes Ellie, make you feel closer to both characters and sympathize with what they’re going through. After all, you as the player are going through the same experiences. It’s an instant connection that no other form of media can pull off. My main concern for this show will be making the viewers just as invested as the game does. The team looks great so far, however, so I have higher hopes for this one.

‘Borderlands’:

Oh boy. To be honest, this one doesn’t look so good as of now. Eli Roth will be directing it, which doesn’t exactly convince me of much. He’s mostly known for horror, and while ‘Borderlands’ is gory, that isn’t exactly the point of the game. As someone who hates horror. I’m, unsurprisingly, unfamiliar with his work. Because of that, I can’t say I have any strong feelings about this choice. Only that I don’t see anything he’s done so far that proves he’s well suited to make this movie. Also, based on the cast, I’m not certain what, if any, ‘Borderlands’ story he’s going for. The announced “main characters” as of now are the characters who took leading positions in the first game. But the first game has a notoriously lackluster plot. And I think I can speak for most fans when I say I really want to see Handsome Jack on the big screen, who doesn’t appear until the second installment. I guess we’ll see what Eli Roth has up his sleeve at a later date. My main concern right now is the cast. Firstly, it’s star studded in the way we’ve seen random stars thrown together to make a couple extra bucks before. Hollywood does this often, and it doesn’t often work out. Secondly, most of the stars cast so far don’t seem particularly suited to their roles.

Cate Blanchet has been cast as Lilith, and while she’s definitely a badass, Lilith is different kind of badass. Lilith is blunt, sometimes rude, sarcastic, and grungy. She’s also portrayed as being, at most, in her early thirties. This means that Cate Blanchet will be tackling a type of character we don’t often see her as, and the movie will be aging said character up so she can better fit the actress. Next Jack Black was cast as the voice of Claptrap. I love Jack Black. I don’t see his voice being particularly suited to the nasally, purposefully-annoying voice of claptrap. He can be loud and obnoxious, much like Claptrap is, but there’s a line that Claptrap walks between an adorable idiot and a frustrating asshole that doesn’t really make me think of Jack Black. I almost wish John Mulaney could have tackled this role, if I’m honest. Roland is my biggest problem. Roland is the Captain America of ‘Borderlands’. He’s a himbo who can’t say no when anyone asks him for a favor. He’s a brave man who embodies, more than any other character, the appearance of a hero. Kevin Hart is not that. Kevin Hart has never played that. I don’t see how this even mildly makes sense. Tannis is the only character I think was done any justice when it comes to casting. Jamie Lee Curtis has played a badass and she’s played a conceited woman who doesn’t like other people. Tannis is both. It seems like the best fit in the cast so far. Once again, these are just my concerns. I could be completely proved wrong once the movie is released. But, as of now, I’m very concerned about what I’m seeing. It feels like the characters are being made to fit the cast rather than the cast fitting the characters, which is never a good sign.

These are my thoughts about the recent video game announcements. I’m keeping my expectations for ‘The Last of Us’ low as of now. But I can’t help but be excited by both the incredible casting and the involvement of Neil Druckmann. ‘Borderlands’ can’t boast a fitting cast or the involvement of the original creative team. My expectations are pretty low, but I sincerely hope it exceeds them. I really want some form of media to break the video game adaptation curse that has plagued Hollywood and frustrated gamers for years.

Don’t do anything fun until I get back!

Hallie

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