With the release of Naughty Dog’s Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End earlier this year, and a definite step in the right direction having signed on director Shawn Levy after filtering through the likes of Joe Carnahan (who wrote the script) and David O. Russell, it makes sense that the company would also want to adapt its other biggest hit, The Last of Us. The recipient of over 200 hundred gaming awards and thousands of other accolades, The Last of Us is now generally agreed upon as one of a handful of “best games of all times.”
So why does the movie keep hitting a dead end? Producer Sam Raimi, who was brought on the help shepherd the film through production, had this to say, courtesy of CBR:
“Well, unfortunately that one — when we went to Neil with Ghost House Pictures we were hoping to get the rights like we do any project and then we’d take it out and sell it but we’d control the rights,” Raimi told IGN. “With this one he went to Sony — who I have a very good relationship with — but they have their own plans for it and I think Neil’s plan for it — I’m not trying to be political — Neil’s plan for it is not the same as Sony’s. And because my company doesn’t have the rights, I actually can’t help him too much. Even though I’m one of the producers on it the way he set it up, he sold his rights to Sony, Sony hired me as a producer by chance, and I can’t get the rights free for him so I’m not in the driver’s seat and I can’t tell you what Sony and Neil together will decide on. If they do move forward I’d love to help them again.”
Asked if he was still attached to produce, Raimi confirmed he is, not that it makes [much] difference at the moment. “Right now, it’s just sitting there,” he said. “They don’t want to move forward, and it’s not my place to say why, and Neil, I think, is in a slight disagreement with them about how things should go so there’s a standstill. And I don’t have the power to move it.”
This is some pretty unfortunate news for anybody who was betting on going to see The Last of Us in theaters by next year. On the other hand, video game adaptations have never really fared well with critics and audiences alike, and the inherently cinematic nature of Naughty Dog’s recent output might actually, contrary to the logical thought process, end up making the adaptation process even more difficult. The games themselves take anywhere from 6-14 hours to play in total, and while there are definitely certain scenes or missions that could be cut for time, the idea that the games are very story-based and rely on a building narrative makes it even more difficult to tell the same, or at least a similar, story in the time allotted for the average big budget film.
Even if the films ran closer to three hours, a lot of fans would be disappointed by how much of their favorite stuff had to be cut, or just how rushed everything feels. The Last of Us, in particular, is a game that requires a certain comfort with uncomfortable and unnerving silences that might pose another difficulty in that transition from game to movie. It also doesn’t help that the pressure is so high, making a film as good as the game would require literally making one of the best movies of all time, and clearing that bar seems, at this stage in development, highly unlikely.
Naughty Dog should just go the way of Grand Theft Auto, keep the games out of theaters, and focus on the quality of the product they’re releasing. The proof is in the pudding: video game adaptations, at this point in time, just do not work. The truly great cinematic games are better than movies, and make a hell of a lot more money, too, so why risk tarnishing a brand with something that’s going to probably end up sucking, and cost more than it ultimately makes back?
Images: Naughty Dog