Turning video games into movies and TV shows used to be a dark corner of Hollywood that was visited less and less as time passed, largely due to the still incredibly strange Mario Bros. movie from the early 90s. There were some downright terrible attempts at trying to make the formula work, with a few exceptions. The original Resident Evil movie was okay, Tomb Raider wasn’t all that bad either, and there have been some damn good Pokemon movies over the years.
However, it took a few hits in a short space of time for people to realize turning video games into something else can actually work almost every time. Detective Pikachu, Sonic the Hedgehog, and the Mortal Kombat reboot all contributed to that collective realization. Perhaps fearful that the bubble might burst at any moment, studios and developers the world over are busy turning as many popular video game series as they can into movies and shows. Amazon has Mass Effect, Fallout, and God of War, Netflix is adapting BioShock, and by this time next year, we will all know what the Chris Pratt Mario voice Nintendo won’t stop talking about sounds like.
There’s a potential issue with the TV shows, in particular, that has been bothering me for a while now. A big-budget video game usually takes longer to create than a show. A lot longer, in fact. Even the huge shows it feels like we are made to wait forever for between seasons like Stranger Things only tend to take two years to create, and that was lengthened by the pandemic. Yes, two years is a long time, but compare it to the wait times you’ve been subjected to between games. Seven years between The Last Of Us and Part 2, four years for a new God of War, the 15 years it took for Nintendo to finally give us Metroid Dread. Okay, that last one might not really apply to this topic, although a Metroid movie sounds real good right about now.
Simply put, unless you exclusively play FIFA and Call of Duty, you will know all too well that studios make you wait for sequels. Quite right too as a good game takes time. The problem is, if some of these accompanying TV shows are half as good as the people making them expect them to be, they will likely run for a few seasons. After a few seasons, they will have used up everything the games have to offer in terms of story. Take Game of Thrones. The show eventually caught up with the books, and even though it didn’t happen right away, that’s when things started to go off the rails.
Since it’s the upcoming show we currently know the most about of the ones mentioned above, The Last Of Us is the best one to use as a case study here. Everything we have been told about the adaptation so far assures those of us who love the game that the first season of the show is a faithful remake. Bella Ramsey, who will play Ellie on the show, said recently that TLOU fans will be very happy with what they see. It also seems nailed on that season one will follow the events of the first game.
That all sounds great in the short term. It also likely means season two will allow us to relive TLOU Part 2 in an entirely different form, probably at some point in 2025. Then what? Two seasons in, and likely long before Naughty Dog has given us Part 3, the TV show will have no story left to pull from. That will give HBO a short list of options. Wait for Naughty Dog to finish Part 3 so it can continue the TV version of the story, leave its adaptation at two seasons, or have a stab at guessing what might be coming next for itself.
If the show proves to be as popular as expected, HBO won’t want to wait for more content to push forward with a third season. It also won’t want to cancel it. That leaves moving the story forward itself, and even though the creators of the game are involved with the show, that option really doesn’t appeal to me. I love movies and TV shows as much as the next person, but experiencing a well-told story for the first time by playing through it myself simply doesn’t compare.
If HBO does push forward, and then Part 3 comes years later and is entirely different, that will also feel odd. I’ll be comparing and contrasting everything rather than simply enjoying the game. I guess you could like it to my experience with Harry Potter. I read the first five books before seeing a single movie, and once I had, the magic was gone, and not just because of JK Rowling. To this day I’ve not read the final two books, and at this point I never will. I’d hate to play the first hour of TLOU Part 3 or whatever comes after Ragnarok for God of War and feel nothing, tossing them on my ever-increasing pile of unfinished games.
There’s an incredibly precarious line to tread when it comes to all of these adaptations. Future projects could take the Paramount Halo route and pull from the games, but not retell the stories that they have already told. Or, they can take the same route as TLOU and faithfully retell the amazing stories that have already been told through the games for what will almost definitely be a much wider audience. HBO’s TLOU will benefit from it in the short term, but both the show and any future games in the series could run into issues a few years from now.
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