Grave Gamer News & Views — neil druckmann

Screens Gems is Putting The Last of Us on the Silver Screen...

Screens Gems is Putting The Last of Us on the Silver Screen

Another property is making the jump from the interactive medium to the passive viewing magic of the big screen. Screen Gems, the production studio responsible for the eight-hundred Resident Evil films released since 2002, has signed on to distribute a feature film based on Naughty Dog’s The Last of Us.

Ghost House Pictures, the studio behind horror hound movies like Drag Me to Hell and last year’s superb Evil Dead remake, is set to produce, automatically attaching famed director/producer Sam Raimi to the project. Wisely, the game’s co-director and scribe, Neil Druckmann, has been tapped to write the movie’s screenplay as well as warm up a producer’s chair. Bruce Straley, the other co-director on the game, and Naughty Dog co-presidents Christophe Balestra and Evan Wells join in on the fun in producing roles.

“Since our game released last June, we’ve talked with many companies about making a film,” said Evan Wells, “but we couldn’t have found better partners who share our creative vision and high standards. We look forward to collaborating with Sam, his team, and Screen Gems, to make a movie that will thrill fans of The Last of Us and general audiences worldwide.”

Seeing as how Sony owns Screen Gems, they were destined to handle the rights to the PlayStation 3 exclusive. Ghost House is an inspired choice to tackle the material, though their track record is spotty (more than half their ventures are B-movie horror flicks; before Evil Dead, the American Grudge films were their only totem poles… very unfortunately).

But having a veteran such as Raimi on the project, especially given his keenness toward video games – this was the man originally meant to bring World of Warcraft to theaters – and allowing Neil Druckmann and company to lord over the material are classy ass moves. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still nervous. The Last of Us may be an extremely cinematic game, but what the game gets right, which is a lot, might come off wrong translated to film. It’d also go a long way in my book if the studio that cursed us with five Resident Evil mistreatments wasn’t anywhere in spitting distance of The Last of Us, but that’s just me (obviously it’s just me since those films are the most financially successful game adaptations in history… very unfortunately).

Still, if even a modicum of The Last of Us’ powerful, affecting narrative – one that touches on loss, humanity, and hope juxtaposed against constant hopelessness – endures the transition, I think I’ll be happy. Pretty excited to see how this one plays out.

Naughty Dog Kicking Around Ideas for The Last of Us 2 Left...

Naughty Dog Kicking Around Ideas for The Last of Us 2

Left Behind, the first and final piece of story DLC created for 2013’s post-apocalyptic sensation, The Last of Us, is finally releasing next week on Valentine’s Day.

Left Behind’s tale actually pits players before the events of the main game – following the exploits of Ellie and her ill-fated bestie Riley – but writer/creative director Neil Druckmann and cohort Bruce Straley (the game’s director) are looking to the future of this potential franchise.

Of course, they may need to step away from the material for a bit. “We just wrapped up Left Behind, and Bruce Straley, the game director, and I have been doing this for over four years now,” says Druckmann, speaking to Eurogamer. “So it’s just time for a break, and to recharge the batteries.”

Still, ideas are beginning to manifest, though it sounds as if any one concept can quickly tip into a new property entirely. “We have started brainstorming some stuff. To be honest, some of them are sequel ideas, and some of them are brand new IP - we’ve spent the last few weeks brainstorming new IP.”

Ultimately, Naughty Dog is going to pursue what feels right. If it’s The Last of Us 2, awesome. If it transforms into something else, so be it.

“It’s kind of like how we approached Left Behind,” Druckmann says. “Can we tell people a story that’s really worth telling, and that’s not repeating itself? And if we can’t, where can we get inspired - what is something that’s really going to challenge us, and push storytelling in this medium forward?”

Meanwhile, with the advent of next-gen upgrades of titles like Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition, the internet’s been speculating ND would follow suit, porting an upscaled version of The Last of Us to the PlayStation 4. Neil’s answer to that was a confident… “possibly.” It comes down to a matter of resources and demand.

“It’s something that we’ll figure out as we move forward,” he said.

Production on a next-gen Uncharted for PS4 remains steadfast.

Naughty Dog: “There Are People in the Studio That Would Love to...

Naughty Dog: “There Are People in the Studio That Would Love to Come Back to These Characters”

So.  What does having one of the most widely beloved and critically acclaimed games of this generation get you?  “A sequel,” screamed every publisher on the face of the planet loud enough to sunder it.

That’d be the traditional school of thought.  Like Hollywood, the gaming industry no longer puts their chips behind one-off, difficult to market affairs.  Every time a new IP is born, publishers typically bank on it becoming an overnight franchise.  But The Last of Us isn’t your typical IP.  I saw something incredibly special and engrossing in the game and, more than apparently, I’m not alone.  It’s a unique title with an ephemeral quality I sincerely doubt a sequel could replicate.

But does developer Naughty Dog feel the same?  The game’s creative director and scribe, Neil Druckmann really doesn’t mind if a follow up never gets off the ground.  “We were very conscious that we didn’t want to leave this story dangling,” said Druckmann to PlayStation blog.  “If we never do a sequel, we’re okay with it because we told the story we needed to tell.”

Fair enough.  A masterpiece usually doesn’t finish with “To Be Continued…” (unless we’re talking about Back to the Future, but I shouldn’t even have to spout such universally known facts).  Speaking to Kotaku, however, The Last of Us sounds more like a misnomer than anything, with Druckmann stressing that this one journey – referring to the central plot set up in this game – is complete for Joel and Ellie, yet the rest of his team isn’t against further Cordyceps-tactular misadventures.

“…As far as whether we come back to Joel and Ellie or not, or whether we come back to the world or not, that’s all up in the air,” said the writer.  “I can tell you there are people in the studio that would love to come back to these characters, but the only way we would do it would be if we had something new, something meaningful to say.  Because the last thing we would want to do is repeat ourselves.”

I found the end of Joel and Ellie’s narrative deeply satisfying, but truth be told – and this is a lightweight spoiler – the finale does leave a wide enough door open for a continuation.  Does it need it?  Hell, no.  Would I be against revisiting two of the most roundly developed and engaging characters in video game history?  Hell, no.

Until The Next to Last of Us is a reality, fans of the instant classic are able to look forward to single-player DLC focusing on a side-story that Naughty Dog assures us will reveal more about the characters and the post-apocalyptic world they struggle to stay alive in.