So I just completed The Last of Us and like everyone else loved the shit out of it. It had a few problems here and there; some slight repetition and segments which were drawn out longer than they could sustain my full attention for, but there's nothing to say or review in regards to the merits of The Last of Us that hasn't already been said.
If I saw the feature length CG film of 'Final Fantasy: Spirits Within' for five pounds at the cinema when it came out back in 2001, then why is this series of CG short films eight times the price?
The longest cutscene of all time
So what The Last of Us managed to pull off was a game that told an almost 15 hour story that was both complex, thematic, cinematic, emotionally engaging and yet never allowed any of those story telling mechanics to get in the way of its gameplay, or at least as far as that can be feasibly done. The Last of Us reminded me a lot of how Bastion managed to tell its story, albeit a much simpler story with a lot less emphasis on character relationships. The voice-over narration of Bastion allowed for a story to be told whilst the player got to enjoy the game, only rarely taking control away from the player for more unavoidable periods of having to more forcefully direct the plot, namely making you talk to other characters and such.
I noticed though that whilst I was watching videos of The Last of Us on Youtube or just researching parts and secrets that I might not have noticed, that there was a lot of people who had commented how “this should be a movie” or how it “needs to be a movie”. I'm only guessing from the fact that these comments were usually highly rated that other people agree strongly that this would be a good idea. This has been the case with a lot of other stories and releases in other mediums. If something's enjoyed as a book then people prefer it to be a movie and in the case of games this is usually very common for people to want a movie of it afterwards.
But I'm not fully understanding where this comes from. It's almost as if a story or work isn't validated until it's been turned into a film. As if any other medium is just a test run for when it's to be transplanted into film form. I understand why people like things in film form. At their best films can be an intense rush of entertainment, awe inspiring and emotionally hitting pieces of art. They are also short, so you get a great experience in a short space of time. Books and television shows especially can offer similar moments of greatness, but the time investment with them is exponentially longer, ranging from days if you marathon an entire series, to years if you follow it as each subsequent series is released and inevitably drawn out for additional profits if the show becomes popular enough.
But a movie's brevity can also be it's downfall. In many ways films are the worst medium for telling a lot of stories. They're short and so have to be paced well, leaving little time for it to ever slow itself down and take a moment to examine one smaller and particular aspect of itself. In terms of characterisation and thematics, films are also weaker because you have less time to characterise relationships between characters and any themes you set up have to be explored sufficiently and wrapped up along side everything else you're trying to do in this short space of time. Characters in films are the equivalent of only spending an hour or two with someone, which in real life would lead you to not really knowing them at all. The trick of screenplay writing is to demonstrate the fundamentals of your character whilst keeping them interesting and do all that whilst also juggling every other aspect of the story telling and pacing. Whenever it's pulled off it's fantastic, but more often than not it can end with films seeming like abit of a mess or just basic at the end of it all.
Most people's complaints about book to film adaptations, or television show to film adaptations, is that when they leave the theatre, they notice how so many aspects of original work have been left out due to time constraints, with a lot of these aspects being potentially integral to the overall narrative if the film hasn't been reworked particularly well. Up until recently I would have agreed that usually books and television shows make the least sense to adapt into a film because of how much more complex and layered they can be. The problem is that films usually win out in what version people will want to see because they're concise and don't involve a lot of time investment. At the same time I can see why books also lose out in most people's eyes because they're not as visual and so not as outwardly exciting to read.
I also would've thought up until recently that games made the most sense to adapt into films. They're a strange medium because they're not solely centred around story telling but also interaction. Games are usually the equivalent of watching a film and then pausing it every few minutes in order to go and throw a ball against a wall outside for a few hours. Games are films that are wrought with distraction and so their stories and characters usually suffer because of this. As an entertainment platform, games are incredible, but in terms of storytelling more often than not they suck ass. Films should be therefore a perfect place in which to transition their basic plot lines and characters and expand them in the concentrated time frame of a movie.
But from what I've seen of a lot of recent games; namely Bioshock Infinite, Spec Ops and The Last of Us, I see that given that the company has the budget, programming skill and good enough direction, they can find away in which to both allow the player to enjoy the gameplay of a game, whilst also telling a story in the background. They do this through visual cues and passive background chat between the characters, only focusing the player's attention on certain things and maybe cutscenes if need be.
In that sense then, games are proving that given the right drivers behind the wheel, they're more equatable to television shows and books than films with distractions in them. If The Last of Us was a film, I don't think it would be as good. It may be a very good film, but it would lose a lot of the story telling techniques which made The Last of Us so moving, interesting and eventually sticks in your mind for days to come afterwards. It has a much longer time frame to develop its characters and involve you in their world. Games are regularly shat on for all the things I've said above, but they have demonstrated, or least to the extent that I've noticed it, that they are a strong medium for complex story telling.