‘The Last of Us’ (Season 1)

A dystopian future as, with most of civilisation having being wiped out by a virus, a 14 year girl appears to be the only hope.

Marshall law controls the individual, heavily armed quarantine zones established to protect survivors from the infected. The mutated fungus Cordyceps resulted in aggressive, murderous creatures that are no longer human. Cities in particular were hardest hit with people forced to survive almost hand to mouth under the control of the ruthless FEDRA. Inevitably, the black market booms and, under such social control by armed troops, with it the rise of rebellious groups. The organised Fireflies is the main (armed) opponent.

Maverick smugglers Joel (Pedro Pascal) and Tess (Anna Torv) find themselves tasked with helping teenager Ellie (Bella Ramsey) out of the quarantine zone as ‘requested’ by Fireflies leader, Marlene (Merle Dandridge). But the relatively straightforward liaison at the Boston City Hall with a secondary Fireflies unit develops, instead, into a dangerous trek cross country. Ellie must reach a quarantine zone and safe place in Ohio – and Joel needs to ensure she does not fall into the wrong hands or get killed along the way.

Based on a smash hit video game, The Last of Us is a surprisingly and unexpectedly successful adaptation. In spite of its genesis as an all-action adventure, the series is sensitive to character development. Joel, still grieving the loss of his daughter in the early days of the pandemic, is steely and tough yet vulnerable. He is initially driven by the chance of being reunited with his brother, Tommy (Gabriel Luna), who is likely to be at the Ohio quarantine zone. But as the two survive everything that comes their way, so Joel comes to respect his charge.

The Last of Us is ultimately about love and loss and how to survive – yet, strangely, the most extraordinary single episode narrative is that of Bill (Nick Offerman) and Frank (Murray Bartlett). Theirs is a tenuous link to the intrepid pair but within the series, a tale of two (older) men somehow finding love within the safe confines of a fortified picket-fenced town is unlikely yet deeply affecting.

In its 10-episode season, in terms of story and plotlines, the first game is (according to those who have played the game) followed pretty closely, although the series develops and builds on some aspects. Critics to a tee agree this is the best video game adaptation ever.

Rating: 80%

‘Ghost in the Shell’

ghostinshellposterThe Hollywood whitewashing controversy casts a huge shadow on Rupert Sanders’ (Snow White and the Huntsman) adaptation of Shirow Masamune’s classic Japanese Manga. And understandably so. Casting Scarlett Johansson (The Avengers, Lost in Translation) as lead in a story and setting so overtly futuristically Asian (an amalgam of Tokyo, Hong Kong and Shanghai) makes absolutely no sense.

Advanced cyber enhancement in a world of technology has made Johansson the perfect killing machine: she’s there to rid the world of criminals and terrorists. But glitches and flashbacks are causing problems.

Ghost in the Shell looks stunning – effects, music, design. But content is sadly hit-and-miss, overly reliant on the heavy computer-generated imagery telling a heard-it-all-before storyline.

Rating: 35%

‘Assassin’s Creed’

asscreedinternationalHaving extremely low expectations meant that this was not as bad as anticipated! Don’t get me wrong, it’s still bad, wasting the talent on offer, from young Australian director Justin Kurzel (MacBeth, Snowtown) through to Oscar-winner Marion Cotillard (MacBeth, La vie en rose) and Oscar-nominee Michael Fassbender (MacBeth, Steve Jobs).

An adaptation of a best-selling video game, Assassin’s Creed‘s saving grace is the visually arresting set pieces as we move between 15th century Spanish Inquisition and modern day. But even they wear thin.

Rating: 34%