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Why Fallout beats The Last of Us at its own game

Why Fallout beats The Last of Us at its own game


One of the governing laws of cultural criticism is that you can't write about a video game adaptation without mentioning that video game adaptations suck. And then, when To fallPrime Videos' eight-episode version of the beloved video game franchise, released last week, we duly read that To fall it's pretty good for a video game adaptation. No wait, that’s good in itself! In fact, we shouldn't be surprised, because do you remember how The last of us was? He won Emmys! Real rewards! Maybe video game adaptations are good now. Maybe To fall is a masterpiece?

A little break for those, like me, who did not know the world of To fall. It's like our world, just a few centuries from now. There was also a devastating nuclear explosion, meaning that some people known as Vault Dwellers are now living underground in sophisticated bunkers. Lucy (played by Yellow jackets former Ella Purnell) is one such vault dweller. After an ambushed wedding night, her father Hank (former actor and social media sensation Kyle MacLachlan) is kidnapped and Lucy has no choice but to venture out of her protected environment to retrieve him. It is there that she is exposed to an apocalyptic landscape: a land of giant cockroaches, undead cowboys and dark cults. Will this girl with the clean hair and nape of her neck survive? You wouldn't bet against her. She is courageous !

To fall is entertaining. Purnell has the right mix of innocence and toughness for the role. The supporting cast, including Sarita Choudhury as a menacing villain and Aaron Moten as an ambitious knight (look, I never said it wasn't silly), are excellent. Walton Goggins is an evil, noseless cowboy. He seems to be having a good time. And it's fun to spend time in this world, which is a hideous hodgepodge of steampunk and spaghetti westerns. While watching, I sometimes felt like I was floating in a theme park that lacked the budget to create its Wild West section. It's completely tasteless and completely compelling because of that tastelessness. Unlike so many on-screen dystopias, which have recently been conveyed so tastefully as to be more appealing than our current world, To fallThe landscape is a fascinating horror. There's an overarching mystery, which players of the original game may be familiar with, but which kept me engaged.

Fallout Preview – Trailer (Prime Video)

But we must keep perspective: it is still a video game adaptation. The last of us, with its HBO finishes, led many to believe that it was somehow prestige television. This is perhaps no surprise considering the sources. Fans of both franchises assure me that The last of us is a very serious look at a future world ravaged by disease, while To fall has a more rustic and absurd view of the world. (Both are quite bloody, which is to be expected these days.)

Indeed, The last of us often wanted to show us how serious it was. Many praised its third episode including this screenwriter! to depict a gay romance, and while this was indeed unusual, it didn't go much further than representation. I have no complaints about the showrunners' ambitions, but we shouldn't pretend that the series was more than what it was: an adaptation of a game in which you kill zombies. I know video games can be serious stuff. Along with many others, I read Gabrielle Zevins Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow, which chronicles the lives and times of American video game designers. I know that games are thoughtful efforts that deserve critical reflection. But it's generally a medium in which stories take second place to gameplay. No adaptation can truly ever escape these roots.

To fall understands this and treats it not as an insecurity but as a sign of pride. Every fight sequence builds on its DNA, with silly horror and over-the-top gore. And largely thanks to Lucy's point of view, a well-timed okkey dokey for each new horrific spectacle, we always understand that it's a ridiculous world. This is a ridiculous concept! An entire series built around a game originally designed for computers that we now watch on a streaming service from a company that started as an online bookstore. Maybe after decades of trying to adapt video games, it was enough to improve self-awareness.

Fallout is now available on Prime Video

Portrait of Henry Wong

Henry Wong is a senior culture editor at Esquire, working across digital and print. He covers film, television, books and art for the magazine and also writes profiles.




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