Some in the film industry, Marvel producer Avi Arad being one of the most outspoken, believe that video game movies are going to be the next big thing after comic book movies. That prediction is certainly going to be put to the test over the next few years, with Ubisoft setting up its own film studio and kicking off a new line of movies based on their video game products, starting with Assassin's Creed in 2015.
As a company that already holds a high position in both the video game and film industries, Sony is also making plans to bridge the gap between the two media. An adaptation of Naughty Dog's Uncharted games - which in movie terms are a cross between Indiana Jones and National Treasure - has been in development at Sony for several years with numerous writers and directors attached at various points, though it's still unclear how close it is to actually being made.
A new sign has emerged, however, indicating that Uncharted might not be the only video game property that Sony wants to bring to the big screen. IGN has discovered domains for TheLastOfUs-Movie.com and TheLastOfUsMovie.net that were recently registered under Sony's online brand protection agency MarkMonitor, by a registrant with a Sony Pictures address.
The Last of Us, which was released earlier this year, is set twenty years after the outbreak of a virus that causes weird fungi to grow on people's brains and effectively turns them into rage zombies. Joel (Troy Baker) is a jaded, dispassionate smuggler tasked with escorting a teenager called Ellie (Ashley Johnson) across the country to an insurgent hideout, exploring the changed landscape of post-civilization America along the way.
Before everyone starts getting too excited (or outraged) over this piece of information, it's important to take it with a grain of salt. This could just be a case of Sony wanting to protect its brand, and even if a movie based on The Last of Us is in the works then it could be a very long time before we actually see it, based on the development time for Uncharted so far. Sony may even use Uncharted to test the waters for a video game movie before giving anything else a green light.
It's understandable that Naughty Dog's games would be at the top of Sony's list for adaptation, since one of the big selling points for the Uncharted games - and, to a slightly lesser extent, The Last of Us - was that they were like playable action movies. Both The Last of Us and the Uncharted series are highly cinematic, making use of motion capture technology (similar to that used for Gollum in The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit) in order to properly translate the actors' performances. It could be argued that taking away the interaction and cutting 10-15 hour stories down to a two-hour movie would take away a significant amount of their appeal.
With that mind, however, The Last of Us probably lends itself better to movie adaptation than many other games. Unlike titles such as Mass Effect, in which both the story and the main character are heavily customizable, The Last of Us doesn't offer much in the way of player choice beyond picking which weapons to use against the infected and bandits. The characters of Joel and Ellie are fully formed and the player is generally forced to go along with their decisions - no matter how uncomfortable they might be.
Could The Last of Us work as a movie? Almost certainly, though it might feel a little redundant. The game is a good candidate in terms of popularity, becoming the fastest-selling new franchise for the PS3 with 3.4 million copies sold in just three weeks. Don't take the domain name as an official declaration of anything, though.
Now, when's the Crash Bandicoot movie coming out?