Perhaps the most affecting AAA title in recent memory, with a tightly wound narrative calcified by solid performances from Ashley Johnson and Troy Baker, Naughty Dog’s 2013 effort The Last of Us evinces a cinematic quality often ascribed to games, but rarely interrogated thoroughly. Moreover, I’ll propose now that the game’s plot, organized around seasonal change, also bespeaks an episodic television structure, but that thought opens a new argument entirely. So if we talk about The Last of Us and its cinematic forebears, many audiences often identify analogous post-apocalypse travel narratives like John Hillcoat’s adaptation of Cormac McCarthy’s novel The Road, or Alfonso Cuarón’s adaptation of P. D. James’s Children of Men. The comparisons make sense, as certain visual elements, character relationships, themes, and narrative beats overlap. Instead, I’ll point to a less obvious but absolutely relevant kindred spirit: John Ford’s 1956 masterpiece The Searchers, a towering Western at the height of its genre.
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