I watched The Last of Us at IMAX and it's epic – 3 reasons to love the new TV show

The first of nine episodes streams on 16th January and lovers of the game and newbies alike will want to be watching

The Last of Us TV show HBO/Sky
(Image credit: Future / Mike Lowe)

I headed into London earlier this week for one sole reason: to watch episode one of HBO's TV adaptation of The Last of Us on the largest screen in the United Kingdom, at BFI IMAX. And it was an epic spectacle to behold. 

Now I'm not suggesting that my ultra-large-screen viewing will transcend your experience of the TV adaptation of the Sony PlayStation-exclusive videogame when you stream 'TLOU' from 16th January. But seeing Joel and Ellie – played by Pedro Pascal and Bella Ramsey, respectively – on the big screen was confirmation that videogame adaptations can and do work. 

Indeed, it's got me wanting to dig in deeper than the opening episode's 85-minute runtime. Many outlets already have, of course, with reviews of the full series being largely generous from both Hollywood and videogame sources alike. So whether you loved the game or never even knew it was one, here are three reasons to look forward to HBO's TV adaptation of The Last of Us...

1. You don't need to know the game

Before going to watch The Last of Us at BFI IMAX I'd spent the previous two nights at home firing up the game (well, the Part II sequel, actually) to get my head wrapped into that headspace. Would I need to know everything about The Fireflies and Fedra? 

No, it's fine, if you don't know the game then it's of no consequence for the TV show. Writer Neil Druckmann's approach isn't to handhold, rather to humanise: using flashbacks to pre-outbreak interviews with epidemiologists, and clearly echoing a backdrop of the world's own Covid-19 experience, the show is set into motion with almost eerie familiarity. 

Besides, this is an end-of-the-world epic, a survivalist tale, a zombie series – all of which have been done before, if not done to death, in recent years. Indeed it's The Last of Us's human touch that, even from episode one, helps set it apart. It'll be great to watch this build and grow, gamer or not.

2. It looks stunning throughout

It would have been all too easy to create The Last of Us like an echo of, say, The Walking Dead. Which is to say: on small budget, in enclosed spaces, and at times against all odds due to filming restrictions. 

But The Last of Us, which cost a reported $100-million to make, has spent that money wisely. The setpieces are sprawling when they need be. The action is epic and explosive (often literally). But there are expertly integrated claustrophobic scenes, too, especially those by torchlight, that help add to the intensity (and are a perfect homage to the game's direction and graphics).

Ultimately The Last of Us is beautifully shot and doesn't just do down and dirty and nothing else. Sweeping mountain vistas with snow-capped peaks, reimagined cities in the pre-outbreak era, there's real breadth to the show's palette, which feels like a breath of fresh air (rather than a mouthful of spores – expertly references in one scene where a cupboard is moved; but also inconsequential as in the TV show spores don't spread the virus).

3. Unlikely cast turn out the goods

When I first saw The Last of Us trailers I was forlorn to be honest. I just couldn't see Pascal or Ramsey as anything but Narcos and Game of Thrones characters. To me, at that time, they didn't represent the characters in the game at all. Thankfully, watching episode one changed my mind.

I think that goes to show how deeply a game can set you expectations. Just because one doesn't look like an original game character doesn't mean the actors can't deliver. Pascal's actions as Joel are believable; Ramsey as Ellie delivers light relief and a boatload of f-ing swearwords to boot. 

So if you're a fan of the game and originally thought, 'huh?', then give it a moment: watching HBO's adaptation and you'll see that the unlikely casting is very well measured indeed. Bravo.

When & where can I watch The Last of Us?

So now you wanna watch it, right? The Last of Us will stream from 2am on Monday 16th January in the UK, available on NOW (formerly Now TV) and Sky Atlantic (although only on Sky, BT TV customers will need to use the NOW platform insofar as I can see). It's no IMAX, but if you have on of the best TVs of today it'll look stunning.

I've written a fuller piece on how to watch The Last of Us detailing the number of episodes, their release dates each week, and the places you can stream them if you're outside of the USA and don't have HBO Max access. Enjoy!

Mike Lowe
Tech Editor

Mike is the Tech Editor at T3.com. He's been writing about consumer technology for 15 years and, as a phones expert, has seen hundreds of handsets over the years – swathes of Android devices, a smattering of iPhones, and a batch of Windows Phone too (remember those?). But that's not all, as a tech and audio aficionado his beat at T3 also covers tablets, laptops, gaming, home cinema, TVs, speakers and more – there's barely a tech stone unturned he's not had a hand on. Previously the Reviews Editor at Pocket-lint for 10 years, he's also provided work for publications such as Wired, The Guardian, Metro, and more. In addition to his tech knowledge, Mike is also a flights and travel expert, having travelled the globe extensively. You'll likely find him setting up a new mobile phone, critiquing the next MacBook, all while planning his next getaway... or cycling somewhere.