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Sunday Scaries: Between ‘The Last of Us’ and Now ‘Dungeons & Dragons’ Gaining Critical Acclaim, Game Adaptations Are Having a Moment

The Sunday Scaries are upon us once again! Yes, as the weekend concludes, most of us feel an oncoming sense of anticipatory dread about the week ahead. Anxiety about work manifests itself into a feeling that’s known as the Sunday Scaries. However, we at Awards Radar are here to combat that, by taking back the name. Now, we want you think about a horror-centric piece on the site when you hear the term. So, let us continue on with another installment of the Awards Radar Sunday Scaries! Today, we’re looking at game adaptations and the moment that they’re having.

For years, adapting a game as a film or television show was basically a recipe for a poorly received final product. Whether it was a board game like Battleship or a video game like Doom, it just rarely went well. The former at least had a better track record with Clue, though the latter really was a wasteland. Luckily, that’s changing, and we all are the beneficiaries.

The Last of Us really broke that trend this year, becoming one of the most acclaimed HBO shows in recent memory in the process. When I wrote about that recently here, I had this to say, in part:

The Last of Us seemed like it could succeed for a number of reasons. One was that it was being made with more care than most game adaptations. Neil Druckmann, the man behind the game and its sequel, was shepherding it, as was Craig Mazin, who’d blown so many away with Chernobyl. The fact that HBO was investing so heavily in it was a good sign. Throw in terrific casting, up top with Pedro Pascal and Bella Ramsey in the leads, as well as with a cavalcade of ace supporting players, including Nick Offerman and Murray Bartlett (more on them later), and it was seemingly set up for success. But, would it work? The answer, as it turned out, was a resounding yes.

Steve reviewed the show here, raving about it. Likewise, Myles, Steve, and I have been recapping the episodes on the Awards Radar Podcast here, often waxing poetic about each one. Not only was HBO’s The Last of Us honoring the video game, it was elevating it, as opposed to being brought down by it, as most game adaptations are. In many ways, it’s a stunning achievement, made all the more outstanding by how many had failed in trying to pull something like this off, previously.

Now, we have Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves, which is getting rave reviews, including here from our own Myles Hughes. Fans of the game as well as newbies are falling for the flick, taken by the accessible yet respectful take on the source material. In many ways, this is the template for how you make a big and fun version of something like this. If The Last of Us was a way to get prestige respect, this is a way to prove that it just takes good storytellers to tell this sort of a story well.

My take on Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves? It’s a hoot. This film is a lot of fun, full of wit and a sense of creativity. It’s a little long, running over two hours, but very funny and easily won over even someone like myself who doesn’t usually dig on fantasy. From start to finish, it’s a really enjoyable lark. Chris Pine is a riot, while filmmakers John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein prove that they’re some of the most interesting storytellers around. If this is the start of a new film franchise, count me very much in.

Next up, there’s an adaptation of Twisted Metal coming that has some promise. If it can succeed, we’ll really be in a moment. Sort of adjacent to this is also the release of Tetris, a look at how the classic game came to the world, against all odds during the Cold War. My review goes up tomorrow, but I can vouch for Tetris being a good movie. If nothing else, no one is looking at this ideas and scoffing anymore, and that’s something.

Hopefully, we’re entering a golden age for the game adaptation. No matter what type of game, as long as the material is elevated and respected in equal measure, both fans and newcomers alike will take to it. If that happens, it won’t be too long until news of a new property getting adapted will be cause for celebration, not distress. One can dream, at least…

Stay tuned for another Sunday Scaries installment next week!


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Written by Joey Magidson

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