A week since its release and the credits have rolled for many gamers who hammered through the instant classic and current creator of sweaty palms, The Last of Us Part II. Some have deemed the videogame that has taken the PlayStation audience by storm as one of the greatest stories told this year, across any medium, and it’s hard not to argue. The one issue that many will have encountered, though, is just what can fill the void left behind by Ellie and her beautifully bleak journey. We’ve got a few suggestions.
Bordering on a cinematic spectacle that you controlled, we considered rustling up a few entries to match Naughty Dog’s epic adventure at the end of the world. Here’s a list of some ace post-apocalyptic pictures that you’ll no doubt end up into, before going back to Part II on a harder setting, or at least waiting until Ghosts of Tsushima comes out (how good does that look, by the way?). Give these a watch and be sure to suggest some of your own entries for when the world goes kablooey in the comments.
Before wowing the world with Parasite, director Boon Jong-Ho rocked a select number of countries (the UK being one of the last), with his comic-book adaptation, Snowpiercer. Turning the temperature way down in comparison to many other stories set after the big bang, here we instead see a big chill sweep the world and those that survive left to live on a classist-controlled locomotive.
Chris Evans, Jamie Bell, John Hurt and Octavia Spencer are part of the impoverished rebels fighting their way to the front of the train in an attempt to overthrow it. Meanwhile, the enigmatic Ed Harris and the unrecognisable (and severely toothy) Tilda Swinton stand in their way using various violent means to slow their trip.
A very different look at what Doomsday+ would look like, but beautifully so at times, Boon Jong-Ho shows he can handle action effortlessly with several intense beats through an eclectic mix of carriages. Ignore the new Netflix series and head straight to this first-class film, instead. Also, prepare yourself for a genuinely unnerving confession in an impressive performance from Chris Evans.
Mad Max: Fury Road
Not as sombre as some on this list, or Naughty Dog’s recent thumb-twitching romp, Mad Max: Fury Road runs on rage, guzzoline and Tom Hardy’s grunts in one of the most iconic bits of Carmageddon put to film. When George Miller finally fulfilled his dream of shooting a Mad Max adventure on a decent budget, the result changed cinema forever. In this chrome-encased dystopia, Hardy’s Max Rockatansky shares a ride with Charlize Theron’s Imperator Furiosa, and anyone daring to nip at their bumper quickly finds themselves either engulfed in flame or kissing the scorched tarmac of this world gone mad.
And even with all the people being ‘WITNESSED’, Miller still manages to tell a story of a band of lost characters trying to find their place. As gripping as some of the stunning set pieces appear to be, there are little moments that show remnants of humanity in a world that is lacking it. There’s also some stunning imagery that still leaves questions unanswered, like those swamp-dwelling folk wandering in the twilight, or that nutter with a flaming guitar. What a lovely day, indeed.
I Am Legend
While Richard Matheson’s original book of the same name packs enough emotional gut punches to put you in need of a stiff drink, Francis Lawrence’s adaptation of I Am Legend doesn’t do a bad job of matching it. Props mainly fall on the films leading man, only because he’s going on a solo spiral for the most part, against the somewhat dated CGI beasties he’s hunting down. Next to Naughty Dog’s work, there’s no competition, as we’d take on Smith’s foes against a band of Clickers from The Last of Us Part II, no trouble.
The digital Darkseekers may put a dampener on things, but the core component of Smith fighting them and his own sanity are what makes I Am Legend still one worth noting. Sure there’s the cheap shot of having to sit through and endure the fate of his devoted dog, Sam, but Smith breathes life into Neville and the abandoned New York City he’s wandering around in brilliantly. Light up the dark with one of Will’s finest.
Quite a sweet little deviation from the dreary, dark viewing sessions on this list, Pixar’s thought-provoking sci-fi that says a lot with very little might be worth adding in between The Last of Us-echoing horrors among the pile. The story of a robot continuing to clean-up an abandoned earth is one of hope and perseverance and told with that effortless Pixar charm that even brightens up the most dystopian imagery. Seeing our planet looking like the biggest junkyard in the solar system is a lot less unsettling when that loveable trash compactor is hard at work, and trying to wrap his head around EVE, the new bot that lands on his block. It’s only when WALL·E heads into space that things take off.
Though the film continues to flood us with beautiful sequences (WALL·E EVE and a fire extinguisher are just the perfect trio), there’s still a lesson to be learned aboard the Axiom. The future of humanity are a questionable bunch, wobbling around on hover-loungers, hypnotised by a small screen and making little communication with each other. You don’t have to be ship’s supercomputer to see that Pixar are right on the money – but then, when were they not?
28 Days Later
You want a hefty dose of fear to refill the bar after The Last of Us Part II? You’d struggle to find a better one than the panic on the streets of London, in 28 Days Later. Cillian Murphy plays the delivery guy waking up to a nightmare that has swept across the country, crossing paths with Naomi Harris, Brendan Gleeson and a swarm of enraged Londoners.
Penned by Alex Garland (who coincidentally has expanded his writing streak in games, with the likes of Enslaved and Devil May Cry), there’s a lot in 28 Days Later that would be echoed in the tension and all-out ferocity of both chapters of The Last of Us. For every quiet moment, Boyle’s classic is still one soaked in absolute terror born not only from the virus and its victims but the remnants of humanity that are left behind to deal with it. Sometimes, there are worst things in the world than enraged monsters, and one of them is Christopher Eccleston.
Dawn of the Dead
Though the original was a seminal piece of work from George A. Romero, the James Gunn-written remake of Dawn of the Dead directed by Zack Snyder is an excellent argument against those that think going back to the well is a bad idea. Like Boyle’s band of horrors, the zombies in Snyder’s 2004 take are quick on their feet and all the more terrifying, with various levels of decayed monsters lapping our heroes. Heck, this one even has a zombie baby!
Boasting an incredible heart-pounding intro showing the world being taken over (much like Naughty Dog’s first masterpiece), Dawn of the Dead also has character complexities that make it more than just a basic scare-fest. Perspectives of characters shift, and hard choices are made that echo through the story (that final farewell on the dock still hits hard). If you want another heart-pounding hour or two, this wouldn’t be a bad choice at all.
Rolling off the success of No Country for Old Men, another of author Cormac McCarthy’s beloved books, The Road found its way to the screen. While we were better for it, it permitted audience members asking the nearest person for a hug, or at least going out to get some sunshine, after being dragged through this grim but genuinely great story of father and son.
While it doesn’t match Naughty Dog’s masterpiece for slightly infectious inhabitants that are a little on the monstrous side, The Road is certainly not without its terrors. Set after the events of mass extinction, Viggo Mortensen is the lone father determined to get his son to safety and away from the savage remains of the human race that are determined to take them both.
Another entry that both parts of The Last of Us have been closely compared to, director John Hillcoat (Lawless, The Proposition) seems to paint with a similarly bleak, but brilliantly precise paintbrush as the games creator, Neil Druckmann. American wastelands are haunting vistas that are as complex as the characters that inhabit them. If it ever comes to a guest director handling an episode of HBO’s upcoming adaptation, Hillcoat should be at the top of the list.
A Quiet Place
We all know Ellie can be deathly silent in The Last of Us Part II when she wants to be, but even she may have struggled in A Quiet Place. John Krasinski’s horror set after an invasion of aliens that hunt on sound was one of the most intense cinema experiences in recent memory. With very little dialogue and doom lingering in every decibel, it managed to chill our bones and break our hearts in equal amount.
Some of the best entries on this list excelled because of the human element at the centre of it, and A Quiet Place is no exception. Aided by the fact that the family this film focuses on is headed by real-life husband and wife, John Krasinski and Emily Blunt, the show stealer comes from Millicent Simmonds as their deaf daughter and bravest member of the Abbott family. Now if we could just get that sequel…
Train To Busan
If you’re one of those that are more for the carnage than the deathly quiet, then Train to Busan is undoubtedly one to catch. A cacophony of all the great ingredients The Last Of Us games have, and some of the greats on this list, Yeong Sang-Ho’s smash hit that sees folks wanting brains on a train is certainly worth a look.
With monsters that are as terrifying as any that cross your path as Ellie, Train to Busan sees a father and daughter fight to survive the eve of an apocalyptic event that has turned millions into bloodthirsty zombies. Hoping to make their stop in once piece, they cross paths with an array of awesome characters, most notably, undead-uppercutting Ma Dong-seok as (who’ll be popping up in Marvel’s The Eternals soon). The film has already earned itself a sequel – Train to Busan: Peninsula – which is set for release this year. Be sure to try this one out for size first.
Children of Men
Alfonso Cuarón’s dystopian future is probably one of the finest and most revered on this list. Children of Men is almost a time capsule of a film, boasting nuanced but equally brilliant performances from the likes of Clive Owen, Julianne Moore, and Clare-Hope Ashitey as the unexpected saviour of the human race.
Set in a future where a virus has left the humanity infertile and children a distant memory, Clive Owen is forced to escort the first pregnant woman in years, to safety. Known for several one-take sequences that have yet to be matched, Children of Men is another beautifully told tale of a dark future that The Last of Us Part II wanders carefully near. While it doesn’t lean in on the same horror elements, the terror comes from opposing forces determined to make their vision of the future, with Owen caught in the middle. Seriously intense stuff.