The Last Of Us

In October we started this blog to explore a different way of experiencing movies at home — one that doesn’t involve spinning 4K Blu-ray discs or streaming movies from Netflix and other services. I’m talking about the server-based Kaleidescape movie system. You can read my impressions of the system in A Marriage Made in Movie Heaven) and my previous Kaleidescape-based movie reviews here.)

Kaleidescape Scenes
HBO has a long tradition of creating “must watch” shows over the past 25 years. Their latest hit, The Last of Us, is based on the video game of the same name that was developed by Naughty Dog and released back in 2013 for the PlayStation 3. The series is created by Craig Mazin, known for his work on the HBO series Chernobyl, and Neil Druckmann, the writer and creative director of the video game.

The show takes place in a post-apocalyptic world where a fungal infection has turned most of humanity into zombie-like creatures called "infected." The story follows Joel (Pedro Pascal), a smuggler, and Ellie (Bella Ramsey), a young girl who may be the key to finding a cure for the infection. The game was praised for its gripping narrative, emotional depth, and immersive gameplay, and won numerous awards for its storytelling and design and fortunately the TV series doesn’t deviate much from this narrative and is truly captivating to watch.

I sat down and watched the nine one-ish hour episodes over the span of four days and had mixed feelings about it. While the first two episodes are some of the best TV you’ll ever watch, the remaining episodes weren’t quite as good. One of my issues is you must suspend your critical thinking on numerous occasions. First, anyone with a rudimentary knowledge of our power grid would realize that there’s no way it would be functional 20 years after the onslaught of the fungal infection. Heck, I live in California and our power company can’t keep the lights on through a July heat wave let alone leaving the grid untouched for decades and expect it to work.

Additionally, the survivors would have a very difficult time feeding themselves locked in big city enclaves that are a safe haven from the infected. At some point you’d need to farm and raise livestock in massive quantities, which would be impossible given the way the infected supposedly roam the countryside. I know I’m splitting hairs, but I did find these types of anomalies to be distracting. Granted, I did enjoy the show and found the narrative compelling and quite tense. Earlier in my life I was an avid video game player and I could definitely see aspects of the game play coming to fruition in the screenplay.

I didn’t catch the show on HBO Max and was looking forward to watching the series when it hit UHD Blu-ray in July, but when I saw that Kaleidescape had a digital exclusive a few months early, I jumped at the chance to see it in glorious 4K with HDR. Overall, the presentation runs the gamut between very good to downright jaw-dropping. The world building translates well into the high-resolution format and the melding of greenscreen and practical location shots captured from Calgary, AB, in Canada. The color palette gravitates towards the warmer side and I thought low-light sequences looked great and had ample shadow detail. Furthermore, fine details in clothing and facial pores are extremely revealing and razor-sharp.

The Dolby Atmos audio track is exemplary and makes good use of the entire soundstage. The first episode highlights virtually everything the show has to offer from an audio perspective with crystal clear dialog to non-stop action sequences that will have your heart racing in no time. Gunshots ring true with precise dynamics and the LFE occasionally gets quite a workout with some explosions and general mayhem as the world descends into chaos.

Since we’re months away from the home video release, there aren’t any supplements to speak of nor are there any Kaleidescape Scenes that are bookmarked. When I get time, I plan on creating a few of my own for demo and review purposes because I really enjoyed the sound design, especially in the premiere episode.

The hype for this was through the roof and I went in with very high expectations and for the most part they were met. HBO’s track record on creating hit shows speaks for itself and they’ve got a surefire hit on their hands with The Last of Us. Pascal and Ramsey have great chemistry and deliver fantastic performances and I’m curious where they take the show in season two.

Studio: Warner Brothers
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
Download Size: 284.8GB (4K UHD)
HDR Format: 4K HDR
Audio Format: Dolby Atmos
Length: 8 Hours 56 mins
Director: Neil Druckmann, Jeremy Webb, Alib Abbasi, Peter Hoar
Starring: Pedro Pascal, Bella Ramsey, Gabriel Luna, Anna Torv, Merle Dandridge, Nick Offerman

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