On The Last of Us, Outfits for the Apocalypse

Our lastHBO’s hit series, based on the best-selling video game franchise, seems to have found a sweet spot in cultural thought: the sci-fi thriller that revolves around a global pandemic while also bringing feels both familiar and strange.

One of the things that contributed to the show’s success was its look—the production and environment design, as well as the costumes, were provided by designer Cynthia Summers. The film focuses on the relationship between Joel (Pedro Pascal) and Ellie (Bella Ramsey) as they navigate the post-pandemic context of misery; Outfits span from the first outbreak in 2023 to the present day, meaning that the show’s “faulty division,” responsible for old and worn-out clothing, has been working hard. (Less difficult: working with Pedro Pascal, who Summers recalls hand-delivering fast food to the crew when he switched companies.)

Summers talked about using video games as inspiration, how she creates brand new clothes that look like it existed after the apocalypse, etc.

Resources for Our last is a video game. How does a costume adapted from a video game compare to a book or a movie? What makes it unique?

Cynthia’s Summer: Adapting a video game can be really complicated. And I think the general consensus is it’s very dangerous to do that because gamers have invested so much in the game. They become characters in the game – they are actually living in the game, in a sense of the word. So, taking their favorite characters from an animated world and bringing them to life is hard work.

It’s like sewing a wedding dress for someone, you know? It is very personal. You really need to visually celebrate what’s going on in the game with the characters, with the setting, with the dialogue, with the plot. That is to say, when you choose characters that are meant to survive – that really translates into a human story, a very human story.

When I was first approached about it, I said, “Well, okay, that’s another video game adaptation. It’s jeans and a t-shirt. It’s 2003, Austin, Texas.” So fashion wise: suburban, working class. So I don’t know what’s in it for me. Exactly how many games are we making? Is there any room for expansion? It is not a period, it is not a future, it is not a fantasy.

But [it’s] for the first time I saw contemporary clothing, contemporary clothing is a very important part of a very human, beautiful, horrible cinematic performance.

A lot of times in retro or apocalyptic shows, the costumes are of the bizarre sort — like __Blade Runner __or Crazy Max. But with** Our last**, I think the costumes really make these characters more real—that this isn’t an alternate universe.**

Total. And that’s a point of pushing home by [showrunner] Craig [Mazin]: that he wanted the characters to look real, relatable, and approachable. And that makes the scary part of the show even scarier.


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