Costumes in comic book movies always spark great debates. There's a fine line between making changes for good and times when change is unwarrented. I wanted to examine how costumes work in comic book movies and when dumbing down a costume is appropriate, compared to when it is necessasry to honor the comic book source.
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Why Costumes Are So Important
In the wacky realm of comic book characters the costumes they wear are very defining for an individual. Batman dresses like a bat to instill his own fear into criminals. Thor has armor that resonates from his people. The X Men wear unique outfits to proudly express themselves for being different. The costumes make a statement for who these people are.
Being an advocate of staying true to the source material, there are still times when changes should be made to the way a character looks on film. Some characters are so iconic that any alterations to a costume could potentially trigger mass fan outrage but sometimes their original look just can't work for the big screen anymore. Let's look at Superman, his look has been around longer than any superhero and that's exactly the reason certain things needed to be changed.
Certain characters have large amount of nostalgia around them but as time passes the costumes have to evolve the viewers. For instance, underwear over your clothes just can't be achieved in this day in age. That's partly why the continuation the Reeves' Superman era seemed so out of place with Supeman Returns. It was too out dated to try to introduce a new chapter of the story using the same vibe as the old movies.
Now let's look at the updated costume for the new cinematic Superman.The changes they made to the costume in Man Of Steel
were about as good as you could get for the new era of comic book movies. Obviously the underwear was removed, but what really made the costume great was the texture and designs they added to the suit. It was very interesting to look at. They did precisely what you need to do with a superhero costume. They stayed true to the source but also made it practical in the sense that they gave the material a very other worldly asthetic along with the unique markings which worked great considering his costume is literally from another planet.
Another time a change is necessary is when it is important to the plot. The recreation of Bane's look in the Christopher Nolan Batman universe is completely warranted because of how it was infused into the story and the tone he was going for. It played homage to the comic version of Bane by creating a achilles heel for the character. In the comics, the source of his abnormal power is the drug known as Venom and Batman usually cuts off this source before taking him down. In the movie it works in a similar way. The drug Bane inhales in the film is basically a painkiller that is sustaining his life. The movie depicts Bane as being unstoppable until he is weakend by Batman severing his supply of the drug. This works because there is a reason for the altered mask he wears while also being true to a definitive aspect of his character from the comics.
While you watch a movie about a comic book hero you have to have a lot of suspension of disbelief. The costumes in a movie have a lot to do with this. If you accept a costume you tend to believe in what you're looking at. When you don't, it becomes a distraction and it takes you out of the film. Some costumes are so bad they are all you can concentrate on.
This shouldn't completely scare a film maker away from wanting a faithful and flashy costume though. Most people come to see these movies to watch superheroes doing remarkable things. The fact that they crave this should show that they are willing to accept a certain amount of spectacle in a costume without taking them out of a movie.
Take a look at the X Men franchise. I realize they were probably afraid to take a risk on the costumes when releasing the first movie because superhero films weren't being hailed as they are today but the costumes are so effortless compared to their comic book counterparts that it left anyone with some knowledge of the X Men desperately wanting something remotely close to the actual outfits. Every subsequent movie featuring Wolverine had people asking if we'd see his comic book attire. The costumes in those movies are so bland that they made certain characters just dissapear into a vast abyss of black leather.
Sometimes studios get so caught up in trying to create in depth logical reasons for a costume that they end up with an abomination. When you see a movie like Watchmen you notice they barely spend any time at all explaining why they all wear costumes. The fabric on Rorschach's mask in the movie has no history behind it and it takes absolutely nothing away from the film. It's actually one of the most intriguing things to look at as you watch the movie. The audience accepts it because they enjoy admiring it. That's why we love the outlandish costumes from the comics. If the audience didn't have some sliver of desire to see the fantastical they wouldn't put themselves in front of a comic book movie to begin with.
Thanks for checking out the article and as a little bonus I created an image of what we all want to see!
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