Can You Judge a Comic Book Movie By Its Superhero Costumes?

Published 1 year ago by

Spawn Movie Costume Can You Judge a Comic Book Movie By Its Superhero Costumes?

Sometimes The Costume Isn’t the Problem

Without question, there are cases where a bad costume ruins a movie – making it difficult for audiences to take tense superhero conflict seriously. Still, there are plenty of times where a divisive visual design choice is the absolute least distracting aspect of an especially problematic production.

Three years ago, DC Comics adaptation Green Lantern was derided months ahead of its release when pasty-looking images of Ryan Reynolds suited-up as Hal Jordan hit the Internet. Fan reaction was overwhelmingly negative, causing us to ask if Green Lantern’s CGI costume could ruin the movie? Sadly, the absurdity of Green Lantern‘s story overshadowed even the most sensible criticisms of the costume. As soon as Hal Jordan saved a crashing helicopter by way of an overly complicated stunt car track, instead of something significantly more straightforward (and quicker), it was clear that director Martin Campbell had prioritized cartoonish style over the ability to suspend disbelief at nearly every turn.

green lantern 2 Can You Judge a Comic Book Movie By Its Superhero Costumes?

Problematic superhero movies aren’t limited to the DC Comics side – and Marvel, not to mention plenty of indie comic publishers-turned movie makers, have their own skeletons to hide. Initially, fans were split on director Mark Steven Johnson’s choice to turn Daredevil‘s spandex suit into a fully leather costume for his 2003 film but nearly everyone ultimately agreed that it was the campy story, melodramatic performances, and underwhelming action that deserved primary blame for The Man Without Fear’s poor showing (even before the Elektra spinoff).

Point being, while it’s easy for us to nitpick costumes (without even mentioning the preliminary outrage that comes along with casting), there are many other factors that determine whether a movie will be successful (and satisfying) when it hits the big screen. In fairness, certain moviegoers keep a close eye on script writers, plot synopsis, and comic book prequels to gauge if a soon to be released adaptation will be dead on arrival – but a disproportionately higher amount of readers chime in when costume or character designs (even unofficial ones) are available to critique.

Ben Affleck and Jennifer Garner in Daredevil Can You Judge a Comic Book Movie By Its Superhero Costumes?

Additional Examples: Spawn and Punisher: War Zone

Still, even when we all agree that a costume or character looks idiotic on screen, that doesn’t outright mean that the respective film project is doomed.


Sometimes The Costume Isn’t Great But the Movie Still Is

Since stunt casting or a bad script (among countless other elements) can sink any superhero movie, regardless of costume quality, it should come as no surprise that a strong character story is also capable of ensuring a film delivers – even when costuming isn’t exactly what fans had in mind.

Years before Daredevil, back in the early days of the “modern” superhero movies (circa 2000), X-Men and X-2 director Brian Singer chose to ditch the mutant team’s colorful skin-tight spandex – in favor of black leather outfits. Singer’s decision moved the movie away from a live-action replication of comic book pages – vehemently angering fans that were clambering to see a yellow-suited Wolverine (as well as Cyclops in blue under armor and Rogue wearing a leather jacket over a green onesie). Nevertheless, a solid narrative and slick special effects made even the goofiest leather outfit moments palatable – especially given that Singer even allowed Wolverine to poke fun at the absurdity of costumes (in general) within both narratives.

X Men 2 Movie Costumes Can You Judge a Comic Book Movie By Its Superhero Costumes?

Not a movie, but still a superhero adaptation success story, fans were initially skeptical of the simplistic design for the “Hood” (not yet Green Arrow) in Arrow – especially since the character, at first, opted for eyeliner instead of a proper mask. Yet, an enjoyable lead actor, fun DC villain cameos, and a gritty Batman Begins-like tone, have made the CW TV series a hit among casual viewers and die-hard comic book fans. To the show’s credit, many of the same viewers who thought the hero’s costume would look idiotic on screen are, one year later, signing petitions for Warner Bros. to include Amell’s version of the character in an inevitable Justice League feature film.

As a result, just because a character might not be portrayed the way fans remember (or want) doesn’t necessarily mean that the final experience will automatically be outright garbage. Costumes are, without question, a major part of the equation but sometimes (admittedly not always) changes can make for a better film – especially if they are in service of a stronger performance by a talented actor or a more satisfying set of story sequences. In some cases, this might mean letting go of an “iconic” character element or adding something entirely new – knowing that the change will upset certain fans (and set the stage for subsequent boycotts).

Honorable Mentions: Kick-Ass and X-Men: First Class

Which brings us to our final point – from time to time we (fans) are just plain wrong.


Page 3: Patience (and a Level Head) Save Us All Frustration


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  1. Yes

  2. Im still waiting on Wolverine to suit up in his Yellow/blue or Orange/brown costume…WITH the mask.

  3. Quicksilver looks ridiculous. They need to change his hair & make it more like the comic book, which is kinda wolverine-ish. Get rid of that ugly silver jacket, goggles and headphones and give him a new suit.

  4. Umm, I may be crazy, and possibly the only one, but I’ve always loved the bad guy outfits in Batman and Robin. Yes, the Batsuits were horrid, but at the time, being a kid watching the cartoons every Saturday morning, seeing THAT Bane, Ivy and Freeze made me giddy (same goes for Riddler/Two-face), haha. They obviously wouldn’t work today, seeing as comic/cartoon inspired movies try to be more serious and “realistic”, but I loved them back in the day. It’s why I love the Kick Ass movies, the keep the fun and fantastical elements that comes with superhero flicks, and still stay “real”(ish).

    As for the question, No, you can’t judge a movie on a few bad costumes, to be perfectly honest, I don’t particularly like the uniforms in the X-men series. But again, the bad guys are all designed almost perfect. But that doesn’t take away from them being great adaptations and overall good movies. Hell, I’ll come out and say it, I thought Last Stand was a great movie (many, MANY continuity errors) but as an ending to the Trilogy and opening the door for an expanded universe, it did it’s job. Hey, if Last Stand DIDN’T make so many errors, we may have never gotten Days of Future Past this soon, or at all.

    • Man…I was beginning to feel like John on the isle of Patmos with the X-Men: Last Stand thing!! Thank you, doc. And the one became two.

    • Me too! Loved Mr. Freeze, and except for the way they used him, Bane looked pretty spot-on. Maybe could have used more muscle tone but whatever.

      I’m also one of the very few who seems to like Green Lantern’s outfit. I love the fact that the CGI is literally light, just like the comics. Just need to have a more physical mask and give him actual contacts.

  5. Quicksilver’s costume looks lazy and stupid.

  6. With all the funny comments ripping on Quicksilver, I just wanted to put in a positive word about some of the “future” costumes. I especially like Magneto’s and Wolverine’s costumes. And Rogue’s absolutely.

  7. Spawn film bad costume? mind your manners!

    • Spawn’s costume was B.A.

  8. Is it too much to ask for the X-Men to look like… I don’t know… the X-Men??

  9. Side track: Great article. This is what I like most about SR. It’s not just reporting on quotes, rumors, and official announcements but also the opinions of the writer or its team of writers. It’s opinions and insights that makes an article interesting, never mind whether you agree to it or not.

  10. Quicksilver’s outfit may not be canon and it does look kinda silly; however, it may work within the context of the film. The late 60s and the entirety of the 70s was filled with clothing that looks absurd by the standard of today.

    • I think they went with an Andy Warhol look for Quicksilver. I won’t be shocked if he turns out to be involved with the Pop art and club scene in NY.

  11. The whole costume thing is a tricky proposition when converting a two-dimensional comic book character to a live action format. While certain characters like Spider-Man, Batman and to an an extent Superman are connected to their costumes as part of their origin, odds are they will also have some variation on the same theme. Spider-Man and Superman still get away with the tight costume because it was established in live action mediums decades ago, and the way both were depicted as wearing their costume under their clothes played into the whole “spandex” motif to fit under their clothes. That became the excepted norm in print form, but now that they are moving to motion pictures (where more of the money is realistically) they have to design something that looks better on a giant screen as opposed to a comic page. Whether or not they always hit on something good is another matter.

  12. Lots of times these magazine promo covers really make the costumes look worse then they are. Too crisp, clean, static, and out of context. I’d say that the worst part about this quicksilver photo isn’t the costume, but the actor’s dopey and bored expression on his face.

  13. I would have to say no. It’s the script above all else. Now, having said that, I still believe it was wrong not to include Yukio giving Logan the Wolverine outfit. The setting, Japan, the storyline, samurais, all perfect in my opinion. To film it, not use it and then make it a bluray bonus feature was rubbing it in fans faces, intentional or not, and was the height of stupidity.

  14. The costume itself isn’t the problem, but it is a good indicator of the way the studio is treating the property.

    Let me put it this way: Name one superhero movie that had terrible costumes, but the movie was amazing.

    • Batman: The Movie. It is terribly amazing or amazingly terrible, hmm.

      Seriously though, I’d say the first two X-Men movies are good examples as the article mentioned. Those costumes were not the X-Men I grew up with, but the movies were good and even had some great moments. Third one was garbage, but two outta three aint bad.

      • The X-Men costumes were a bit off, yes, but they weren’t actually that bad. I’m not opposed to a little re-invention. Besides, I cut them a little slack for trying something new. Superhero movies were not big back then, so they were trying a different angle.

        But by now, they know better. Or, they should anyway.

      • Batman the Movie WAS terrible. And Batman’s rubber suit made him look like a big black gummi bear.

  15. Okay, so… I do think some times the design of a costume can make a difference in a film or a show. Not always, but sometimes. In this case… the costume pictured on the magazine cover doesn’t bother me. I say that for multiple reasons.

    1. I’m going to put it out there immediately that I know next to nothing about quicksilver, so for me, I’m not bothered by the costume. I do, however, completely understand the rage by fans who do know the character as how he looks from the comics, and how changing said look can be potentially awful.
    2. Perhaps this is an origin story of some sort for Quicksilver, and this is the costume he is portrayed in until he becomes the Quicksilver of the comics?
    3. Is a costume change “really” so bad? We have yet to witness Wolverine in yellow spandex (or have we? my mind can be fuzzy sometimes), and I for one, am grateful for that. It’s classic wolverine, yes, I’m aware. But I hate it.

  16. I can’t believe you liked “Man of Steel”! As silly as Superman’s trunks may have been, all Zack Snyder had to do was take them away and reveal that uncomfortable-looking bulge to make us all miss the trunks terribly. Oh, and the rest of the movie was also terrible.

  17. Good ole Ben… always championing the cause of fanboy self-restraint. Keep fighting the good fight Ben:)