Patience (and a Level Head) Save Us All Frustration
It’s easy to get tied to a certain idea about how a character should look (or even act) on screen – based on specific versions of a beloved character (keeping in mind that comics often reinvent their heroes over and over again). It’s understandable, we remember fondly the comic book panels as well as animated series that defined our childhoods and, in some cases, helped shape the people we are now – making it difficult to accept dramatic changes that come with big screen adaptations. Although, for every Catwoman, there are a few instances where we, as longtime fans, just couldn’t look past our own preferences to appreciate budding potential.
When images of Optimus Prime initially appeared online, prior to the first trailer for Michael Bay’s Transformers, a significant portion of fans decried the complicated alien robotic design, orange flames, and lips – wishing for a traditional G1 version (a Freightliner Cab-over-engine Class 8 truck) of the Autobot hero. Fortunately, in spite of any cosmetic alterations, the Transformers films managed to capture the spirit of the Cybertronian leader while also showcasing exceptionally cool, believable, and fast-paced transformations.
Without question, amateur humor and a heavy reliance on human drama are still fair points of contention for the series but Bay’s choice to go with complicated robotics, instead of classic (and stiff) designs, succeeded in making the characters more versatile (and subsequently exciting) for big screen spectacle. Fans may still cringe at those infamous flames, but it’s hard to argue that small screen Optimus Prime is any more engaging than his big screen counterpart.
Rebooting Superman was no easy task, given that it took nearly twenty years for a filmmaker to even get a Man of Steel movie off the ground (Superman Returns) – and another six for a second reboot to find widespread commercial (and a decent amount of critical) success (Man of Steel). Yet, long before Zack Snyder’s Superman reboot hit theaters, fans were complaining about the updated costume – which removed key elements of the character’s design, most notably the yellow belt, red underwear, and S-shaped hair curl. Instead, Snyder’s team created a Man of Steel supersuit that not only looked great in action and was respectful to the classic costume (without simply copying and pasting), it also made sense within narrative context (as a Kryptonian hand me down). Early on, commenters criticized Snyder for not taking the character seriously; however, it’s clear the director was actually operating on an entirely different level – relaunching the Man of Steel in a way that everyone, not just comic book enthusiasts, could take seriously.
Honorable Mentions: The Amazing Spider-Man and Captain America: The First Avenger
While fans have a right to advocate for their favorite characters, it’s important that we also try to keep a level head. When we report official (and unofficial) images, toys, and other merchandise, it’s to help get an idea of what filmmakers might have in mind – but there’s a big difference between how images come across on a website and whether or not the actual costumes succeed on the big (or small) screen.
As with any other physical element in a film production, costumes need to be properly lit and require certain details to be explained within the context of the story. In the case of X-Men: Days of Future Past, a lot of commenters have been nitpicking the Quicksilver’s goggles and primitive tech belt; yet, as we discussed in a recent video analysis, it’s possible those particular elements are essential to making the character’s super speed believable. The goggles likely protect his eyes from high-speed debris and the headphones, paired with the rudimentary tech on his waste, could be a way for the character to either hear his surroundings, or communicate with others, while running. In context, some of those sillier elements might not seem so silly, and actually make for a more grounded and credible narrative arc, even if they’re still a departure from “classic” Quicksilver.
The bottom line: we love picking over early images of superhero costumes but it’s also important to avoid jumping to snap conclusions. Without a doubt, there will be numerous times in the future where crummy concept art or terrible kid costumes are an early predictor that a film is headed in the wrong direction. However, a little restraint and patience may save us all a little frustration, given that further information helps paint a clearer picture of what to expect – for better or for worse.
Ultimately, even in the cases of epic director fails, fans can take comfort in one notable truth: Hollywood will happily reboot any property that is capable of making studios money. Many of these characters will likely be revisited and reimagined multiple times in the coming decades – meaning that even if one adaptation outright ruins our childhood, there’s always a chance that the reboot (or re-reboot) will get it right.
Follow me on Twitter @benkendrick for future editorials as well as movie, TV, and gaming news.
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