X-Men: Dark Phoenix will be redesigning the mutants again, a move that's strange given their top-notch new costumes at the end of X-Men: Apocalypse. A recent video has provided a close look at the film's new X-Men costumes, with Cyclops, Jean Grey, and Beast wearing what's clearly meant to be a team uniform; a black bodysuit with a distinctive yellow "X" on the chest.
The Dark Phoenix designs are lifted straight from the comics, notably from the Grant Morrison/Frank Quitely era in the early 2000s. There's a certain irony to this; in his "Morrison Manifesto," Morrison heavily criticized the X-Men franchise for failure to reinvent itself after the success of 2000's X-Men movie. He and Quitely created the idea of a "team look" in a loose homage to the films, while Wolverine was liberally redesigned to be as attractive as Hugh Jackman.
The change in aesthetics in X-Men: Dark Phoenix will come as something of a surprise to general viewers. X-Men: Apocalypse's end scenes featured the X-Men donning individual costumes for the first time in the history of the X-Men movies, and those designs were generally appreciated by even the film's detractors. This shift in approach will seem like something of a step back.
The traditional superhero costumes from the end of X-Men: Apocalypse were a marked departure from the dark leather looks that had dominated the films to date, all clear homages to classic costumes worn by the different X-Men. Cyclops and Jean Grey's were particularly distinctive, evocative of Jim Lee's famous designs. Those costumes are essentially symbolic of the '90s X-Men era, and when Fox announced that X-Men: Dark Phoenix would be set in that decade, it seemed reasonable to assume this style of costume would be sticking around.
Instead, Fox has taken something of a step backward, returning to a variation on their traditional "team" look. In-universe, the argument is probably that the team uniform has turned into something of a brand; in X-Men: Dark Phoenix, the X-Men have apparently been embraced as a team of superheroes, and are actually celebrated by the world's governments. So the team uniform is understandable.
But, frankly, it's bland. It's also a strange decision, given the Morrison and Quitely designs are associated with the 2000s, not the '90s. What's more, for as much as the Morrison era may have been successful in terms of comic book sales, it remains controversial among X-Men fans to this day. The decision to adopt these costumes means X-Men: Dark Phoenix is perfectly positioned to take flak over the costume designs.
When Fox first launched the X-Men franchise, the studio assumed audiences wouldn't respond well to all the classic comic book tropes. After all, the whole genre was still struggling to recover from 1997's Batman and Robin. The first X-Men film even lampshaded the fact the movies were trying to be a little more grounded, with Cyclops mocking Wolverine and asking if he'd prefer "yellow spandex" to the film's leathers. It's possible Fox made the right call at the time, but Hollywood has undeniably moved on. The superhero genre is now bigger than ever before, and the success of the MCU has proven that traditional, comic-book-style outfits are no barrier for modern viewers. Those distinctive costumes at the end of X-Men: Apocalypse were seen as a step forward for the X-Men franchise, an acceptance that the world is now ready for a real mutant superhero team.
It's truly disappointing to see Fox abandon that approach for X-Men: Dark Phoenix and instead go for a look that was in itself inspired by their own movies. Hopefully, that's not indicative of the whole movie.
- X-Men: Dark Phoenix (2019) release date: Jun 07, 2019
- Gambit (2020) release date: Mar 13, 2020
- New Mutants (2020) release date: Apr 03, 2020