What Not To Wear: The Superhero’s Dilemma
Superheroes. They’re just about everywhere these days. If they’re not dropping in from the past, they’re literally falling from the sky.
Super powers and super good looks aside, the most important thing any hero needs to get right is the suit. A good costume can make a hero. A bad one can strip him of all credibility.
It’s surprising therefore to see a clutch of new movies getting it wrong by creating costumes that are overdone, cheap, unworkable or just plain weird.
Here are our top 5 picks from recent and upcoming movies and TV.
1. Superman: Man of Steel
When the first official picture of Henry Cavill as Superman: Man of Steel emerged, everyone oohed and ahhed over the image’s ‘gritty realism’ (a staple for any self-respecting Superhero movie these days), Cavill’s heroic musculature and even the amazingly neat pleats on the shoulders of his cape. (He must have spent an age ironing those in.)
What fans weren’t talking about however was Superman’s signature red underpants. And nor would they be for another couple of weeks until a clutch of behind the scenes photos leaked onto a fan Facebook page revealed an underpantless Superman. All the swirling fog and dramatic shadow of the official picture were merely present to mask the fact Superman will be going commando in Zack Snyder’s upcoming movie.
Presenting a credible superhero to a modern movie-going audience is a tough job. A hero who just happens to wear his undies on the outside is always going to be an issue, especially in these post-Christopher Nolan days. Previous filmmakers have attempted to skirt around the issue (no pun intended) by making Supe’s smalls smaller and therefore less conspicuous, or by muting the color, but Henry Cavill is the first onscreen Superman to ditch his altogether.
The thing is, it just doesn’t work. Instead of drawing the eye away from the issue, everyone who has seen the new look costume ends up staring at Henry Cavill’s crotch in the same way you would a three legged dog. As well proportioned as Cavill’s suit suggests he is, we’re left with an overwhelming feeling that something big is missing down there.
Our Verdict: If you’re going to make a superman movie, accept the fact he’s a guy who wears underpants on the outside and work with it. If the audience buys into the flying, the kryptonite and Superman’s ability to become unrecognizable simply by donning a pair of unfashionable spectacles, then chances are they’ll be willing to overlook the undies too, unless you take them off.
2. Magneto (X Men First Class)
X Men First Class should be praised for attempting to bring the franchise back to its roots. The movie explored the relationship between Xavier (future Professor X) and Eric (future Magneto) set against the backdrop of the Cold War. As part of that return to all things genuinely X-Men, the costumes too were treated to an overhaul and featured the gang in traditional comic book yellow. Michael Fassbender managed to look both sexy and impressive (or impressively sexy?) even with Sebastian Shaw’s thought-repelling metal pot stuck on his head.
However, this movie cannot be forgiven for its closing scene, in which (look away now if for some reason you didn’t catch this movie, or if you can’t bear to be reminded of the screaming fashion faux-pas which occurred next) Eric Lehnsherr rescues Emma Frost from her prison. Dressed in his new outfit, he tells her in a sinister growly voice to call him Magneto before the credits roll. (Ed: He said ‘call me Magneto,’ not ‘call me Magneto before the credits roll.’ Just FYI)
There’s a reason this scene is just a few seconds long and occurs at the movie’s end. It’s because of Magneto’s final new costume. Baggy, saggy and sporting enormous pockets (for keeping spare change presumably) Magneto’s new look is just so wrong in so many ways.
And the closeup makes things even worse. Are those ant antennae sprouting from the top of that pink eyebrow ridge?
Our Verdict: They should have stopped one costume ago. This outfit has the ability to make someone as hot as Micheal Fassbender look like a 65 year old transvestite insectoid. Sometimes it’s really better not to go back to the comic book for inspiration.
3. Wonder Woman (the failed NBC TV pilot)
When images from NBC’s Wonder Woman pilot (starring Adrianne Palicki) first leaked onto the internet, fans went into an uproar about her costume. ‘Impractical’ ‘campy’ and ‘looks like a stripper’s costume’ were just some of the words bandied about. In the weeks to follow, we were treated to variations on the original theme – pants on, pants off, a change in the color of the boots and a darkening of the costume’s overall tone. (Presumably in an effort to achieve Gritty Realism.) Some intrepid fans even went so far as to crank up Photoshop and redesign the costume themselves. Some were actually very good.
Reporter James Hibberd told EW.com, “NBC promises the project, if picked up to series, will offer a serious, non-campy take on the DC Comics character.”
Really NBC? Really?
Our Verdict: The problem with Wonder Woman is that no real woman is ever going to take her seriously while she’s dressed as Wonder Woman. When the next big or small screen reboot happens, the show’s creators will no doubt prattle on about how Wonder Woman is a role model for young females. They’ll probably use words like ‘smart’ and ‘strong’ and ‘kickass’ in the same sentence, but when women look at those high-heeled knee high boots, vast expanses of bare skin, skimpy panties and cleavage-squeezing bustier, the word that will spring to mind will inevitably be Hooker.
4. Judge Dredd (Dredd)
Karl Urban has shown an impressive understanding of the Dredd Universe. Which is just as well because he’s the new face of Dredd. Well actually, he’s the new Judge Dredd minus the face. It appears Urban will be keeping his helmet on throughout Lionsgate’s upcoming 2012 Dredd Movie.
In a recent interview Urban said “If anyone is familiar with Dredd, over the years there are many times when he removes his helmet but you never fully see his face. This was a construct by the creators because he represents a faceless system of justice and law.”
“I say this hypothetically. If I went to a movie called Judge Dredd and the lead actor at one point took off his helmet so we could see his full face I would just puke in my popcorn because that’s not Dredd. He is mysterious and enigmatic. We’re doing it right, it’s gonna be harder, grittier and above all faithful to the comic. It’s gonna kick ass.”
Harder and Gritter aside, Urban’s Dredd is going to have to put some serious consideration into how he’s going to win over an audience with a character who keeps his face hidden for the entire length of the movie. Again, Urban has it covered. “You’re taught as an actor that if you take away the eyes you have to think about what you’re left with – there’s the voice; there’s body language,” the actor said recently. “How a character does what he does speaks volumes. So those are the tools I will have to employ.”
If we’re going to spend an hour and a half looking at Urban’s helmet then it really should be a fluid, serviceable and believable piece of kit, akin to Dredd’s Lawgiver gun or his Lawmaster bike. As gorgeous as Urban’s manly jawline is, his helmet, too heavy on top and gaping at the bottom, actually serves to diminish his features. He just looks lost in there.
Our Verdict: Urban’s top heavy accessory does not give good helmet.
5. Captain America (The Avengers)
Actually we quite liked Captain America’s costume in this summer’s Captain America movie. It had just the right balance of Gritty Realism and Superhero panache. (We were also immensely relieved to see the helmet wings were just painted on.)
What we didn’t like was all the fiddling that took place on the costume between Captain America and The Avengers. The new look suit has been streamlined to within an inch of its life and looks homogenized and bland as a result. Even Captain America himself (Chris Evans) prefers the old one.
“I was worried because I started to get really attached to the old one. The first time we tried a new one on, I was like, ‘Oh, I miss the old one,’” Evans said recently.