Best & Worst Superhero Costumes
1) BEST: Adam West's Batman Costume -
Sure, you might hate the gray and blue tights that over accentuate West's Bat-paunch, but admit it. You LOVE to hate this costume. Of all the Batman costumes over the years, none have been as endearing as Adam West's, reflecting the outlandish style of the sixties that splash color even on the darkest superhero. This costume is a true reflection of Batman's bravery. Not only does he fight crime, but he does it wearing nylon tights and a vinyl cape. Holy Split Underwear!
2) WORST: Brandon Routh's 'Superman Returns' Costume -
How do you update Christopher Reeves' iconic costume from Richard Donner's classic Superman film? Apparently blood-red rubber is the way to go! This costume not only swallows all the light in any scene that Brandon is in, but it looks like a full body condom. Forget anything breathable, Superman apparently wasn't shopping for comfort here. Every time he moves I imagine those high pitched squeaking sounds that they have to replace with swishes in post-production.
3) BEST: Harry Potter
Even in the world of magic Harry Potter stands a head-scar above the rest of his class at Hogwartz Academy. This is because of the subtlety of his superhero costume which combines the cape-like robes of his school with his kickass lightening bolt forehead tattoo. The best thing about this costume is its versatility. During the moments when he's palling around with his Hogwartz buddies, Daniel Radcliffe's adorable bangs hide his symbol of power. But the moment he needs to steal focus BOOM! hand up to the head, a perfunctory whine (irresistibly pitched in that English accent), and the scar blazes forth with unparalleled star power. This is also the kind of costume that's easy to duplicate, offering the kind of versatility for girls and boys that you can't find with you're standard Iron Man uniform. Try getting your grandma to knit one of those.
4) WORST - Dolph Lundgren's Punisher Costume
Doing away with the trademark skull emblem from the comic books, Mark Goldblatt's 1989 "The Punisher" decided instead to give Lundgren a lifeless uniform of black renegade leather. Then, to toss some salt on the fanboy wound, they went with a weird five-o'clock shadow that juts just below his cheekbones along with some emo makeup under the eyes. There are even scenes where it seems that Lundgren's cheeks have been flushed white to look like a skull. Essentially, The Punisher looks like a zombie that tried to shave. Maybe that's intentional. Frank Castle is supposed to be dead on the inside; a puppet to his eternal vengeance. Hence his costume is lifeless, as is his performance, as is the movie. Interesting take, I guess.
5) BEST - Iron Man/ Spider Man Costumes
If it ain't broke, don't fix it - in short, these movies both follow a fundamental rule that's often broken in cinematic translation. They imported their costumes directly from the comic books themselves. And since most of the time both characters are computer animated anyway, the translation went off without a hitch. It's no wonder that the best scenes from both movies are the ones where the actor is wearing the costume without a mask, showing the actor underneath. It's only in these scenes that we see the costumes for the very first time as being real; something containing an actual person. The scenes are always short and sweet, just enough to remind you that they're in there. Then the mask is back on and the cartoon takes over. The dream unbroken.
6) WORST - George Clooney's Batman Costume
This one shows up on every 'worst costume' list, and rightfully so. It is most likely the worst superhero costume of all time, and for all the same reasons that the Adam West costume is so good. The only difference is that while West's costume is diffused by the childish antics of the television show, Clooney's outfit is amplified by its own haughty self awareness. (Ha! Bat-Nipples. Funny, right?... Come on! Anyone? Don't you get it?) But no. 'Batman and Robin' was post-Tim Burton, post-Frank Miller, post-60's, and as the Joker so rightfully states, "there ain't no going back".
7) BEST - Rorschach From Watchmen
There were two costumes that stood out in Zack Snyder's nauseating rendition of Alan Moore's famous graphic novel, (we'll discuss the other later) and one was Rorschach. His 1930's detective outfit lay in perfect contrast with the slightly supernatural ever-changing face mask. The best part about this costume was that it symbolized Moore's overall message of the film, constantly shifting perspectives in a world that can't comprehend its own meaning. Credit for this costume goes largely to Moore, since the carry over to film was spot on.
8) WORST - The X-Men
More black leather. Apparently, it's the default for films that can't come up with a more creative interpretation of superhero costumes. But none were worse than these, which unified the X-Men as more of a Hell's Angels homage than a team of super secret mutants trying to save the world. I suppose the blue and yellow get-ups weren't cool enough for film. I'm picturing the art director screaming, "No! Make it more black! More! More! The X-Men should look like a black hole when they're all together! That's what the kids want to see."
9) BEST - Christian Bale 'Batman Begins'
This has to be the best Batman costume there is. Not just in how sleek and utilitarian it is, but how the entire movie surrounds its creation. The scenes in which Christian Bale and Michael Caine ruminate about how to import pieces are largely reminiscent of Dr. Frankenstein. We know that he's creating a monster that he'll be a slave to for the rest of his life. This is perhaps the only costume in superhero history that becomes a major dramatic force in the film.
10) WORST - Dr. Manhattan
Zack Snyder's major creative contribution to Alan Moore's seminal novel, "The Watchmen", was Dr. Manhattan's big blue penis. There's an unwritten rule in film that the moment you bring a penis into the frame it automatically becomes the entire frame. Words don't matter. The surrounding action becomes mute. Stop the show everyone, there's a penis on stage. Just as Rorschach's costume is a metaphor for Alan Moore's story, Dr. Manhattan's costume is a metaphor for Snyder's film: it shows us a lot, and shows us nothing at the same time.
Superhero costumes to look forward to this summer will begin with Hugh Jackman's new military style Wolverine-wear. And while it's certainly cool enough to pass muster in the hit and miss world of superhero cinema, there's still a small place in my heart holding out hope for a return of the yellow spandex and the elaborate facemask from the comic books. Either way, lap it up because there's a shortage of superhero films this summer, and the G.I. Joes aren't filling any voids in my soul.
Story by Eric Jones
Starpulse contributing writer
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