There’s a real difficulty involved in taking a costume that looks good on paper and bringing it to the big (or small) screen. Colours and proportions that look amazing in a comic book don’t always translate well to real life. Certain costumes are easy, like Iron Man, because robotics and mechanized beings have been a part of cinema since the beginning of the industry. We’re used to seeing them on screen, and in an increasingly technology focused society, if it’s got lights, lasers, and lots of fancy moving parts we’ll eat it up because it looks, to a point, realistic. Others, like Hawkeye and Wolverine for example, are much harder to translate because it’s difficult to take a grown man dressed in bright purple with a flared mask and a giant “H” on his belt seriously.
Over the years, Marvel has done the best they can in keeping a character’s iconic look and translating it into a somewhat grounded and realistic aesthetic, but DC is simply doing it better. Which is ironic when you consider that Marvel, for the most part, has always tried to keep their universe somewhat grounded in reality and DC has been happy to embrace the fact that their characters, at some points in the past, have literally chained planets together and punched through the walls of dimensions.
With Avengers: Age of Ultron currently raking in the cash in theatres, DC has recently released a whole slew of promo shots and character art for their upcoming movies Suicide Squad and Batman v Superman, and lots of fans are giving massive props to the company for keeping the look true to the source material while ensuring sure it doesn’t look goofy and cartoonish.
The Batman costume, from what we’ve seen so far, has absolutely nailed the source material. The muted greys, tiny ears, and general simplicity (no bat nipples!) are exactly what the character needs. No complicated armour or goofy pectoral pieces, just cloth, cowl, and massive muscles. Hell, even Superman, who generally rocks a look that seems impossible to juxtapose with the dark and gritty dystopian future of BvS, looks fantastic. The bright reds and blues are toned down, the silly underpants over tights have been replaced by a sexy form fitting one piece, and even the texture has been given a makeover to look rougher than the Reeves version of ballerina spandex in Crayola hues.
Where DC really shines is arguably the toughest aspect of bringing a super hero to the big screen- the female costumes. For decades the realm of comicdom has been rife with accusations of being sexist, misogynist, and generally male dominated. Female heroes are depicted as big-busted, slim-waisted porn stars wearing costumes that accentuate their sexy parts while providing little to no actual protection that would be wildly impractical for actual combat. In this respect, it is hard to fault Marvel in this regard as a lot of the female characters they feature in their movies don’t have ridiculous costumes in the comics, but watching Black Widow kick all sorts of ass in platform shoes takes a little away from the tough-chick look the company is shooting for. Having said that, from we’ve seen of Wonder Woman so far (which to be fair is mostly concept art) DC is knocking out of the park again-especially when you remember that WW has one of the most ridiculous costumes in the history of the medium, and has been notoriously difficult to bring to film and television without appearing incredibly silly.
There’s still plenty of movies coming down the pipeline from both companies, but outside of Mr. Stark’s ultra-modern power-armour, Marvel has a lot of work to do when it comes to costumes (I’m looking at you Daredevil).
Making a semi-realistic super-hero movie is hard, and ensuring audiences are able to watch them without snickering the whole time is even harder. And even though DC has a lot of catching up to do in terms of film success and making a solid, entertaining super-hero flick, at the very least they’ve got a fantastic start on a hugely important aspect.