Live-action superhero costumes have always had a long and tumultuous history. At first, costumes that looked too much like pajamas or regular clothing were excused by a lack of visual effects, but as superhero films became more and more common, the costumes evolved with the trend. Of course, not a dig to greats like Christopher Reeves’ Superman or Adam West’s Batman. And right there at the top, with some stellar superhero costumes is the MCU.
Since 2008, the magic of the Marvel Cinematic Universe has gotten us on all fronts. Solid enough stories, care for the source material and a slew of fantastic actors in equally-fantastic roles. Then there are the costumes. Not every costume in the MCU has looked like fabric gold. No, some of the costumes are total misses from what fans should and could have expected from a live-action take. OK, so not every costume can be as accurate as Robert Downey Jr.’s Iron Man armor, Doctor Strange’s magic cape or The Hulk’s… shorts, but still, each and every character provides a unique and difficult challenge. All in all, the MCU seems to be doing alright. Here’s a look at eight costumes that didn’t live up to fans’ expectations and seven that totally surpassed them.
15. DIDN’T LIVE UP: HAWKEYE
Say what you will about Hawkeye’s portrayal in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but Jeremy Renner’s costume always looks just a bit too plain for our tastes. But that’s not to say plain is bad. Plain works in the comics, where Clint Barton is seen sporting either a stealthy black suit with a purple emblem or just a T-shirt. Of course, there’s always classic Hawkeye, but we don’t think any fans are really looking for the mask.
No, Hawkeye’s MCU costumes just look like regular old tactical gear, and while it works for grounding all of these films in reality, it doesn’t leave much for the fans. Thankfully, concept art and speculation points to a redesigned Hawkeye look for Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers 4. Ronin, anyone?
14. SURPASSED: VISION
Up until Vision’s eventual reveal in images and the first trailers for Avengers: Age of Ultron, fans were worried about how Paul Bettany’s take on the character would play out on the big screen. Well, after those first looks, there wasn’t much to worry about. OK, so his suit’s colors are a bit different, but Vision’s comic book lost almost no visual clarity moving to live action, right down to his origin and the gem in his head.
And for many, Vision is a high mark for how the MCU should address taking comic book characters to live-action. Subtle changes can go a long way, and allow the MCU take on the character to chart their own course for future films. This isn’t the first MCU costume to take a subtle change to the next level, though.
13. DIDN’T LIVE UP: SCARLET WITCH
There are a lot of things the Marvel Cinematic Universe version of Scarlet Witch does right. Her powers are incredible and easily make her one of the most dangerous heroes in the MCU. But for many fans, her costumes lack the extra level of presentation seen in her comic book counterpart — and this mostly comes from the lack of a headpiece.
In the comics, Scarlet Witch is one of the most powerful sorcerers in the Marvel Universe, so while her live action counterpart may not be there in her career yet, it’s still odd to see a character without one of their iconic pieces, especially when it would prove to be less problematic than most comic-to-movie adaptations. It’s like Thor’s helmet, why can’t we have both?
12. SURPASSED: ANT-MAN
So much could have gone wrong with adapting the classic Ant-Man costume into Marvel Cinematic Universe canon, especially after the departure of original director Edgar Wright. But for the film’s finished product, the Ant-Man costume not only made a stellar transition to the big screen, but actually ended up being one of the coolest costumes in the MCU, period.
Much like the other heroes of the movie universe, Ant-Man’s suit is crossed somewhere between a crazy comic book outfit and actual, real-life tactical gear. But the helmet is where the film really succeeded, and it got even better with Scott Lang’s appearance in Captain America: Civil War. We can’t wait to see the subtle changes that come with 2018’s Ant-Man & The Wasp and Avengers: Infinity War.
11. DIDN’T LIVE UP: FALCON
Sam Wilson is one of the most-developed characters in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. And while his costume makes complete in-universe sense given his military background, fans are left wanting just a little bit more from the suit he wears. No, we don’t think they’re really asking for actual wings or anything, or even an actual bird for Redwing, but just a bit more red. And so far, it seems to be moving in that direction.
The idea to make Redwing a drone is actually pretty genius. Though, talking to birds isn’t too far fetched when Ant-Man established Scott Lang’s ability to talk to ants. Hey, you never know. Maybe Hank Pym will come up with a device for Falcon. After all, it pays to have eyes in the sky.
10. SURPASSED: SPIDER-MAN
In what might be the biggest surprise of the Marvel Cinematic Universe so far, Spider-Man’s costume in the film sets a new bar for how to change up a superhero costume for live-action. Sure, we loved the previous two Spider-Man looks, but from the new suit’s expressive eyes to classic colors and emblems, it’s hard not to pick Tom Holland’s as your favorite.
In a post-Deadpool world, it feels like all live-action masked superheroes need expressive eyes. In addition, it looks like the Iron Spider suit will be making its full debut in Avengers: Infinity War if rumors prove true, something fans have been waiting for since the final moments of Spider-Man: Homecoming. The colors are a bit off, but it’ll do just fine, we’re sure.
9. DIDN’T LIVE UP: NOVA CORPS
Once you get passed how mostly goofy the Nova Corps seem to be in the Guardians of the Galaxy films — a far cry from their comic book counterparts — you’ll find that the costumes themselves are lacking the extra punch to make them that much cooler. In the comics, the Nova Corps function like Marvel’s version of the Green Lanterns. They’re galactic peacekeepers, and whether we’re talking about the Corps as a whole, Richard Rider or Sam Alexander, all of their costumes are pretty darn cool.
But the Marvel Cinematic Universe Nova Corps costumes look like lame space clothes for the most part, and their helmets look less like a sweet star-crested piece of headgear and more like a bloated Judge Dredd helmet. And as much as we love John C. Reilly, it’s hard to get passed his persona as part of the Nova Corps.
8. SURPASSED: BLACK PANTHER
There is so much that we’ve already seen of the Black Panther costume that has us unbelievably pumped for the film when it releases later this month. T’Challa’s transition to live-action has been pretty much impeccable, and our first glimpses at the suit in 2016’s Captain America: Civil War just weren’t enough to tide us over. The slick, armor-passed Black Panther suit is sleek, tactical and sharp.
And from what we’ve seen of its showing in Black Panther, it’s also incredibly powerful, and has the ability to do everything from appear over clothing to helping T’Challa stand up against a slew of armed gunman. As far as making the jump from the pages to the big screen, Black Panther’s costume seems to have done it perfectly.
7. DIDN’T LIVE UP: DIAMONDBACK
While the Luke Cage Netflix series was a pretty impressive showing for the character, the second half of it lacked the punch it needed to finish strong. Why? Well, a lot of that can be attributed to Diamondback’s showing as a villain. But that aside, his costume didn’t seem to make him enough of a threat, at least not enough to have viewers worried for Luke at all.
In a lot of ways, Mahershala Ali’s Cottonmouth was closer to what fans expected from a live action Diamondback anyway. Sure, he lacked the superpowers, but at least he didn’t have a helmet that made him look like a low budget Robocop. For many fans, this took them out of the latter half of Netflix’s Luke Cage.
6. SURPASSED: BLACK WIDOW
When Scarlett Johansson was first revealed to be playing Black Widow, some fans were uncertain as to how things would shake out. But from her first appearance in the Marvel Cinematic Universe in Iron Man 2, audiences were sold on her portrayal of the Russian-made assassin turned Avengers.
Each time we’ve seen Black Widow, her costume has evolved. In films like Captain America: Winter Soldier, she perfectly embodied the look of her comic book counterpart, and by the time her shock gauntlets and fighting sticks got an upgrade for Avengers: Age of Ultron and Captain America: Civil War, we were more than convinced. Even in the character’s recent comic book appearances, it’s hard to not see Johansson in the role, and the translation of the iconic costume is plenty part of that.
5. DIDN’T LIVE UP: MEDUSA
This may sound like a broken record already, but the Marvel Cinematic Universe Inhumans television show lacked a lot of things. A coherent story, engaging characters and believable special effects were all part of its downfall, but its costumes were also a subtle, but not warranted departure from the comics. In the show’s attempt at bringing Medusa from the page to the small screen, the costume went from fierce to laughable.
It’s basic, sure, but it doesn’t sell the aspect of space royalty that the show tried to put on a pedestal. In addition, shoddy special effects meant a waste of Medusa’s hair abilities, with the show essentially taking heed of it and shaving her head just a bit into the show. It felt like a cop out, and the queen of the Inhumans deserves better.
4. SURPASSED: DOCTOR STRANGE
For fans of the Doctor Strange comics, it doesn’t get much better than this. The costume for Benedict Cumberbatch’s Doctor Strange is so perfect, it’s still a bit jarring to see it up against the other heroes in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. When he popped up in Thor: Ragnarok, it was hard to believe that he was in the same room with the MCU versions of Thor and Loki.
And the details of the suit really aim to sell it. Sure, Cumberbatch has the look of Stephen Strange, but between the blue outerwear, the red cape and cloak and the Eye of Agamotto, there’s really not much more you could want from a live-action take on the Sorcerer Supreme. Well, maybe if we got Jason Aaron and Chris Bachalo’s take on the character next. Give us the axe!
3. DIDN’T LIVE UP: DAREDEVIL
By most accounts, the Netflix Daredevil series is pretty phenomenal, and it’s a very seamless take on the character for the streaming service and for the Marvel Cinematic Universe. But when his final costume is finally revealed, it’s hard to not yearn for a return to Matt Murdock’s all-black makeshift costume from earlier in the series.
The suit looks like a cross between too much tactical gear and a shade of red that doesn’t quite match the character from the comics. And sure, the show needs to sell us on the fact that Matt Murdock couldn’t take all of those punches without some serious damage, but does he have to do it looking like that? Let’s hope the costume sees a nice refresh when season three hits Netflix. After all, every other character in the show looks perfect already.
2. SURPASSED: IRON MAN
As the crown jewel of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Robert Downey Jr.’s Iron Man has successfully sold us on the concept of a live action superhero world. But when you get passed the acting, the drama, the comic-accurate storytelling and the wonderful characters, you’ve got the suit — and that first real Iron Man suit made plenty of fans’ dreams come true.
And it doesn’t just stop at the one suit. In the same film, we get more than enough from Tony Stark’s earlier takes on the costumes, from the vintage silver rust bucket armor all the way to the finished product. His subsequent upgrades in later films and a surprise showing from the Hulkbuster in Avengers: Age of Ultron make Tony Stark’s suits some of the best costumes in the MCU.
1. DIDN’T LIVE UP : QUICKSILVER
Quicksilver in Avengers: Age of Ultron is a prime example of a need to change up the costume from comic book to the movie screen. While his costume in the film was about as accurate as it could really get, it lacked any sort of personality beyond what was initially shown. His powers were cool, but they were kind of held back by his goofy athletic wear, and we’re more interested in what happens to the X-Men: Days of Future Past version of Quicksilver.
And while we may not see the character pop up again anytime soon, it’d be nice to see a refreshed take on the character’s live-action costume. We don’t need to go full-Flash, but a shakeup would be more than welcome if Aaron Taylor-Johnson ever makes a return to the MCU.
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