Drawing a cool-looking superhero costume is one thing, and while it’s not easy, real-world physics and limitations don’t matter so much on the page. Actually bringing a costume to life and putting it on a flesh-and-blood actor is another matter entirely. Some comic book looks just don’t translate well to other media and need a little tweaking. But Hollywood, being Hollywood, doesn’t always know when to leave well enough alone, and they occasionally takes such tweaks in a direction that no one wanted. On the opposite end of the scale, fans will sometimes kick up a fuss for no reason at all. Either way, more than a few cinematic superhero costumes have caused a stir among their target audiences.
Usually, whatever fears fans have are laid to rest by the time the film comes out and they actually get to see the contentious costume in action. At the very least, the causes for concern often turn out to be less terrible than anticipated. The operative words in those sentences are, of course, “usually” and “often”. To be clear, many online backlashes are overblown, needlessly cruel and don’t serve any productive purpose whatsoever. But every once in a while, an internet panic attack turns out to be right on the money. Here are 18 times when, for good reasons or not, a superhero costume change had fans reaching for their pitchforks, torches and sewing kits. You may wish to banish any fashionistas from the room before you scroll down, for their own protection.
Oh dear, where do we even begin? Recasting the morally ambiguous Catwoman as a superhero and letting her star in her own Bat-free feature was in itself a questionable move, but trading in her sleek black leotard for a few straps and torn leather pants? That had fans facepalming before the movie even debuted.
Somehow, the movie itself was even worse. Catwoman bombed like few superhero flicks had bombed before, so no sequel is forthcoming. In other words, we never have to see any variation of this uniquely terrible costume again. Say what you will about The Dark Knight Rises — at least Anne Hathaway’s Catwoman knew how to dress.
Not that Keaton and Kilmer’s Batman costumes looked particularly comfortable, but at least they seemed durable and didn’t add any unnecessary frills. Clooney’s version, which thankfully only appeared in the legendary flop that is Batman & Robin, threw even that shred of credibility out the Bat-window.
Anyone with even a passing familiarity of superhero movies already knows about this Batman’s overly anatomically correct suit. And Batman wasn’t the only one affected — Robin’s costume has the exact same design flaws. We’re not saying these costumes are the sole reason for the demise of the Burton/Schumacher franchise, but they sure didn’t help.
16. GREEN LANTERN
Green Lantern, released in 2011, was fraught with problems from the get-go. These problems manifested themselves in a truly lackluster cinematic experience. Hal Jordan, our title hero, simply is not a compelling character here and while his costume did manage to spark interest, it was for all the wrong reasons.
GL’s suit is entirely computer generated, and it shows. Whatever made the designers decide not to go with Hal’s classic look couldn’t possibly have been as bad as this. Deadpool made sure to mock this infamous costume, with a pre-powered Wade Wilson begging the villain to, “Please don’t make the super suit green. Or animated!”
Now that Ryan Reynolds’ Deadpool has two hilarious hit movies under his belt, it may be difficult to remember a time when he was the worst part of a superhero flick but that time did exist. It was 2009, and X-Men Origins: Wolverine had just hit theaters.
Wade Wilson turned up as a supporting character in this movie, and while he started out as his normal wisecracking self, things went downhill real quick. The closest he got to his distinctive red-and-black costume was a pair of maroon pants. Worse, instead of wearing a cowl, the Merc with a Mouth had his mouth sealed in plastic wrap for some reason. Fans were not pleased and neither was Ryan Reynolds.
Henry Cavill’s Superman has proven divisive. Some dislike this new, darker version of the Man of Steel, while others think the changes make Superman more interesting than he’s been in years. The costume has generated some controversy of its own as well. Not only are the colors significantly more muted than on past costumes, the iconic red underoos are nowhere to be seen.
This wasn’t entirely unexpected — the comic book version of Superman had already started wearing his underwear on the inside in 2011, when DC rebooted its entire line-up. It’s a different kind of Superman costume for a different kind of Superman. Is that a good thing or a bad thing? We’re sure you have an opinion on that.
Titans will debut on DC Universe, DC’s new streaming service, this fall. It is already proving to be quite controversial, with fans expressing concern over both its pointedly dark atmosphere and its potty-mouthed Boy Wonder. And, of course, we wouldn’t be talking about it on this list if the costumes weren’t also creating a negative buzz.
Some of the characters, like Robin, Hawk and Dove, closely resemble their comic book appearances and look all right. But Raven, Beast Boy and Starfire have drawn copious criticism for looking, well, ridiculous. From laughable coiffures to downright ugly clothes, Titans is not off to a great start, costume-wise.
Hope van Dyne played a supporting role in 2015’s Ant-Man, but it wasn’t until Ant-Man and the Wasp three years later that she finally got to spread her tiny wings and become a hero herself. In the comics, the Wasp has worn a variety of costumes. So the costume designers had plenty of material to draw inspiration from.
The final design is solid, but some fans found issue with it nonetheless. Some complained that the colors were too dull, while others snickered at an allegedly suggestive pattern down the front. But the Wasp, as she always does, transcended criticism and kicked butt in her own inimitable fashion.
11. CAPTAIN MARVEL
The upcoming film Captain Marvel is a big deal for the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It marks the first time a woman will star in her own Marvel superhero movie. As such, expectations are running high on all fronts, with fans scrutinizing every announcement for signs this film will not suck.
So when their beloved Carol Danvers appeared to be wearing green in on-set photographs, fans freaked. How could Hollywood mess this up so badly? The panic turned out to be a false alarm. There are now plenty of pictures of Captain Marvel star Brie Larson wearing the anticipated blue-and-red suit.
The fifth season of The CW’s The Flash will soon debut, as well as some new, more comics-accurate duds for the titular hero. We haven’t gotten an official look at this new costume yet. Actually, we only know about it thanks to a photo leaked from the set and the internet’s less-than-stellar reaction to it.
Flash actor Grant Gustin was criticized for allegedly being too thin to convincingly play a superhero. Gustin responded like a champ, telling off the body shamers and pointing out that the costume in the photo was not the finished product. So stay tuned, Flash fans — this might just be amazing.
9. FANTASTIC FOUR
The Fantastic Four’s movie history has been troubled, to say the least. From the 1994 Corman flick that never saw a cinematic release to Trank’s unpronounceable Fant4stic in 2015, Mr. Fantastic, the Invisible Woman, the Human Torch and the Thing just haven’t been able to make the leap from comics to movies.
Their most recent foray onto the big screen ended in complete disaster on every level, including costuming. The main characters don’t use their codenames, and they never once appear in anything remotely resembling their matching blue outfits. Come on, guys, even the 2005 movie got that part right.
In the comics, Mystique is mostly known as a villain and has gone through a few costumes, most famously a long white dress with wide slits up the sides. In the ongoing X-Men film franchise, she is an occasional X-Man and wears… not that.
Allegedly, Mystique’s lack of wardrobe is to demonstrate her fierce pride in her mutant nature. But if that’s the case, why does Magneto, the proudest mutant of them all, get to wear long coats and turtlenecks? The final scene of X-Men: Apocalypse does show Mystique in some much more sensible clothes, i.e. any clothes at all.
7. WONDER WOMAN
Should Wonder Woman where pants? DC has gone back and forth on that question quite a bit over the years. In the ’60s, they experimented with depowering the Amazing Amazon and letting her fight crime in a white pant suit. More recently, Wondy temporarily traded in her bathing suit for a pair of long blank trousers.
The reaction was mixed, but in 2011’s unaired Wonder Woman pilot, star Adrianne Palicki appeared in a tube top and blue leggings. It was a strange fusion of Wonder Woman’s classic and new looks. The pilot never took off, and neither did this outfit.
Psylocke was one of several new mutants introduced to the X-Men movie series in 2016’s Apocalypse. Adapting her costume was never going to be easily; Psylocke’s best-known look is a little silly. And her on-screen look turned out to be no less so.
There are holes where there should not be holes, and the weirdly shiny purple material just comes off as tacky. Towards the end of the film, Psylocke gets away from Apocalypse, implying that she might come back in a future X-Men adventure. Hopefully she will make good use of her time on the lam and find a better outfit.
5. HARLEY QUINN
When she debuted on Batman: The Animated Series in 1993, Harley Quinn, the Joker’s unhealthily devoted moll, wore a black-and-red leotard with a matching jester’s hat. The look became an instant classic, so when DC decided to give everyone’s favorite clown girl a makeover, reactions were mixed.
Harley’s new outfit looks more like something you’d wear to the beach than to a bank robbery with your mostly bad paramour. The 2016 film Suicide Squad eschewed Harley’s original look in favor of the new one, to the disappointment of some fans. Well, there is always Gotham City Sirens to look forward to…
Even before Inhumans‘ notably brief television run, fans suspected that the show may not be everything they were hoping for. How? The costume designs. The MCU tends to adapt costumes by making them as realistic as possible, but they may have taken that philosophy a bit too far with Inhumans.
Medusa in particular caught a lot of flack for her pastel purple dress. And her hair — arguably the most important part of her, since it’s her main power — was painfully, blatantly fake. As for the rest of the cast, they mostly went with basic black, making them look more at home in The Matrix than the MCU.
The original X-Men film trilogy provided fans with their first look at how the marvelous mutants might look in real life. Unfortunately, not everyone was pleased with the end result. In fact, fans had multiple bones to pick with the films’ bland, uninspired costuming.
Why is everyone in black, fans demanded to know? Where are the classic blue-and-yellow suits that the X-Men so famously wore in the comics? And most of all, where is Wolverine’s pointy cowl?! But the movies were mostly successful anyway, and of course Hugh Jackman’s popularity as comicdom’s angriest Canadian suffered not one whit from the lack of mask.
Quicksilver has appeared in both the Marvel Cinematic Universe and in the X-Men films. Only in the former case does he wear anything close to his comic book costume. The X-Men films instead opted for a more low-key look, with regular if very silver clothes, shades and a giggle-inducing wig.
While some viewers were less than impressed with this Quicksilver’s wardrobe, the character himself was affable and fun to watch, in part thanks to some truly epic slo-mo sequences showcasing his superspeed adventures. He’s already proven he doesn’t need a costume to be cool, but who knows? Maybe he’ll wear one in future flicks.
No, not the popular Netflix series, but the 2003 movie Daredevil, in which Ben Affleck attempted at playing a superhero for the first time that ended in disappointment all around. And bringing Daredevil’s iconic red suit to life was a headache of Kingpin-sized proportions.
It’s not really possible to tell what Daredevil’s suit is made out of just by looking at a drawing of it, so theoretically, the designers were free to use whatever materials would look best. What did they go with? Leather from top to bottom. And yet, in spite of this heroic effort to stay true to the comics, the final result is just embarrassing.
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