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The online reaction to the first images from next year’s X-Men: Apocalypse has been an interesting thing to watch. Not because fans are excited to see the likes of Olivia Munn and Oscar Isaac as favorite characters like Psylocke and Apocalypse for the first time, per se, but because there’s quite so much excitement over the fact that the movie incarnations of those characters so closely resemble their comic book visuals.
The issue of faithfulness to comic book costumes — or, rather, that movies would want to be faithful to the comic book costume — is a relatively new thing when it comes to superhero movies, at least in this current cycle. Think about the look given to the X-Men in Bryan Singer‘s original movie in 2000, or even the “realistic” redesigns given to Captain America and Hawkeye when they debuted in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and it’s clear that moviemakers were concerned that the garish colors and unrealistic details of the comic book originals would be a little too much for mainstream audiences.
Warner Bros.’ superhero efforts haven’t made the same effort, with good reason: The visuals of Superman and Batman are iconic and already ingrained in the mainstream consciousness. It’s one thing to strip Cyclops of his tight-fitting spandex and bright-yellow visor, but removing the S-shield from the Man of Steel? That’s unthinkable — even if it means that you need to insert a scene where Superman tells the audience that it’s not really an S, but a symbol that means “hope” in his alien language to explain it away. Similarly, the cinematic Batmen through the years have dropped the blue and yellow of the comic book visual — although the comics, too, have done that throughout the years on occasion — and lesser-known DC villains appearing in the movies have had their comic book looks replaced by something more realistic and grounded.
(The same could be said of Sony’s Spider-Man movies; the look is so classic that to change it would be more problematic than keeping it the same. The opponents’ looks, however, were all reimagined and made more mundane.)
With both X-Men: Apocalypse and Deadpool, however, it looks like Fox is moving toward embracing the spirit of comic book costuming, if not following the details to the letter. (Some costumes, after all, would be impossible to construct in reality.) Ryan Reynolds has proudly spoken multiple times about the fact that his Deadpool costume is the most faithful movie costume ever made, underscoring the shift. Who would really have imagined even three years ago that the greatest threat the X-Men faced would be wearing giant purple armor and have a bright blue face?
The change is, I suspect, studios and moviemakers — or at least the X-Men producers (Fox’s new Fantastic Four is as grounded a visual makeover as we’ve seen) — are realizing that audiences have already gotten over one of the biggest hurdles assumed for superhero adaptations: that people could have such supernatural powers in the first place, and then use them to fight other people with such powers. Once that suspension of disbelief had been firmly installed in the collective consciousness, there’s space to introduce more outre elements … like the costuming.
It’ll be interesting to see what the costumes look like in action, instead of in the pages of Entertainment Weekly. This isn’t, after all, the first time in recent memory a movie tried to explore a more colorful look, only to be derided for doing so when the movie finally arrived. Sure, in stills, X-Men: Apocalypse‘s comic book-esque costumes look great, but will the finished product end up being another Green Lantern?
We’ll find out when X-Men: Apocalypse opens May 27, 2016.
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