Adaptations are a tricky thing to tackle. You have to carefully walk the line between a fresh, organic take on the same story, while also properly servicing it — but not being bound to it. Comics are some of the hardest adaptations, especially because they're already visual stories. How do you visualize a scene that's already been fully realized on the page?
And on top of that, how do you perfectly adapt and still change up a time-tested costume? Sometimes the team behind a movie will forget the change-up part in an attempt to please fans. Good intentions, various executions, and a poor result. Here's five examples of these attempts gone wrong:
Daredevil — Daredevil (2003)
There's a lot to be said about the notoriously bad Daredevil, but not much that hasn't been said already. It was boring, the (slightly above average) cast didn't have a good script to work with, and the slow motion scenes looked like they came from a late nineties video game cutscene. For all its failures in faithfully adapting elements of the comic books (Bullseye, Bullseye, and Bullseye), there was one thing that looked like it was ripped right off the page: Daredevil himself. The color, material, and weapons were all there, along with the bulging red eyes, devil horns, and signature DD patch. But if it's so right, why does it look so wrong?
It's because it doesn't work. While the comic book costume was made of spandex (and had the benefit of being drawn on paper), the movie version took a page out of the X-Men playbook and crafted it out of leather. The result? A muted, rumpled-looking costume with no business being near a $78,000,000 film. In all honesty, Ben Affleck looked like he was wrapped in a strawberry Fruit Roll-Up.
The Lesson: A comic-accurate design means nothing when you don't have the perfect material to put it on.
The Fantastic Four — Fantastic Four (2005)
Wasn't 2005 a simpler time? Studios weren't focused on cinematic universes and Johnny Depp still made successful movies. So simple in fact, that the costumes were basically a tangible duplicate of the comics look! Everyone except for The Thing had an identical, brightish blue spandex suit with the "4" patch on their chest (though slightly smaller and not centered). That's not to say he didn't fit in, because of course the orange rock dude wears pants that matches the rest of his crew.
Despite their admirable level of faithfulness, Reed Richards and co. can't help but look goofy. There's nothing glaringly bad for the three non-orange members, but nothing too great either. Unfortunately, the one orange member does fall in the glaringly bad category. Michael Chiklis looks like he's wearing chunks of styrofoam with a bad spray-tan (which he probably was, now that I think about it). I'm sure this was an attempt to keep the CGI budget down and keep the character "human," but at what cost? The 2015 reboot had the right idea with a digitally rendered Thing, but they bungled his color, eye color, texture, and remarkable fashion sense. It's almost like there hasn't been a good Fantastic Four adaptation.
The Lesson: If you have to throw some extra money in a movie's budget to make sure the more "out-there" character doesn't look like a practically created mess, do it.
Green Lantern — Green Lantern (2011)
You're probably noticing a pattern here — all the costumes on this list are from reviled movies. That'll change soon. Anyways, here we are with another faithful adaptation in the form of Ryan Reynolds' Green Lantern. All the major boxes are checked off; the green/black color scheme, the classic domino mask, the centered logo, and of course, the ring. The only thing that's missing are the white gloves, but that's a minor omittance. Everything of importance is there, so what's the big fuss?
The stupid design choices, that's the big fuss. Let's start with the material: It's pretty much a known fact that the actual Lantern costumes in Green Lantern were completely CG. Rather than wearing, you know, an actual costume, the actors were decked out in motion capture suits. Unfortunately, this allowed a lot of freedom in post-production. So what did we get from all this freedom? A domino mask that looked like it was copy/pasted on to each frame, coursing lines on the costume (because the "material" didn't really exist), and disgustingly weird toe-outlining footwear.
The Lesson: Practical before CGI for a simple costume.
Captain America — The Avengers (2012)
A lot of you may be disagreeing with me on this one, but come on. Captain America in the comics looks more or less exactly like he does in The Avengers. He wears bright colors, the American flag, and usually a helmet. Chris Evans has the shield, the perfect build, and the right features for the role. Even the material looks right! So why's he on the list
He's on the list because he looks goofy as hell. I can't really put my finger on it, but some notable issues include the lack of a color break-up (way too much blue), the colors are way too bright (I prefer the Age of Ultron/Civil War scheme), and the helmet looked silly (probably because of the missing straps, making it seem like it appeared out of nowhere). On top of that, the suit doesn't have the right angular feel and simple but effective padding as the Stealth Suit, giving it a weirdly two-dimensional style. Basically, it would fit better in a cartoon than live-action.
The Lesson: Not all comic book elements carry over well into live-action, so don't be afraid to adjust or remove them.
Hulk — Hulk (2003)
Hulk wasn't terribly received, but its middling reception put a sequel on the back burner (until the birth of the MCU, of course). This movie marked the first time that Hulk would be an entirely CG creation, as opposed to a super buff guy painted green. You have to admire the ambition that went behind forgoing practical effects for digital creation in 2003, but the end result didn't reflect that. Sure, Hulk was humongous, green, and wore purple pants. But he also looked... not that great. The problem here is easy to identify: There wasn't enough time dedicated to the post-production. And as a result, Eric Bana's fictional alter-ego looks like he stepped out of a high-end video game rather than $137 million production.
The Lesson: If your movie revolves around a giant CGI character, make sure you actually have the time and resources to do it properly.
So What Doesn't Work?
I touched on various issues that could affect a costume's success in the page-to-screen process; material, creation method, design, level of faithfulness, and budget. Each of these are important in their own right because they all play a role in the final product. A bad material makes a bad costume, just like bad source material makes a bad movie. Creation method and budget go hand-in-hand, because a studio might opt for the cheaper (but far tackier) version of a signature look (see: Hulk and The Thing), but the final result is always lacking. Similarly, poor design choices lead to an unnecessarily cluttered look. And being a slave to the comics is no help either, because it robs audiences of seeing anything truly fresh.
But while we as fans are always clamoring for costumes that are indistinguishable from an artist's rendering, we shouldn't be. Exact replications don't look good on screen. The reason spandex looks so good on paper is because it's hand drawn, so anything awkward can be erased. It's not that easy to do with a camera that can zoom in on your nose hairs. The point is, there has to be a balance. Don't go too far out there (a la Doomsday), but also don't be weirdly similar to the comics.
What are some faithful, yet terrible, costume adaptations you've noticed?