Today Comingsoon.net released our first look at the updated Spider-man costume from the upcoming sequel to The Amazing Spider-man. (Amazing Spider-man 2? Spectacular Spider-man? Amazing-er Spider-man?) I thought it would be worthwhile to update a post I made when we were getting our first looks at the costume from the previous film.
While I find it weird that after such an extreme redesign of the Spider-man costume in the previous film to something so close to the suit from the Sam Raimi Spider-man films, I have to applaud the fact that for the first time in five films they have gotten the eyes right. I’m still not thrilled with the hard-shell lenses, and I don’t think they have to be as large as the ones here (although at least they eyes aren’t of McFarlane-esque proportions), I love that these have the swoop and aesthetic feel that the eyes have usually had in the comics costumes, as opposed to the more triangular shapes we’ve had previously.
I was pretty vocal about not being a fan of the costume from 2012’s Amazing Spider-man when we first saw it. It struck me as a radical and unnecessary redesign of one of the best costumes in comics. While this sneak peek at the costume from the sequel looks like we’re going 180 degrees from that to the closest we’ve yet gotten to the comic book costume, I still feel it shares certain problems with all the previous cinematic Spidey suits.
There’s a tendency to give superheroes in movies costumes that LOOK AMAZING on screen with a depth of detail and texture, but that sometimes defies the logic of the character and the story.
It actually started with Sam Raimi’s Spider-man from 2002. Oscar-winning costume designer James Acheson did some genius things with that costume. Previous superhero films had either had actor bulk up for the role and then put him in spandex, like the Christopher Reeve Superman costume, or had been given a bulky muscle suit like the Michael Keaton Batman.
Both of these were reasonably successful for their time, but the bulky Batman costume was inflexible and didn’t move well, and Superman often didn’t look as physically impressive as he might have otherwise given the tremendous shape Christopher Reeve was in, given the way Spandex tends to round off and compress the musculature of the body underneath. Neither of these approaches were going to work for Spider-man.
James Acheson realized that bulking an actor up with muscle suits looks fake, he created a thin, sculpted muscle suit that didn’t bulk up the actor, but merely restored the definition that would be otherwise lost to the spandex costume that was then worn over the top. This was further enhanced with computer-rendered mesh patterns and shading over the surfaces of the costume that added to the illusion of super-heroic musculature to the suit. The thin muscle suit under the spandex worked like a charm, but I always thought muscle textures worked better on the darker parts of the suit, and that the muscles on the red chest and abdominal areas looked painted on, raising the question of why it was a priority to Peter Parker to look like he had six pack abs at all times.
Of course the overall effect was a huge success and the movie was a smash, so it’s not surprising that this innovative costuming approach became a trendsetter for many films to follow. Both Superman Returns and the new Man of Steel featured Superman costumes adorned with fine repeating patterns. The Superman Returns version had a pattern of tiny S-shields on parts of it which seemed silly to me, while the Man of Steel version looks like chain-mail armor, which strikes me as unnecessary.
This fine screen-print pattern business even made it’s way onto the Starfleet Uniforms in the 2009 Star Trek film with a field of repeating Starfleet arrowhead logos!
With all the other changes made to the 2012 Amazing Spider-man costume, the texture pattern evolved as well. This time it looked like it was sculpted into the surface of a more rubbery suit. The web patterns had changed as well. The Raimi suit had been reasonably faithful to the stylized, scalloped web pattern of the comics, and had transformed the black lines of the comics into raised shapes applied to the surface of the costume. The 2012 suit turned those lines into a grid pattern that seemed to be pressed into the surface of the rubbery material. This texture in conjunction grid pattern gave Spidey’s head enough resemblance to basket ball to produce a few Spalding-man jokes.
Now it seems like the whole design aesthetic from the 2012 film is being dropped. The scalloped web pattern is back, and from what we can see I’d guess the more traditional patterns of red and blue from the comics will be back as well. I’m betting the odd sports shoe boots are gone as well. The raised webbing patterns and screen printed textures of the Raimi suit are returning, but with eye shapes more closely resembling the comic book costume than we’ve had previously.
So why am I complaining? Why am I not yet completely satisfied? Is there no pleasing me?
I think this costume is going to be gorgeous, but I don’t for one second believe it’s something that Peter Parker made in his bedroom on a shoestring budget. Yes, the costume looks like a million bucks. But it shouldn’t. Thor can have a magic suit. Iron Man armor should look like it cost a billion dollars. But Spider-man is a character who is by definition a struggling young science-nerd with limited resources. His costume should reflect that. I’d love to see a Spider-man costume in a movie that looks hand-made. Maybe with practice, Peter gets better at making them over time, or even buys a professionally made one after Spider-man becomes a celebrity and a popular subject for masquerade costumes! But I’d still love to see a Spider-man movie where Spidey’s costume accumulates damage and patches and stains as he has his rough-and-tumble adventures.
And for the record, I still think that Peter Parker’s first Spider-man costume probably most resembled the very first live-action Spider-man – the one from The Electric Company! Don’t worry – even I think later versions got better!