Why The X-Men Need Unique Costumes, Not Bland ‘Hunger Games’ Jumpsuits
As X-Men:Apocalypse approaches, fans have been treated to a surplus of film stills and promotional images, including several posters showing the film’s opposing teams of X-Men and Horsemen. While Apocalypse and his mutant flunkies are dressed in armor, which we’ll accept, because it's Apocalypse, the X-Men are wearing black ops-style uniforms that look so much like the costumes from a Hunger Games sequel that you could be looking at a “Katniss and the Districts” band poster.
There has been plenty of fanboy outcry about Jennifer Lawrence’s non-indigo appearance in the film’s promo materials, and righly so; Mystique’s sense of mutant pride has been a plot vehicle in both the past and current X-Men movies. While Mystique’s missing scales are a problem, what's even more worrisome is the lack of originality or care in the X-team’s looks.
In Deadpool, Negasonic Teenage Warhead and Colossus wear uniforms that are more reflective of the comics than anything found in any of the other X-Men films. Negasonic’s New Mutants-inspired look is subtle but especially effective, and the yellow, while not overpowering, is a great nod to multiple iterations of X-costumes. This proves that Fox is capable of executing the look properly --- yet for some reason the studio is hellbent on a SWAT team aesthetic for its tentpole movies.
The X-Men don’t operate in the shadows. There’s nothing stealthy about them. Since their inception in 1963, the X-Men have dressed in bright colors and dorky costumes --- some of them amazing (the 90s-era Jim Lee costumes!) and others a dead miss.
The X-Men were created not just as a physical force in the fight for mutant rights and mutant/human relations, but as a visible symbol as well. Like the Civil Rights movement that they're partly modeled on, they fought in broad daylight, visible to both foes and allies to ensure their struggle received attention. It’s an important part of what the X-Men stand for, and it shouldn’t be wiped away because of Fox’s desire to make the merry band of mutants “cool.”
The other great thing about the X-Men's costumes is that they indicate the personality of each character. Storm's white uniform is undoubtedly iconic; it's also a visual introduction. As a kid, I knew within seconds of seeing Storm that she could fly and she was powerful, because of her authoritative costume and her wind-catching double cape. I knew that Cyclops' muted blue matched his temperament, and that his visor not only spoke to his powers, but also his need for self-restraint. I knew that Wolverine's vibrant yellow spandex marked him as someone to be careful around, and I knew that Jubilee's loud ensemble meant she was just plain awesome.
You don’t get this type of personality in all-black swat costumes, or in the the leather jumpsuits seen in the original X-Men trilogy. The X-Men are meant to be distinctive! Association by design is powerful in comics.
There is hope for the movie X-Men. Empire magazine recently released an image hinting at the characters' comic book designs. We see Nightcrawler and Mystique in outfits that evoke their Dave Cockrum-era outfits. Cyclops and Jean Grey's looks harken back to the Jim Lee era. The yellow trim on Storm's costume makes a nod to her comic book designs.
It's pure speculation rather than a spoiler, but since these looks don't appear in any other promo material or trailer footage, we might assume that these costumes will be introduced at the end of the movie, if they appear in the movie at all. (Storm is featured here with her fellow X-Men, instead of with the Horseman.) Yet these costumes are much closer to how the X-Men should always look.
The X-Men universe does not need to be dark and glum. In a world where Captain America’s star-spangled onesie exists in a cinematic universe, superhero costumes should never look boring. It’s about time our movie X-Men looked as bright and glorious as we know the characters to be.
In the very first X-Men movie back in 2000, Wolverine asks if the team really goes out in black leather costumes, and Cyclops offers the meta retort, "Well, what would you prefer, yellow spandex?"
The answer to that question is yes! We do prefer yellow spandex!