?Too often movies based on comic books have lousy costumes. They either go over the top into camp or are so down to earth that the costumes lose all the charm of their 2-D inspirations. Apologists will say that costumes don’t matter as long as the characters are depicted well, but costumes are an integral part of those characters. They’re used to visually and quickly convey personalities. There’s even a correlation between bad movie costuming and poor onscreen characterization; they don’t need to be slavish copies, but the costume department should make an effort to translate all their distinctive elements from paper to the silver screen. After all, we know what these people are supposed to look like because we have pictures of them.
We’ll be taking a look at nine of the worst dressed supervillains of cinema, mostly because they tend to get the shorter end of the sartorial stick. I also didn’t pick superheroes because pointing out that putting all the X-Men into black leather uniforms is the zenith of laziness would take up too many of the slots. My criterion is that each villain’s costume on this list has to be a major disappointment from what made the originals visually interesting. The foes can’t be made up for the films, either, because costume designers get carte blanche on them. In closing, here’s some advice to any Hollywood costume designers out there: Adding a trenchcoat doesn’t improve a terrible costume. Also: stop being ashamed of the source material.
9) Magneto, X-Men
?In the comics, Magneto wears red in honor of the blood all his murdered kith and kin and purple to show he’s self-appointed mutant royalty. In the X-Men movies, he wears black because it’s a bad guy color. His outfit evokes the Third Reich a bit too much for a concentration camp survivor. His cape was draped over just one shoulder because … the other one wasn’t cold? To top it off, his iconic helmet was replaced with a squashed purple bucket. Instead of looking sleek and modern, this reimagined helm undermined the character by making Sir Ian McKellen look like an utter doofus. Thankfully X-Men: First Class ignored the original trilogy and gave Magneto a perfect replica of his elegant helmet he’d been sporting for almost 50 years in the comics.
8) Doctor Doom, Fantastic Four
?When the first photos of Doctor Doom were released for Fantastic Four‘s big screen debut, he looked amazing because they only showed him from the neck up. They absolutely nailed his mask! Too bad they stopped there. The rest of his costume is slacks and a green trench coat as if he’s just a normal guy waiting in the rain for a bus. There’s nothing regal or imposing about that. The comics juxtapose Doom in archaic-looking armor against the Fantastic Four in their futuristic uniforms. Instead of wearing armor, movie Doom has metal skin. The filmmakers could have made his metal skin resemble his classic armor, but it just manifested in silver veins. Even the kooky metallic satyr look he briefly had in the Ultimate universe would’ve been less lame. Did the costume department watch the straight-to-bootleg Roger Corman version and decide they couldn’t possibly top its Doctor Doom costume even with their multi-million dollar budget?
7) The Riddler, Batman Forever
?While most of these costumes fail because they tried tone down the source material until it was bland, this one made the mistake of cranking it up to 11. The Riddler’s predominant costumes are a dorky leotard or a suave bowler & blazer combo. Batman Forever actually provides adequate renditions of both. It’s not until the climax that Joel Shumaker unleashed this monstrosity upon unsuspecting filmgoers. He found a way to make the tights even more embarrassing by festooning it in sparkly sequins. Even worse, its primary color is white instead of green so you can’t even look at it without getting cataracts. His neon orange hair horns don’t help either. I get that this version of The Riddler is supposed to be a gay stalker, but did they have to dress him like he was booted from Cirque du Soleil for being too flamboyant? It’s because of this costume that he got a “gritty” redesign in the comics of full body question mark tattoos, which is equally terrible in the opposite direction.
6) Cobra Commander, G. I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra
?Cobra Commander is a costume that should’ve been easy to do right. All that’s needed is to throw some red Cobra logos on a blue military uniform and hood (or helmet with mirrored faceplate). Hollywood started him off in a Mortal Kombat respirator and a monocle. At the end he switches into some clear mask to hide his scarred face. Even though they gave him a more organic-looking mask they didn’t bother to make it resemble a hooded serpent. He also wore a trench coat and some shiny chest armor. I see neither the commander nor the cobra. So the whole movie was one big set up to show how he wound looking like Jason-X for a couple of minutes instead of just dressing him like Cobra Commander to begin with. Of course if he had kept that monocle, I would’ve had to put him on the best dressed list on principle.
5) Dark Phoenix, X-Men: The Last Stand
?Dark Phoenix is supposed to be Jean Grey at her most uninhibited and sensuous. Portraying this transformation was always going to be a problem for the X-Men movies since they made Jean’s previous costumes leather fetish suits. Instead of going for the “sultry divinity” look, the costume designers went in the opposite direction by making her look as matronly as possible. The flaps of her red coat obscure Famke Janssen’s stunning body rather than accentuating it. With her buckled corset and boots, she looks like a Renaissance Faire attendee rather than a radiant Demi-Goddess. There’s no golden Phoenix emblem or Phoenix Force energy aura to identify her as the character, but they did go for a clich?d skin rash with black eyes whenever she used her powers just in case you thought she was still attractive. While it’s refreshing to see a superheroine that’s not oversexualized, the original Dark Phoenix outfit proved that a costume doesn’t need to sacrifice a character’s dignity to be sexy.
4) New Goblin, Spider-Man 3
?Damn it, Hollywood! Rocket Racer is one of the few black supervillains! And you have the gall to make him some White boy in his movie debut? Oh wait, that’s just Harry Osborn’s dumb “New Goblin” costume. One of the major complaints about the first Spider-Man movie was that the Green Goblin looked like one of Rita Repulsa’s minions. Fans were expecting Sam Raimi to listen and give Harry a less robotic costume when he took up his dad’s mantle; instead Harry dressed up like a parody of ’90s extreme sports fans. For all his inheritance, Harry just threw on whatever snowboarding and paintball gear he had lying around — he even ditched the awesome Goblin Glider for a characterless hoverboard. He had Batman spikes on one arm because he felt a kinship with Bruce Wayne, but wasn’t entitled to a pair since Spider-Man only killed one of his parents. At least his dad’s outfit made sense as high-tech armor for the military with some creative flourishes added. Couldn’t a multimillionaire like Harry afford a costume that actually resembles a goblin?
3) Bane, The Dark Knight Rises
?All Christopher Nolan had to do was get Bane’s mask right. It’s a black leather luchadore mask with a white abstracted skull and piercing red lenses. It doesn’t betray any of character’s emotions, making him seem devoid of weakness and mercy. Instead of translating the one element of Bane’s costume that’s iconic, Nolan slapped a used Hannibal Lecter mask on Tom Hardy. Not only does this mask look less sturdy because of its need for numerous straps, it also exposes the fact that Bane is being played by a pasty Brit instead of a swarthy Latin American. While Bane’s wrestling singlet wasn’t a particularly good costume, wearing no additional protection made him seem fearless when he faced off against a guy whose entire shtick is pulling plot devices from his belt. This Bane wears a more practical and drab vest, but it’s so blatantly armored it saps the fiend of the raw power he’s suppose to embody. His trench coat looks like he borrowed it off the movie version of Sabretooth. Even though he was goofy looking, at least I could tell who Bane in Batman & Robin was just by looking at him. You can trust Nolan all you want, but his Bane is still wearing an atrocious costume.
2) Blackheart, Ghost Rider
?Movie Blackheart dresses like he’s cosplaying as Angel from Buffy the Vampire Slayer. That’s terrible on superficial level for being derivative and boring, but the real root of the problem is he’s wearing too many clothes. (Let’s hear it for out-of-context quotes!) Blackheart of the comics is a monstrous crimson-eyed demon made of ebony thorns and dreadlocks who doesn’t see the need for garments. There’s no need for Blackheart to camouflage himself among humans in the movie, both because he’s nigh-impervious and indiscriminately leaves scads of dead mortals in his wake. If the movie Blackheart looked like he does in the comics, he’d be a memorable and terrifying foe for a biker whose head is a blazing skull. The scene where his skin turns gray after he becomes “LEGION… for we are … MANY!!!” just doesn’t cut it. They could’ve easily replicated the comic design by covering Wes Bentley under mounds of latex and getting Tony Todd to dub him.
1) Deadpool, X-Men: Origins: Wolverine
?Perhaps I’m cheating by including movie Deadpool in the Worst-Dressed Supervillains list, as Deadpool is supposed to be a superhero, albeit an insane one. I would counter this with two arguments: 1) for reasons that are still baffling, Deadpool was the final villain in the X-Men: Origins: Wolverine movie, and 2) his outfit is so @#$%ing terrible that he deserves to be on every worst-dressed list, regardless of subject matter. Red slacks? For a character they were hoping to (somehow) spin-off into his movie? I’d say the filmmakers tried to make Deadpool’s body evoke his comic book costume, but that’d be too generous. He’s got some surgical markings on his skin (without the comic-accurate lesions) that look like his doctors played connect the freckles. Instead of unsheathing his swords from his back scabbards like he did at the start of the movie, they now pop out of his arms like Baraka in a way that’s anatomically impossible. Dark bags line his eyes not to mimic his mask but because he rubbed them raw crying. He has no mouth yet he must scream. Literally. They fused his mouth shut so The Merc with a Mouth couldn’t lampshade how absurdly awful they made him look. This costume (or lack thereof) is one of the reasons why the Deadpool spin-off movie is still in Development Hell.