Comic-Book Costume Style: Geek vs. Chic
Darren (reads too many comic books, shops for clothes occasionally): There have been lots of Iron Man suits over the years, but the filmmakers opted for the iconic yellow-and-red look.
Connie (doesn't read comic books, often reminds interns that it's time to buy an iron): The use of primary colors is very masculine. Also, it actually looks like armor. The mask is the only thing I have an issue with: the lack of a nose makes it look almost reptilian.
Darren: Fortunately, in every superhero movie, the hero's mask gets knocked off in the final action scene, and Robert Downey Jr. looks great in this costume.
Our grade: A-
Connie: They did a really good job of blending in the nostalgia aspect. It seems time-appropriate, right down to the material. They didn't go with leather. It looks like heavy-duty canvas, or something that actual aviators would wear. The buckles and the strap — everything about it looks perfect.
Darren: I agree, they totally hit it with the costume — I love how he has a billion little pouches and pockets. The one thing I would ding them on is the mask. I think it looks a bit hokey, and not quite in keeping with the rest of the outfit.
Connie: With the chinstrap, it looks like he's going into a wrestling match.
Our grade: B+ (Though it's an A- without that mask.)
Connie: It's age-appropriate. And the colors are perfect. They could've gone pink with her, which would've been disgusting. Little girls don't only wear pink! With the plaid skirt, it has a Catholic schoolgirl naughtiness to it, but it doesn't cross the line into gross.
Darren: There are so many generic skintight-leather superhero outfits. This one really feels it's striving for a specific look — cute, but also badass.
Connie: I would take off some points for the pink belt. Why did they have to go with pink? She's a superhero! She doesn't need pink!
Darren: But it's a nice burst of brighter color. And you've gotta get the insignia on there somewhere.
Connie re-responds: Iron Man doesn't have an insignia! I don't think he worries that people will be confused. ''Oh, who's that? Some kind of iron man?''
Our grade: A
Connie: It's an incredibly difficult outfit to pull off. It's skintight. It's covered in webs. He's got that mask. But I don't think I ever once laughed out loud watching these movies. It's very much like the comic book, without looking clownish.
Darren: With almost every other superhero movie, the costume designer seems to be thinking, ''How do we make the costume cooler? How do we modernize it?'' This is the rare occasion when they really just went for the original look, and they completely knocked it out of the park.
Our grade: A+
Batman, circa The Dark Knight
Connie: The material and the styling of it looks like a Kevlar suit, like SWAT team body armor.
Darren: My biggest problem with it — and it totally looks fine — is that, with Batman, you're allowed to be a bit more operatic. Like, if they'd made the Bat-symbol on his chest more prominent. Anything to set it apart. It just feels very purposefully inessential.
Connie: I think our conclusion is: Okay, but not great. It's not exciting. It lacks pizzazz.
Our grade: B-
Connie: What's with the circle things? Is that Nordic? There's no good reason why I like this costume, other than maybe the man filling the costume. I mean, the cape goes over the armor, and the arms have that weird diamond-mesh-whatever metal material. But you look at it, and you don't want to laugh. You just want to go: ''Now that's a man.''
Darren: It's like the comic book version of a Lady Gaga outfit. It literally can only look good on one human being. Fortunately, Chris Hemsworth is that human being.
Connie: You can see his muscle outlined in the metal armor on his arm! That is talented design. And they were smart, they didn't make him wear the winged Viking helmet for very long. That hammer is a great accessory.
Darren: It's similar to what we were talking about with Spider-Man. There was a way to do this where they went more realistic, but they really owned the over-the-topness of the original outfit.
Our grade: B+
Darren: The jacket is so cool. The whole outfit is so sleek. But I'm unsure about that mask. It kind of cuts off his neck.
Connie: I think we like it when the costumes look authentic to the time. Like Captain America. And this costume has the same problem as Captain America: Great from the neck down, but the head looks slightly off.
Our grade: A-
X-Men, circa original X trilogy
Darren: Probably the most influential onscreen superhero costume in history. The X-Men in the comics usually had very distinctive, colorful outfits, but here they're all dressed in form-fitting black.
Connie: Wolverine's looks cool because the X goes through his whole upper-body. Everyone else looks secondary — Jean Grey gets a red belt buckle, Storm gets a big cape. Out of all the black-leather superheroes, I'd have to say this X-team looks the best. We have to give them a solid B for looking good as a team.
Darren: But Wolverine gets an A-.
Connie: They couldn't have given his outfit to anyone else, because on anyone else, the ''X'' would be a ''V''.
Our grade: (Averaged between Wolverine and everyone else) B+
X-Men, circa First Class
Darren: I actually kind of love how retro these outfits are, but there's no standout here — no Wolverine, basically.
Connie: With that shoulder-strap, they all look like they just jumped out of a parachute. I'm waiting for the rest of the parachute to show up in the photo. It looks like they all have a major wedgie. So these look more like the original outfits?
Darren: Yeah! here's an image of the original X-Men team.
Connie: Wow, they did a much better job in the movie. In the comic, they look like a bunch of ninjas who are going to rob me.
Darren: Well, it was the '60s.
Our grade: B-
Connie: You can't go wrong with the classics. And it literally takes balls to wear something this tight. He has no codpiece. He has a very nice, form-fitting pair of underwear with a belt.
Darren: It looks the most pajama-like of any movie-superhero costume. But in a good way!
Connie: Crimefighters have to be comfortable. He won't have any weird mesh or leather getting in the way. No utility belt that's going to get stuck. Superman's all about flexibility and speed, and this costume is a perfect reflection of that.
Darren: Looking at this now, I'm realizing that his cape is actually noticeably smaller than most other capes we've seen.
Connie: I think it's because he's had experience. He's saying, ''I'm an older man. I know these capes can get stuck in shredders and revolving doors.''
Our grade: A
Darren: Give the designers credit for doing something new here. The outfit is entirely a computer-generated creation, digitally painted onto Ryan Reynolds' body in post-production. I don't know if the glowiness quite carries off, but we're always ragging on the black leather superhero look, and this sure isn't black leather.
Connie: I think it's cool that it's digitally added. No real fabric could have glowed like that. Because it's so skintight, everything accentuates his muscles. The lines look very sinewy. It's very masculine. Best of all, there's no codpiece! Also, green is a really hard color to pull off. Kick-Ass? Hulk? Can you think of a single green superhero's costume that looks good?
Darren: My biggest ding against the Lantern outfit is that, with the digital effects, his head seems completely separate from the rest of his body. It looks like a human head on a glowing stick.
Our Grade: B
Joker circa Batman vs. Joker circa The Dark Knight
Darren: I think these Joker outfits are a nice example of the dichotomy between the retro-style costumes and the more modern, gritty outfits. Which one do you prefer, Connie?
Connie: I guess the Dark Knight version. The purple doesn't pop too much. It doesn't look like a costume. It looks like something that was put together by a very demented man, which makes it scarier.
Darren: Totally. It's still colorful, but it's dark enough to look realistic. A slightly kooky hipster artist could wear something like this to a gallery opening and people wouldn't bat an eyelid.
Connie: Conversely, the pants for Nicholson are ridiculous. We're not going to the Super Bowl! And the orange satin shirt by itself is horrid, horrid. With Heath Ledger, you're not sure if Batman can prevail. With Jack Nicholson, you know Batman will win.
Our Grade: C for Batman, A for Dark Knight
Connie: With the overlapping ''DD'' insignia, this looks like a varsity-leather bodysuit gone horrible wrong. He looks like a member of the Village People.
Darren: In the comics, Daredevil's outfit has a cool, lo-fi, Ninja look to it. Everything about this costume is terribly wrong. The gloves fade seamlessly into the arms. The top part looks like a jacket that he zipped up. The mask looks like it's pulling back his eyeballs.
Connie: It's something about the diagonal angle of the mask. It looks like they took a mold of poor Ben Affleck's head, and then they stitched it, and then said, ''Let's go one millimeter tighter.''
Our grade: D
Connie: Listen, this costume was intended to be bad, so I guess you could say they did a good job. He looks like Gumby! Did he steal those yellow gloves from his mom's kitchen? And good lord, he has yellow piping. It looks like a Girl Scout outfit. If the Girl Scouts had a mascot, this would be it.
Darren: That's funny, I think it looks like an old '70s-era Oakland Athletics uniform. And that is not a compliment.
Connie: His nose! What is that? It's like they decided to sew on an extra piece of fabric at the last minute.
Our Grade: F+ (The ''plus'' is because it is supposed to look ridiculous. Mediocrity achieved!)
The entire cast of Batman & Robin
Connie: Oh, where to begin? We've got codpieces. We've got those weird accents for the thigh. Everything is just overdone. Batgirl has nipples on her breastplate! [audibly gags]
Darren: Let's try to zero in here on specific characters.
Connie: How is Batgirl supposed to fight with those weird spikes on her arm? She can't even drive in the Bat-mobile. And Batman, don't get me started on Batman. The patterns on the thighs are ridiculous. The whole random silver geometric shape is bad.
Darren: As the lesser of three evils, Robin looks kinda decent...
Connie: Until you get to his codpiece! Come on! If they were going for a Superman underwear thing, I'd get that. But instead, they look like they're going for a thong. A man-thong.
Darren: And then you get to the villains. Mr. Freeze looks like... I don't even know what he looks like. He looks like something that is completely terrible in every single way something can be terrible.
Connie: With this movie, it's like they were so taken with adding nipples to George Clooney's costume that they just added more boobs to everything. Arnold has more prominent boobs than Batgirl. Everything is conical. Look at Poison Ivy's head! There are boobs on her head!
Our grade: F
Darren: Listen, I'm a fan of the comics, but I just don't think there's any way to make that flaming skull not look ridiculous in a live-action movie.
Connie: And the outfit isn't particularly interesting. It's just a spiky motorcycle outfit.
Darren: He's the one biker who still shops at Hot Topic.
Our grade: D
Darren: Listen, she looks totally hot. But that's just because she's Halle Berry. This outfit is ridiculous.
Connie: I feel like they get points for creativity. They had to go in a different direction from Michelle Pfeiffer. They put cat-slashes on the pants. They had her wearing that bra-thing. I don't get those straps from the bra to the pants.
Darren: What about the shoes?
Connie: She's wearing open-toed high-heels. Impractical. You don't mow the lawn with open-toed shoes, and you sure as heck don't go kicking ass with open-toed shoes.
Our Grade: C
Connie: He's got kind of a codpiece-thing going, too! What is that? Swimmer shorts? That's too short.
Darren: Visually, it looks off. It looks like a very skinny guy is standing behind a cardboard stand-up of a much bulkier guy.
Connie: It's all padding on the inside. It's just too broad to fit the actor's head.
Our grade: C-
Connie: My first impression is that it's not too bad for a villain.
Darren: You're crazy. It's like a weird blend of metallic and plastic, and it just looks so off. The mask is awful, too. Keep in mind, this is the same movie to feature the awesome Spider-Man outfit.
Connie: The fabric they used on his neck and arms looks like tubing, like they took tubing from a vacuum cleaner and painted it green. For such a high-budget movie, they really nickel-and-dimed Green Goblin.
Our grade: D-
Darren: This could've looked cool, with the red-and-black look, but the hat is way too big, and the cape just doesn't sit well on Alec Baldwin's frame.
Connie: That's not a costume. It's a trench coat with a hat and a scarf. I've got all that at home.
Our grade: D
Connie: Who is that, Grimace? What's this guy's special power?
Darren: He has guns or something. I get that they were trying to stay authentic to the comic book, but this just looks terrible. With that head-covering mask, he just looks like a bald dude with a bald purple head.
Connie: Like Superman, he's got the form-fitting lycra. But Superman has different colors, his logo, and his belt. The Phantom is just a solid purple. That's just not flattering on anybody. He's like the grape from the Fruit of the Loom commercial.
Our grade: F
Darren: There have been three different attempts to make a Punisher movie, and this one kind of stands out for just totally not getting the character.
Connie: That's his costume, a t-shirt? Next he's going to use a red scarf to cover his face, and that's going to be it. What differentiates him from some guy working out at the gym?
Darren: To be fair, that would be a pretty cool gym T-shirt.
Our grade: F
The Many Outfits of the White Queen
Darren: I gotta say, I like all her outfits in this movie. There's a real '60s razzle-dazzle to all her looks.
Connie: Was Frederick's of Hollywood in business in the '60s? [Editor's Note: This is not a reference Darren remotely understood.] Where does she get all her clothes from? In the '60s, you couldn't go out and say, ''Give me a D-cup padded bra, with little panties, and also a garter. I'm dressing up!'' I don't think it's historically accurate. Maybe you just like it because there's lots of breasts, thigh, and hips.
Darren: No, no, it's because of the authenticity, I swear.
Connie: Ridiculous. It's obviously how a man imagines a woman dresses in her free time.
Darren: Yeah, isn't this, like, leisure-wear Saturday attire for ladies?
Our grade: Alas, no agreement could be reached.