The comic book movie is still the most popular and lucrative in the industry, and while every now and again a couple of box office bombs in a row have people thinking the bubble is about to burst, we’re now two decades in and superheroes are arguably more popular than ever. The continued success of the genre can be traced directly back to Bryan Singer’s X-Men, which undid much of the damage done by Joel Schumacher’s Batman & Robin while still managing to feature roughly the same amount of leather.
Arriving just a year after The Matrix when tight-fitting leather jumpsuits and wire-assisted martial arts were all the rage, 2000’s X-Men featured plenty of both and while some fans weren’t happy with the lack of comic-accurate costumes, general audiences didn’t seem to mind, as the movie turned out to be a huge hit that gave superhero cinema a real shot in the arm.
Having established an aesthetic, the X-Men franchise never fully embraced the idea of kitting out the title team in their signature outfits, even as countless other adaptations took their inspiration straight from the pages of comic books. Fans are still unhappy that Hugh Jackman never once sported Wolverine’s iconic look, while the closest we got to seeing Charles Xavier’s mutants in their most famous apparel was a brief fan-baiting shot at the end of X-Men: Apocalypse.
In a recent interview, X-Men writer Ralph Winter explained why all of the team were dressed in identically basic fashion in the first installment, and unsurprisingly, it had a lot to do with not alienating a huge part of the potential audience.
“At that time, we did feel like we did a good job. We limited the amount of time in the wardrobe. Of course, there’s a joke in the movie about yellow spandex, which was directed at the fans. It wasn’t to iterate them but to say, ‘Hey, we hear you. We understand what you want. We understand you don’t like the idea of Wolverine being taller than 5’4″. We understand you’d rather have everybody in the traditional garb’. But we also have to make a movie that reaches a wide audience to justify the budget. The trick is always to bullseye the hardcore Marvel/X-Men fan, but do it in a way that doesn’t alienate an average moviegoer that might enjoy, or start to enjoy, these types of stories.”
The Marvel Cinematic Universe is well-known for embracing its comic book lineage when it comes to adapting its heroes’ costumes for the big screen, and with the X-Men set to be rebooted as part of the all-conquering franchise, maybe this time we’ll get to see the mutants in all of their primary-colored glory for the first time ever.