That one-of-a-kind costume is common to many a superhero’s wardrobe. In Spider-Man (2002), the spidey suit hides Peter Parker’s identity and visually separates Parker’s human persona from his superhumanity. Unlike Spiderman, however, Tony Stark in the summer blockbuster hits Iron Man (2008) and Iron Man 2 (2010) doesn’t have any physical abilities like super-stickiness or super-strength that set him apart from the crowd. He’s merely smart enough and rich enough to create a really cool costume that happens to be one of the most highly effective weapons on the planet. This armor offers something other than concealment, especially since Stark’s identity as Iron Man is public knowledge; it functions as a technological interface that enables his body to do and see more effectively. It is the costume itself, the hyper-personalized piece of hi-tech hardware, which elevates Stark to superhero status.
In Green Lantern that will be released this Friday, Hal Jordan finds a magical ring that bestows him otherworldly powers he must use to protect the planet from alien invaders (and Peter Sarsgaard). Jordan’s transformation from an ordinary guy into a superhero is more supernatural than Stark’s, and his costume takes the technological interface one step further. He becomes a new type of screen that transports the body into a digitally-enhanced alien dimension. To demonstrate its power in the trailer, there is a brief glimpse of the ring amplifying Jordan’s punch by visually extending his fist. As a final teaser, while wearing underclothes, Jordan flexes his muscles and the light source at his chest spreads over his body to become the glowing green lantern attire. In these two instances, the costume works like a screen. The ring enables the body to do things, to go places, that it couldn’t otherwise. The screen suit allows him to experience the world on a completely different plane, expanding his awareness into the bigger universe of which he would be otherwise ignorant. But, unlike a projection screen that physically separates the audience from the onscreen spectacle, the superhero is entirely submersed within it.
Both the Iron Man series and Green Lantern make claims about the potential of the interface as the superheroes become, quite literally, encased within them. The special effects-driven summer blockbusters of the past decade offer a productive arena where newfound connections between the body and technology are currently being explored.
Thanks, Katheryn, for this
Thanks, Katheryn, for this thought-provoking post. How do you think, if at all, the costumes of Iron Man and Green Lantern differ from Batman’s suit?
Effects and costuming
Thanks, Katheryn. I find it an interesting and daring choice by Warner Bros. to create an entirely digital costume for Ryan Reynolds in Green Lantern -- yet somehow, completely logical. It adds yet another layer to the industrial subtext of the narrative, in my opinion. It makes perfect sense as a metaphor for contemporary digital technologies, able to conjure seemingly any kind of image at the blink of an eye (though audiences continue to debate how "realistic" they are). In this sense, I find some early opinions of Green Lantern's marketing/trailers/images a bit confusing -- claims of "not looking good enough" or "real enough" don't quite seem to grasp the premise of the picture itself (and of course the fact that these days, effects are often tweaked up until days before the wide release). Like Avatar, Green Lantern attempts to introduce an entirely new alien world unlike anything yet seen on screen, filled with numerous entirely digital characters -- and thus has the difficult task of also making this untested world both relatable and enticing to cinema audiences. Again, like Cameron and Avatar, I think Warner Bros. hopes that much of its R& D for this concept can be applied to a sequel or two down the line.
CG costuming has has indeed been attempted before -- 1997's Spawn was a significant creative experiment in this regard (and kind of overlooked for its contribution, in my opinion), but Green Lantern is indeed a big gamble for Warner Bros. in many ways. Iron Man worked aesthetically because it was grounded with a pretty coherent mix of real-world practical effects technologies and digital enhancements. It will be interesting to see if audiences take to Green Lantern's visual aesthetics as well as they did to Iron Man (though that franchise's success is also due significantly to Robert Downey, Jr.'s engaging performance). I think in Green Lantern's case, perhaps more than any other superhero epic thus far, audience embrace or rejection of the costume in the released feature film will indeed make or break the hero -- and the franchise.
Hi Katheryn. Just wondering
Hi Katheryn. Just wondering what changes will be made to the Green Lantern costume should there be a sequel to the movie. As one of the primary visual demaractions of superheroism, the costume, I think, serves to sum up what the movie will focus upon. In this case, the CGI unreality of it ties in well with the shots of alien worlds and space adventures. Much better than the traditional spandex bodysuit that the Corps wear in the comics. On this note, it'll be interesting to see how The Avengers addresses the visually clashing costumes of its main characters.
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