Spider-Man is known for taking chances with his wardrobe. He’s a character who is fortunate enough to not only have a ton of different looks but to be one of the few super-heroes (if there are any others) whose costume changes are almost always awesome. However, for a long time, I have been thinking that the costume for his upcoming movie, The Amazing Spider-Man, just does not fit the bill. It’s jarringly unfamiliar, taking the traditional Spider-Man costume motifs and running wild with them, and if there’s one thing we fan-people can’t abide, it’s the unfamiliar.
The first thing you notice when you see this new costume is that it looks way too complex and intricate for a high school nerd to make in his down time. Unlike Batman and Iron Man, Spidey doesn’t have millions of dollars and the latest, greatest state-of-the-art technology to use when creating his super-hero gear. Perhaps these days Peter Parker might be employed by Horizon Labs and have the ability to make a new special spidey suit every week, but when he started out, he was just a kid who’s making this stuff in his bedroom.
This was a complaint commonly leveled against the movie costume from the Sam Raimi trilogy. In those films, not a lot of time is spent on how Peter Parker made such an incredible costume. In fact, no time is spent on it at all. We see him in his room designing the costume on some lined paper, then he shows up to his wrestling match wearing track pants and a sweatshirt. Later, after Uncle Ben is killed (spoilers for the character of Uncle Ben, people), Peter picks up where he left off the night he created his Spider-Man identity. He then reappears in his professional Spidey outfit without anything on camera showing where this new costume came from or how he made it.
The costumes in these movies are pretty intricate. On the surface, it’s the classic Spidey design; a skin-tight red and blue outfit with red boots and red gloves that connect to the red chest area with a few connecting bands of color. Another band wraps around the waist to take the place of a super-hero utility belt. The back is devoid of red, save for a large red version of the spider emblem from the suit’s chest. The webs here are made of a silvery plastic and are applied over the costume rather than stencilled onto it. Tobey Maguire’s costume webs are chunky and evenly spaced for a muscular and symmetrical look, and an extra layer of texture is added in the form of a honeycomb pattern on the surface of the fabric itself. It’s the classic look, something no one should ever need to tamper with; although to be sure, it still looks like it cost thousands of dollars to make.
However, the complexity and intricacy of the Raimi suit is nothing compared to that of the suit from the new movie. With the newest suit, Spidey’s gloves have a complicated design where the blue twists up the forearm and into the palm of the hand, giving the gloves a slightly fingerless quality that could have been inspired by Ben Reilly’s (ugly) Spider-Man costume from the ‘90s. It’s not a major departure, but it’s different enough to be obnoxious to hardcore fans of the older designs. The most conspicuous change that you’ll observe, after the design of his gloves, is that of his boots, which sport fancy looking running shoe soles instead of just being cloth boot / slippers. From there it just gets weirder.
The thin line that connects his shoulders to his gloves is also present on the side of his legs, but his familiar spidey “belt” area is missing. His eyes are gold and sickly, and the web pattern of his costume starts to dissolve from a very rigid (and decidedly non-traditional) rectangular grid-work into just downward sloping lines. The spider symbol on the front loses its bottom four legs in the abdominal area’s vertical line design. Combine this with the tiny divots that cover the costume’s surface and its general appearance of sweaty plastic, and altogether, he looks more like a blue and red human basketball than Spider-Man.
The cherry on top is the web shooters, which look like toys mounted on his wrists that light up red when thwipping is initiated. Light-up elements to Spidey’s costume? Not in my copy of Amazing Fantasy #15. (I wish I was talking about an actual copy of that issue and not a reprint.)
As fans of the comic book, we’re not going to like these changes. But, here’s the thing: What if this costume works? What if they work the costume into the story in such a way that everything makes sense? Suppose Peter does find material to use for the costume, maybe a red and blue Olympic-quality running suit or swimsuit and a pair of running shoes, and then he spends hours (in the form of a montage) customizing and cannibalizing until he gets the suit we see. I mean, he can build web shooters and concoct web fluid, why not a costume? Should we believe he is he a genius when it comes to highly advanced non-lethal weaponry but a needle and thread are too much for him to handle? If this movie can do a solid scene that actually anchors the spidey suit in the realm of plausibility, it would be unprecedented and could give the Marc Webb-directed reboot the (eight) legs it needs to stand on its own.
The idea that there might be more to this new Spidey costume than what we’ve been shown is further enforced by some new images from the movie’s video game tie-in. The images, which can be found in Game Informer #230, show the wall-crawler utilizing a utility belt around his waist, which is said to store web cartridge refills and, one would suspect, a camera or spider-signal. The utility belt provides not only a reason for why Spidey’s costume has always had a belt area in its design but also a reasonable explanation for the absurdly thin utility belt he wore under his suit in the comics, which would be hard to replicate on film.
According to Game Informer, the game takes place after the Lizard story that the movie focuses on. This makes me wonder if part of the movie will be the origin of such a Spidey utility belt. Perhaps by the end of the film, Spidey, after getting his ass handed to him a few times and running out of webs during the middle of a fight, learns from his mistakes and makes a crime fighting utility belt. In this way, part of his costume becomes a reward for passing a trial and growing into a mature super-hero. It also lends to the theory that maybe this film will turn out be a sort of Batman Begins for Spider-Man. (It could also add a bit of a wink and a nod in the direction of the 1977 live-action Spider-Man TV show.)
The belt also adds some aesthetic balance to the costume by giving Spidey that much needed band of red around his waist to break up the blue of the costume, but it matches the new costume as well by using lots of blue lines to split up the red. In this way, it kind of ties all of the elements of the costume together and solidifies the outfit as a proper Spidey outfit, just a more visually dynamic one.
At this point, I am totally on-board for The Amazing Spider-Man. I had been having a lot of trouble lately feeling excited for the movie, despite Spidey being far and away my favorite super-hero. It seemed to me that all of the previews they’ve shown cast Peter Parker in a more Harry Potter or (dare I say it) Edward Cullen light by accentuating his orphanhood and setting him up as this lonely outsider with a dark secret. But, that could all be marketing, and we could be getting a more Christopher Nolan-style take (fingers crossed).
To be honest, my reservations really started with the revelation of his new costume design, but now that I’ve thought through the gripes I had with it and come to the conclusion that it might be setting us up for a really great, well-rounded origin story that includes the costume in a way that the Raimi films didn’t, I’m totally psyched. I have pics of the utility-belted Spidey saved as my background on my phone and my computer, and I set him as my Twitter avatar as well. I’m back on Team Spidey, for better or worse, and I can’t wait to see him swing back into theaters.