When a killer targets Gotham’s elite with a series of sadistic machinations, a trail of cryptic clues sends the World’s Greatest Detective on an investigation into the underworld, where he encounters such characters as Selina Kyle (Zoë Kravitz), Oz, aka The Penguin (Colin Farrell), Carmine Falcone (John Turturro), and Edward Nashton/aka The Riddler (Paul Dano). As the evidence begins to lead closer to home and the scale of the perpetrator’s plans becomes clear, Batman (Robert Pattinson) must forge new relationships, unmask the culprit, and bring justice to the abuse of power and corruption that has long plagued Gotham City.
Matt Reeves’ The Batman has become the biggest-grossing film of the year bringing in $365.5 million domestic and $752 million worldwide with the domestic gross putting it as one of the biggest “part one” comic book superhero films ever. With this being the fifth adaptation of the caped crusader, Reeves had the challenge of bringing forth a new and fresh take on the story behind this lone vigilante and he did just that establishing him as the sole embodiment of vengeance amongst his fellow citizens. The film itself begins with Batman saying, “I am vengeance” and went on to show just why and how he got to this point.
This version of Gotham City is a much darker one than we’re used to and being avenged by a somewhat of a tortured soul who is still finding his role in society while turning his back to the billionaire playboy he’s often portrayed as. Like any film enthusiast, wanted an inside peek at Matt Reeve’s new world and how its creation came about.
We had the opportunity to speak with Production Designer James Chinlund over Zoom where we got to dive into the making of the “new” world of The Batman alongside Matt Reeves. Both previously worked together in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes and War for the Planet of the Apes so the table was set for anther film encased within a never before seen world.
Having a previous relationship working together, we wanted to know what the conversation and brainstorming was like for this darker version of Gotham City. With the film being shot in New York, Chicago and London, what inspired them for this new look for the city? “Matt and I have a shorthand,” James Chinlund explains, “I think working together on the past couple of movies I had the privilege of being in early in his writing process and I certainly had that opportunity here. I think it was really a question of following Matt’s lead. I think Matt had a really amazing take on Bruce in terms of where he was in his development as s superhero but also his relationship to his past and Wayne industries that really was the door opening for us in terms of the design. The idea that he was going to do it himself, that he wasn’t going to lean into Wayne industries and the support that he might have from them allowed us to use that as a guiding principle in a set of rules that would explain the design and development of his suit and the car and where he lived and all those things. So that was really the portal”
Every director has an idea they’d like to use when creating a new version or a twist on a previous take of a widely recognized and iconic set within a world such as Batman’s. We’ve seen various versions of the iconic Bat-cave in previous films and Matt Reeve’s is definitely one we had yet to see. No longer hidden on the outskirts of Wayne Manor, this time around we find the Bat-cave within the depths of Wayne Tower looking much less like a cave and more like an industrial mechanic’s shop. We asked James how this idea came about to correlate with the theme Reeve’s had in mind. “For me, I was just so excited to do a Wayne Tower and not a Wayne Manor,” he explains, “I’m from New York and I love the idea of Bruce bing a part of the city and so when we were trying to imagine what the Bat-cave would be under this tower it sort of made a lot of sense that it would be a part of the subway somehow. I had heard this story about a secret train station under the Waldorf Astoria and it was such a romantic idea to me that it seemed like a perfect application that the Wayne’s would have built themselves this private train station underground that would provide this sort of enormous space for Bruce to do his work. Really like the dream “monster garage” for a DIY car builder.”
DYI car builder is the perfect description to Bruce Wayne and the Batmobile we see in the film. Gone is the monster car that can transform and is equipped with bulletproof windows and giant off roading wheels as we see a different type of monster car that is a Frankenstein like vehicle that holds its own in striking fear into its enemies. It is well past halfway through The Batman that we first see the Batmobile in action and it’s reveal was nothing short of spectacular. A roaring engine with blue lighting coming out of the darkness ready to chase down the Penguin. The forthcoming chase scene showcases that even without all the frills, the Batmobile hold its own and can sit right alongside previous versions from older films. James details how the idea came about for this DIY monster car: “I want to say firsthand that I’m a fan of all the Batmobiles that have come before. I mean, they’re all amazing pieces of design in their own right and I think for us the challenge was how to make a piece of design that can sit next to all of them. I mean, instantly I was imagining the Tim Burton car and Chris Nolan’s car and then our car siting between them and saying “It’s gotta be able to hold its own.” So I think it was an incredible team of designers that came together to help us realize that and I think it goes back to his ethos, Bruce, that he built it himself. We wanted the audience to be able to feel all that, that they might be able to build this car themselves too and that you could see its thought process. It wasn’t hidden in a pretty wrapper, it was all there for you to sort of explore and understand as you watch the film.”
Every part of the design for the film, from the look of the city, the Batsuit, Bat-cave and the Batmobile where essential in creating this Gotham City which the caped crusader is trying to save while still learning his way through being a vigilante. “I am vengeance,” those words uttered off screen during the opening sequence tie in beautifully with the world that Matt Reeves and James Chunlund have created for The Batman. Just like Gotham City, Batman may be a work in progress, slightly broken and slowly being pieced together but it is a journey that many fans of the caped crusader are cannot wait to concinue on as the next installment goes into production.
For now, we’ll have to settle for rewatching The Batman over and over when it comes out on 4K Ultra HD, DVD and Blu-ray on May 24th. See all the details and special features here.