The Batman officially made its highly anticipated arrival last weekend, and the film’s reception has been positive, with many praising the narrative for providing an authentic portrayal of Batman and Gotham. Recognition, however, falls into the hands of director Matt Reeves and the film’s production designer James Chinlund, who discussed the details behind the designs, including the process behind the famous batmobile.
Chinlund and Reeves are no strangers to each other, having worked together on Reeves’ previous films, including Dawn of the Planet of the Apes and War for the Planet of the Apes. When paired, the duo strive to focus on grounding their worlds in reality, which was the approach to bringing The Batman to live. Reeves wanted audiences to feel the authenticity of Gotham as if it were a place you could visit. Chinlund echoed the director’s thoughts, revealing his intention to create a very close and real world.
One of the standout elements of the new take on the masked vigilante would be the batmobile, which has seen many iterations over the decades. Chinlund and Reeves, however, wanted to keep the design simple, avoiding gimmicks found in other versions of the Batmobile. “It wasn’t going to be like a tank or a specialist weapon. It wasn’t James Bond, it was a singular vigilante.” Chinlund voiced while speaking with Variety. Chinlund said his approach to car design was prompted by Reeves’ desire to see the vehicle “relentless and mission-driven”.
“Every design choice you see in the car is born out of the required function,” Chinlund said. For example, watching the film, many will notice the reinforcements placed at the front of the car, which Chinlund said was necessary, so that the vehicle could overcome any obstacles that might be in its way. However, the rear of the vehicle is left relatively open as the area did not require protection. At the start of the promotional rollout for The BatmanReeves noted that he was inspired by Stephen King Carrie to support the design, which shines through the stylistic choices made by Chinlund. It’s interesting to hear the purpose behind specific Batmobile components and how simplicity can still create something memorable.
Chinlund also described the design process behind two specific locations in the film; Wayne Manor and the Iceberg Lounge. “A lot of previous Gothams had Bruce set in a mansion in the suburbs. He comes to fight crime and goes back to the suburbs. Bruce is from the city, part of the fabric,” said Chinlund, who dictated the design choices centered around the Batcave and Gotham City architecture. The Iceberg lounge presented a challenge for Chinlund due to the complexity of its construction. The club’s levels of corruption required close attention, leading to massive backlot construction that included a maze of settings where events would center. However, the desire to get it right drove Chinlund to bring the club atmosphere to life despite the complexity.
The Batman has many elements to uncover, but the production design set the stage for the narrative to flourish. Chinlund and Reeves had the opportunity to collaborate early in the film’s development, giving their ideas room to blossom and evolve naturally. Understanding the concept behind specific designs opens avenues of exploration and inspires audiences to seek to understand other design choices Chinlund has made. The Batman posted the biggest opening weekend numbers of 2022 so far, and it’s hard to ignore the role production design plays in capturing the attention of many.
The Batman is currently playing in theaters.
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