On the screen, Bruce Wayne’s techno expert Lucius Fox gets credit for providing Batman with his state-of-the-art crime-fighting accoutrement, from his new and improved Batsuit to his weapons and his different modes of transportation. In real life, however, credit goes to director Christopher Nolan and his behind-the-scenes design teams who turn design into function in the new Batman action-adventure, “The Dark Knight.”
Nolan and production designer Nathan Crowley had previously redesigned The Caped Crusader’s legendary Batmobile for “Batman Begins,” creating something of a cross between a Lamborghini and a Humvee. The ultimate muscle car, the Batmobile—nicknamed the Tumbler—combines the power and handling of a sports car with a structure closer to that of an armored tank. Riding on six monster truck tires, the Batmobile has no front axle, allowing it to make tighter turns. Despite weighing in at two and a half tons, it can jump as much as six feet high, and up to a distance of sixty feet, peeling off the instant it touches down. The Batmobile can also do zero to sixty in five seconds.
While the Batmobile remains a formidable presence in “The Dark Knight,” the film introduces Batman’s newest ride, the Bat-Pod, a high-powered, heavily armed two-wheeled machine. “Of course we were going to have the Batmobile back,” states Nolan, “but we wanted to give Batman something new: a fresh means of transportation, something very exotic and very powerful looking. It’s a two-wheeled vehicle, but it’s definitively not a motorcycle. In essence, the Bat-Pod is to the world of motorcycles what the Tumbler is to the world of cars.”
The original design of the Bat-Pod was the brainchild of Crowley and Nolan. With little more than the basic concept in mind, the two retreated to their favorite design headquarters—aka Nolan’s garage—to work out the details. Crowley recalls, “We figured, ‘Let’s just go for it; let’s build it full-size.’ So we did. We got some tools and put together a full-size model out of anything we could find that might fit.”
Of course, Nolan and Crowley still had no idea if their invention could actually run. That’s where the special effects team, headed up by Chris Corbould, came in. Corbould relates, “First of all, I remember when Chris Nolan first showed me his idea for the Batmobile. I had no idea how we were going to make it work even though it ended up being very successful. So when I got his call asking me to come have a look at something he called ‘the Bat-Pod,’ I thought, ‘Uh-oh, what have you dreamt up this time?’”
Corbould flew to L.A., arrived at Nolan’s garage, and the first time he looked at Nolan and Crowley’s model of the Bat-Pod, “I think he was almost in tears,” Crowley laughs. “He looked horrified that he might have to actually mechanize that thing. We kept bringing him cups of tea, and he was just sitting there staring at it, looking like, ‘Oh my God, what time is the next flight out?’ It was the usual clash of design versus engineering.”
As it turns out, Crowley was not far off in his assessment of Corbould’s state of mind. “I was flabbergasted,” Corbould admits. “I stood there silently, pretending I was mulling it over, but the thought going through my head was that they both had to be off their nut. Where was I going to put a power train? And with those massive wheels, would this thing actually steer? There were so many issues.”
After some trial and error, Corbould and his team developed the final working Bat-Pod, which was surprisingly close to the rough model that Nolan and Crowley had originally constructed. Nolan confesses, “It really shouldn’t work, but somehow Chris and his team found a way to do it.”
“The funny thing is,” Corbould says, “I don’t think Chris or Nathan had ever ridden a motorcycle in their lives, so they were completely unaware of the mechanics needed to get that thing moving. In a way it was beneficial because they weren’t steered towards a more orthodox bike, even subconsciously. The fact that they had no knowledge of the mechanics helped them create this weird, wonderful vehicle.”
Opening across the Philippines on Thursday, July 17, “The Dark Knight” will be distributed worldwide in theatres and IMAX by Warner Bros. Pictures, a Warner Bros. Entertainment Company.
I’m looking for The Dark Knight.