The Real-Life Tactical Inspirations Behind The Batman's Batsuit

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Every Batman movie actor gets a cape and cowl all their own, each of which is specially tailored to fit not only their needs but the needs of the franchise at that time. It's why Val Kilmer and George Clooney ended up wearing Batsuits with built-in abs, pecs, and even nipples in Joel Schumacher's campier, more flamboyant take on the Caped Crusader and Gotham City, much like Michael Keaton's Bat-duds reflect the gothic, expressionist flavor of Tim Burton's Batman films.

After Ben Affleck donned a Bat-costume loosely inspired by Frank Miller's "The Dark Knight Returns" for Zack Snyder's grim, brutal vision of the Batman universe, "The Batman" director Matt Reeves went with a more practical design for Robert Pattinson's iteration of the masked vigilante. In /Film's interview with costume designers David Crossman and Glyn Dillon, the latter recalled that Reeves "wanted to play towards [the Batsuit] feeling very real, and I remember him saying how he wanted Batman to have freedom to move, and he wanted him to be able to fight like an MMA fighter." This can also seen in the myriad of real-world tactical inspirations behind Pattinson's crime-fighting gear in the movie.

The Batsuit is 'like a Russian pressure suit'

As Dillon emphasized in our interview with him, mobility was a major concern when it came to designing Pattinson's Batsuit. Where Keaton's original Bat-costume was notoriously heavy and constrictive (often forcing him to turn his entire body just to look in a different direction), Reeves wanted to maximize the utility of Pattinson's outfit in keeping with his realism-driven vision for "The Batman."

Dillon talks about this in James Field's book "The Art of The Batman," comparing the movie's Batsuit to a Russian pressure suit:

"Matt (Reeves) wants everything to feel like it has a purpose, so with the suit we came up with this idea of it being a bit like a Russian pressure suit. The lacing detail up the side and back is based on what pilots would wear. And we've got elastic in the back so they can fight and stretch and punch freely. It's not a real protective suit, but when we met with Robert Alonso, the head stunt coordinator, he was saying that it reminded him of an equestrian vest, which he said is one of the best protective vests a stuntman can wear because it's got similar kind of breaks in it, so that you've got a lot of mobility. And it's got pauldrons in the chest plate so, in theory, Batman will be protected from bullets and what have you."

"A lot of the paneling you see [in the Batsuit] is very much taken from the ideas of ballistic shielding, etcetera, that is sewn into that," explained "The Batman" supervising costume effects modeler Pierre Bohanna. He added, "After the cowl, it looks like it's made from leather and stitched together, so the mechanical elements are very much built on top."

Dillon took a similar approach to crafting Pattinson's utility belt, reasoning that "it would be nice if [Bruce Wayne would] use stuff that you could get like from ex-military or police force." As such, "The Batman" foregoes the more colorful, ornamental look of Keaton's yellow utility belt in favor of a "very practical-looking, black leather, very realistic belt because it's from the real world," Dillon added. He also alluded to Keaton being infamously unable to move his neck in Burton's Batman films, which is why he used "pieces that are almost like vertebrae" in the neck of Pattinson's Bat-cowl, allowing him "that full motion."

Batman's wingsuit got a similar makeover

Keep in mind, Dillon isn't trashing Keaton's Batsuit so much as noting that his costume was crafted with the heightened universe of Burton's comic book films in mind, and it simply wouldn't make sense in a movie like "The Batman." That also extends to his wingsuit, which Keaton's Batman would form using his cape whenever he needed to make a quick getaway, with no real indication as to how he did so. But where Christopher Nolan's "Batman Begins" came up with a sci-fi explanation for the way Christian Bale's Batman operates his wingsuit (his cape is composed of "memory cloth," allowing it to be reshaped into a glider with the aid of an electrical current), "The Batman" required something a little more down-to-Earth.

As Dillon put it:

"Whereas in the previous Batman films you have [Batman's cape] kind of miraculously turning into a glider, it doesn't quite feel that realistic. Matt really wanted it to feel like Bruce Wayne has worked out a way of making this thing that he wears on his back all the time have some practical use."

Calling the film's wingsuit "incredible," producer Dylan Clark noted that it was important for this element of the Batsuit to make logistical sense the first time Pattinson's Caped Crusader puts it to use:

"You've not really seen it in a city, and you've certainly not seen it with an iconic character running away from the cops in the night, crashing to the streets below. It always has to come out of character, why is he actually putting this into his arsenal? And if you can't answer that then you're in trouble."

"The Batman" is now streaming on HBO Max and will premiere on HBO on April 23, 2022. It arrives on Blu-ray, DVD, and 4K Ultra HD a month after that on May 24, 2022. "The Art of The Batman" is available for purchase now.