How “The Batman” Batsuit Designers Went Lean & Mean
Outside of The Batman writer/director Matt Reeves (who co-wrote the script with Peter Craig), Glyn Dillon and David Crossman probably have The Batman‘s coolest credits attached to their names. Both share the title of Batsuit costume designers, with Dillon serving as chief concept artist and Crossman the costume supervisor. In terms of superhero icons, it doesn’t get much better than designing the Caped Crusader, and the tandem created a unique silhouette for a younger Bruce Wayne, played by Robert Pattinson, with resonating realism.
“When Matt was talking about Batman, he wanted a character that could fight like an MMA fighter. The suit was never going down the route of a big muscle suit. It had to be something practical that you could really beat someone up in and be comfortable at the same time,” Dillon tells The Credits over the phone.
The costume designers have a collaborative shorthand with each other having worked on Rogue One, Solo: A Star Wars Story, and several other projects together. What they brought to the table was a sense of reality to the Batsuit. Instead of a costume feel or a high-tech utility belt as seen in past iterations, this Batman would use police-issued items and have a suit that he himself would have been able to build as a 30-year-old Bruce Wayne. It’s why you see Batman wearing things like police ammo pouches on his utility belt – they are intentional choices to reflect a Batman roughly two years in the making.
In starting the process, the designers scanned Pattinson’s body, who at the time, was shooting Christopher Nolan’s Tenet. They then took concepts drawn by Dillon and refined them using digital software before creating a rough print of each element. Once printed, it was then molded by the team led by supervising costume effects modeler Piere Bohmaned. Each piece was further refined until all the elements came together. The entire suit was then brought to Reeves for approval before going into full-scale production. The costume team created roughly 20 final versions of the Batsuit for the film.
The cowl in particular, which is Batman’s mask, was sculpted in a computer and then printed. The mask was made to look like leather, but in reality, it’s a polyurethane rubber material. Real thread was then sewn into the indentations of the mask to give it a life-like hand-made look. “I like Batman having the feel of the Grim Reaper,” says Dillon. “The cowl has a skull shape, and if you look at the neck from the front, there are these cervical vertebrates that are grouped together. It has that skeleton feel to it which hasn’t really been played with before. It’s that darker element that appears in a lot of the comics.”
Like the cowl, which was made to articulate in different places so the head could look around, the body portion of the suit was made for mobility as well. “We wanted it to feel like he could be looking all over, in any direction and be movable and flexible,” says Crossman. “It drove me nuts in some Batman films, the lack of movement or the way you could feel the man in the suit wasn’t able to do a certain thing.” The body armor is based on real-world armor and kevlar plating, which plays well with a storyline that has Batman being shot at from all directions. “We took apart bulletproof vests and examined the insides and it’s actually fabric layers of kevlar,” notes Crossman. “So we used that concept creating individual plates on the body. The cape itself is this kind of faux Japanese leather. If we used real leather it would have been a huge weighty prospect and it wouldn’t really work. This is more of a synthetic which emulates leather and matches the cowl while being more practical.”
No detail was left unturned. The Batsuit has a patina to it with a number of bloodstains, nicks, and ricochets from bullets to highlight Batman’s unscathed altercations. The color choice was a collaboration between Reeves, cinematographer Greig Fraser, and the costume team. “Matt and Greig talked about how the cowl on previous versions wasn’t completely black but it was maybe dark silver when it came out of the darkness and into the light. They talked to us about if we could do something similar,” says Dillon.
After creating several versions of the cowl from black to light gray, they camera tested to see what worked best. They landed on a mix of dark grays with body armor that had hints of green and a touch of yellow. “We call it the Darth Vader effect,” says Crossman. “The face of Darth Vader is actually silver but it reads as black. We deliberately did a gray suit and mixed different levels of blacks so it doesn’t get lost on screen.” Even the boots were curated with a military feel using Austrian combat boots that were embellished by costume prop maker Ian Jones with a leather gator fixed on top so they could work for fight scenes or when Batman rode a motorbike.
However, the duo didn’t remove every single fantasy element of the Batsuit. They were keen on keeping the Batarang, which is embedded into the chest, darts were added to the gauntlets and a grapple gun would spring from his wrist. “Everything had a purpose and nothing was wasted,” says Crossman. “We tried to apply that to every item on the Batsuit with nothing to spare.”
In a scene where Batman jumps off a roof to escape the Gotham Police, the Batsuit transforms into a wingsuit which adds fabric between the legs and the arms allowing Batman to glide through the air. To create the look, a Seattle-based wingsuit company was brought on to fabricate a wingsuit from Batsuit material. Then, with the help of special effects, they were able to create the realistic stunt on set where visual effects took over in post.
Another sequence called for last-minute alterations to the Batsuit during a climactic moment inside Gotham Stadium. The city is flooding and Batman is fighting off a number of henchmen but seems to be fading fast. He then pulls out a mysterious green serum from his utility belt and injects himself. “The scene was shot during one of the last days of filming and Matt asked us to make a special port,” says Crossman. “Toby Hawkes in our costume prop department made this port that you could flip up and put the pen in, which ended up being on his leg. This was all done before the film finished shooting so it was a dramatic afternoon.”
In creating the Batsuit the two look back saying, “We think the great thing about Batman as a character is that he can survive being so many different iterations. As long as he has ears and a cape, he’s one of those iconic characters that can take a lot of different versions being made of him. Matt really wanted this one to feel real, which is great because that’s the kind of thing we like to do as well.”
The Batman is playing in theaters now.
For more on The Batman, check out these stories:
“The Batman” Cinematographer Greig Fraser on Finding Light in the Darkness
How “The Batman” Writer/Director Matt Reeves Embraced Fear
The Best Batman Of Them All? “The Batman” vs “The Dark Knight”
“The Batman” Early Reactions: A Gripping, Glorious Street-Level Detective Story
Featured image: Caption: ROBERT PATTINSON as Batman in Warner Bros. Pictures’ action adventure “THE BATMAN,” a Warner Bros. Pictures release. Photo Credit: Jonathan Olley/™ & © DC Comics