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How Christopher Nolan Rebuilt Batman
The five aspects that shaped the Dark Knight's world

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5. The Wheels

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“One of my problems with previous iterations of the Batmobile,” laughs screenwriter David S. Goyer, “was it looked like if any of the cars tried to turn a corner it would just flip over!” Michael Keaton’s car, you’ll recall, needed a grappling hook to swing a turn.

Thus, with realism the watchword, Batman Begins’ creative team had to solve the problem of a functional Batmobile. “I bought toy kits of a Lamborghini and a Hummer and sort of bashed them together,” chuckles Crowley. “It looked awful! But that’s how it started. It had to be an urban assault vehicle that could smash things out of the way and jump. Basically it had to be a high-speed tank…”

The models done, it was the job of special-effects supervisor Chris Corbould and his team to build something that worked. “The only time Chris (Nolan) wanted to use CGI was if we couldn’t do something for real,” recalls Corbould. “It would have been easy to cheat, but it became a real mission, designing the chassis and the steering system and what engine we could put in. In the end we could more or less do anything with it. I think our longest jump was about 70 feet, at 60mph. It went round corners flat-out; it really performed.”

That same philosophy extended to The Dark Knight’s Batpod. “Chris said, ‘It’s not a bike,’” shudders Corbould. “I’d tend to agree with him. I looked at this 20-inch wide tyre and wondered how anyone was going to steer it, but we were lucky to get (stunt rider) Jean-Pierre Goy. He fell in love with it.”

The Dark Knight Rises’ flying vehicle is, according to Nathan Crowley, of a piece with its wheeled predecessors. “There is a story reason why Batman needed an Osprey-Jump-Jet-Harrier-Apache beast! It doesn’t really fly, but we felt the technology had finally caught up to the point where we could pull it off between FX and practical.”

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