With Halloween fast approaching, the announcement that Arkham Knight players will get to use the new suit from next year’s new film in November, and it just plain being the month of Batman, I figured it’s time to discuss the many suits used in the films.
To clarify, this is not a countdown, just a basic assessment of the various costumes. They’ll only be from the major feature films (no Adam West suit) and they’ll be judged based on looks and how they function both in reality and in story. Also, keep in mind that these are my personal opinions on them, and you’re more than welcome to discuss in the comments your thoughts. And without further ado…
Basically, these suits have had the greatest influence on the character, with elements of them still in play now in comics, film, animation and video games. The black design helped dispel the idea of Batman as a campy and silly character, while the spots of yellow keep the superhero classic idea intact. They also make great silhouettes when Keaton enters a scene. The original suit on the left definitely looks better with its sculpted muscles, but being made of such heavy materials it made the action scenes very clunky. I do like the idea of evolving the suit to a more armored look as Batman goes from urban legend to known ally of the police, and the lighter material made it easier for Keaton to move. In-universe, they’re essentially the same suit, with one major exception being when the cape folds out into wings for Batman to make his escape in one awesome scene.
I have such mixed feelings about these suits. On one hand, they gave us the ridiculous bat-nipples. On the other, much like Batman Forever, they’re not really that bad, especially in comparison to the sequel. The main suit, with the exception of the aforementioned nipples, is a really slick update of the first suit worn by Michael Keaton, and the fact that it was made from even lighter materials for filming meant that it got to have some of the best fight scenes in the original film series (I’m serious, rewatch those fights and see how much faster and bigger they are compared to the first two). In terms of in-story functions, the main thing I keep coming back to is how this suit was able to survive an inferno during a chase scene with Two-Face. The suit on the right is the new prototype suit with sonar enhancements used in the climax after Riddler destroys the Batcave. While it does hint at how merchandise-driven the films were becoming, it still had a good explanation for existing in the film, and the sonar ends up being useful in the final confrontation. While I still prefer the first films’ suits, I have to give credit where it’s due and say that for a fun-yet-flawed movie, they got some good suits.
I’ll just sit here and let you get all the laughter out of your system.
Okay, now that you’re done, where do I begin? The basic suit is as bland as George Clooney was in it, drained of all color and for some reason we ended up getting scenes that focused on the overly-anatomical design. The amount of stupid gadgets (including built-in pop-out ice-skates) takes what was once a superhero design modernized and makes it ridiculous. And then there’s the silver and black suit, apparently called the Arctic Suit. I only recently found out it was called that, because they never mention it in the movie, nor do they ever explain where it came from. It just pops up at the climax along with matching suits for Robin and Batgirl. The ultimate statement is just… just look at it in comparison with the other suits on this list. All of the others, even Val Kilmer’s which was made under the same director as these, they all make you stare and take seriously as a Batsuit for the movies. The suits Clooney wore never look good no matter how they’re shown. They look like something from a parody film.
The main word for these suits is function. Everything about them has a reason why it exists and why Batman would use it. The Begins suit is explained in detail as we watch Bruce Wayne build it. The main suit? Prototype military armor. The utility belt? While it does hold gadgets, its main purpose with the winch in the buckle that allows quickly ascent and descent with the cable from his grappling gun. The scalloped gauntlets? Armor used in his training as a fighter. And the cape, which is only introduced after Bruce realizes he needs a way to make long jumps safely, is made of memory cloth that becomes a pair of wings. I’m not going to lie, this may be my favorite suit of the films that I’ve seen so far as far as looks go. However, it was still as uncomfortable as the rest of the suits we’ve seen before, and the same issue of turning the head still turned up. Which leads us to the suit from the Dark Knight and the Dark Knight Rises, which instead of one complete piece for the suit, was made of multiple ceramic armor pieces. It literally was hundreds of pieces that clipped onto the main body after it was put on. This allowed greater movement and better airflow both in the movie’s story and in real life for Christian Bale, making it the most functional suit in the franchise so far. In-story, however, there was a trade-off as it made Batman more vulnerable to guns and knives. Still, it allowed for a greater range of motion, making the action scenes flow so much faster. These two represent the best of modern superhero movie design, with the Begins suit being the ultimate example of how to explain why a superhero costume has to look the way it does in modern films, while the Dark Knight suit is the ultimate in adapting a suit to work in filming.
As this suit is from a film yet to be released, I can only offer an opinion based on design. I’ll also refrain from discussing the other suits from the upcoming movie as we’ve yet to get a really good look at them besides brief shots in the trailers. So, what can I say beyond “wow”? I mean, yeah, the ears are the shortest we’ve seen on a movie Batsuit, and the chest symbol is massive and blocky, making it look like Frank Miller’s design (which was good for The Dark Knight Returns miniseries, but should not keep being used). But that’s probably the most striking thing about it: this is the closest to the comics we’ve ever seen a Batsuit. I mean, the main body is classic grey, not black like the cape and cowl. It in essence is a merger between the artwork of Frank Miller and Jim Lee, brought to glorious life. Just based on appearance, I’m excited to see this thing in motion, which we’ll all be getting an early preview of when this suit arrives as DLC next month.
The Batsuit is such a unique superhero costume. It’s not just a suit like Superman or Spider-Man, nor is it some tech-infused weapon like Iron Man. It’s somewhere in the middle, something that allows Bruce Wayne to use his natural physical abilities with add-ons to aid with even bigger threats. And with each movie, they find new ways to make that idea come to life. And with what’s coming, I’m looking forward to its continuing evolution.