When Christopher Nolan took the reins of the Batman reboot in the early 2000s, the plan was to ground the hero in a reality we could believe in. He was to be the product of our society, and would play along themes stemming from post-911 alongside other societal issues. The series focused on using practical effects and stunts instead of CGI -- really wanting the audience to believe in the Batman. And believe we did. Nolan’s trilogy garnered praise from critics around the globe.
It was the way Nolan took some of the absurd aspects of the Batman story, and brought them to the present day in a way that didn’t seem stupid. The Bat-Wing, the Bat-Bike, the utility belt, the Bat-Signal and obviously the Batmobile all were given a reimagining, and the audience lapped it up. It wasn’t just the gadgets, but the characters too -- Heath Ledger’s take on The Joker redefined what we thought of the villain. But what about the designs that didn’t make the cut? Or the ones that inspired a vision or a scene because of what they captured? Luckily for you, we’ve got 15 pieces of insane concept art for you to delve into the making of the Nolan trilogy all over again.
When The Dark Knight introduced Two-Face into the film during the third act, it was a surprise for many fans. We knew that Harvey Dent was involved in the plot of the film, especially since it took elements from The Long Halloween. But since we already had The Joker dominating the film as a villain, showing Two-Face seemed like a dream. We got to see the villain’s origin when his face was doused in gasoline before the warehouse he was trapped in blew up.
Here, the art brutally shows him crawling away from the explosion as his face is still steaming from the burns. It’s a horrific transformation, one that truly sends Harvey Dent over the edge. This isn’t Tommy Lee Jones’ camp version of the villain, it’s a brutal reimagining.
14 THE BATSUIT
Since Christopher Nolan was attempting to make Batman as realistic as possible, his suit needed a modern look too -- spandex and tights just wouldn’t cut it this time around. We’ve seen Batman wear armored suits in previous films, but they were just one whole suit. Nolan brought us a Dark Knight who used military grade armor plating to aid him in his fight for justice, and this piece by Simon McGuire shows the beginnings of that.
You can see the different plates that shape his armor over his stomach and chest. There’s also some armor visible on his arms too. The suit almost feels like a combination of the original Burton suit with the new era just because of how dark it is. No yellow Bat symbol just yet though.
13 UTILITY BELT
How do you bring something like a Utility Belt into a modern superhero film without making it too cheesy? Well, that’s where Wayne Industries comes in. Including their Research and Development department allowed Nolan to bring in some of the crazy gadgets that Batman has in the comics and file them under a "military project".
The utility belt is one example of that, each section has a safety locking mechanism, and the whole thing locks into place over the top of his Kevlar-weaved suit. The design also includes a subtle Bat logo without being too over the top. It’s a great way of bringing one of the key visual elements of Batman to life in a sensible way. There’s plenty of sections on the belt, we just hope he remembered which one has the keys to the Batmobile in it.
This is one part of the comics that will always be slightly over the top, but we can’t help but love it. Dermot Power envisioned what the signal could look like in a modern setting -- and here it is. It’s a bulky piece of equipment, but…wait, is that a person strapped to the front of it? Either way, Batman stands next to the signal, almost proudly.
It’s certainly a unique way of bringing that part of the Batman mythos to life. But can you imagine the paperwork that James Gordon would have had to fill out to get it approved, and all of the health safety and rights issues that come with strapping a man to a spotlight on the roof of a building. Batman doesn’t think about the paperwork.
11 CLOWN CREW
As we look at The Dark Knight, we’re given a terrifying new set of villains that Christopher Nolan wanted to bring to the screen in a big anarchistic way. With The Joker, comes his clown posse and these masks created by artist Rob Bliss are hauntingly impressive. They look like something out of The Strangers or The Purge rather than a Batman movie.
And although the Caped Crusader’s adventures were mainly in the thriller genre, these designs could have well pushed it into horror territory. The strands of hair, the blank eyes and the creepily drawn-on smiles are just the worst (or best) kind of nightmare fuel. Thankfully, The Joker kills them all at the start of the film. Spoilers. Sorry. It’s been out nine years though, so…
10 THE HANGING KNIGHT
Part of The Dark Knight saw the consequences of Bruce’s actions as the Batman in the form of copycats. Wannabe vigilante cops who pretend to be the hero in order to dish out their own brand of justice using the Bat’s name. Unfortunately for them, it only lands them in trouble, especially when The Joker rolls into town. He hangs one of them outside the Mayor’s office in one surprising scene.
This piece of art shows an early version of that scene, and it is haunting. It shows one of these vigilantes swinging in the wind from a lamp post in an abandoned street. This would have been great for a build-up of tension in the film instead of the jump scare that Nolan went with instead. Bruce did warn them at the start of the film -- but this is a pretty bad way to go.
The Falcone Signal just doesn’t have the same ring to it really does it? This was obviously designed after the script had been developed -- as we saw this come to life in Batman Begins. The design from Dermot Power has a near minimalistic style to it, and could easily be used a poster just by itself.
It shows Falcone dressed in a tattered coat strapped to the spotlight, which forms the Bat symbol -- it’s a great way of introducing the idea of the Bat-signal. It’s a great moment in the movie when the police find Falcone up on the light. Whether Bats intended the light to be used as a way of contacting him when he did it, or if it was just an elaborate calling card, is never really explained.
8 THE JOKER
Heath Ledger brought a definitive version of the character of The Joker to the screen. He was a relentless killer, but also a brutally unhinged tactician. Which led to some crazy theories that he may have been ex-military. If the villain had looked like this from the start, we might not have got to that conclusion. With the way his face is drawn, he looks more like Leatherface.
Again, if they wanted to make the Batman films into a horror series -- this would be the way to go. The vibrant purple suit really contrasts against the pale shirt and lack of green tie makes the villain’s hair stand out even more. The Clown Prince of Crime looks like he’s ready to carve HA HA HA into unsuspecting victims here.
7 GOTHAM CITY
Since this Batman reboot was bringing the Caped Crusader into the 21st century, the city he watched over had to be brought up to date too. Gotham has always been shown with gigantic skyscrapers and sprawling docks -- millions of places for criminals to scurry away and hide from something waiting for them in the dark.
This piece by Dermot Power combines the old school noir feel of Gotham City from the comics and the older movies with a modern grungy feel. And with a thick layer of fog over the top of the water and it has an almost spooky quality to it. There are plenty of shadows and dark corners for Batman to lurk in wait for criminals and evil-doers. The bridge looks to be connecting the main bulk of Gotham to the Narrows -- a poverty stricken portion of the city.
6 THE BAT
Back in 2012, certain outlets got hold of the concept art for "The Bat", the flying vehicle that brought the Batwing into the 21st century. It allowed Bruce to maneuver through Gotham’s skyline and was ultimately the piece of tech that allowed him to get the nuclear bomb away from the city. This piece of concept art details each piece of the flying vehicle, explaining how equipped it was for fighting crime.
The only thing we really have a problem with, is the machine guns that are mounted on to it. If it wasn’t obvious, Batman has a strict "no guns" policy (something to do with people getting gunned down in an alleyway, not sure who though…) but that seems to have gone out of the window with this flying machine because who needs dual anchored machine guns as a "deterrent". Yeah right.
5 MOUNTAIN OF MONEY
One of the most underrated scenes in The Dark Knight, is when The Joker truly shows his brutal streak. He has the criminals he’s been working with killed by their own men -- and then nonchalantly burns a mountain of money, with a man sitting on top of it. It’s the casual nature of his actions that make it so intimidating.
This artwork shows The Joker with a closer look to the final film -- gloating over his success at gaining all this cash. Although we know what’s about to come, it’s an interesting look at the psyche of the character. He’s clearly pleased at what he’s done, he sees it as a victory. But the anarchist streak within him burns the entire thing down. He sees the victory as the achievement, not the money.
4 EMP GUN
During the final film in the trilogy, a major plot point of The Dark Knight Rises was that Batman had been absent from Gotham City for eight years. When he returned during a high speed chase after Bane had taken hostages at the stock market, he used an EMP gun to knock out all the vehicles and lights as he was riding the Bat-Pod. This design from The Dark Knight Rises Blu-ray shows off what the gun could have originally looked like.
The collapsable aspects of the gun alongside the extensions show that it could easily clip on to the Bat-Pod until it was needed. When images first debuted of the gun, fans were worried it was a rifle of some kind, but it turns out that the device just knocks out electronics, no biggie.
When fans first heard that Anne Hathaway was going to be stepping into the high-heeled role of Selina Kyle, most of them weren’t convinced. But then fast forward to the film’s release, and she turned out quite impressive. She played the role as an intelligent, seductive and brutal cat burglar that slots into the world of The Dark Knight Rises perfectly.
Her main outfit was a black suit, with goggles that doubled as her "ears" when they were flipped upwards. But these sketches show off a more detailed look at what the costume nearly looked like. With angles and lines in the leather suit, whether they had any function in mobility or were simply a stylistic choice isn’t explained. We’re glad they went with simplicity over these designs though.
We didn’t get to see Batman riding the Bat-Pod as much during The Dark Knight Rises, it was more left to Catwoman. She was tasked with creating an opening in a blocked tunnel to help the citizens of Gotham escape from Bane’s ruling. The concept art here shows a detailed look at the vehicle and what it can do. It also gives us the point of view from the rider's perspective, complete with a display screen.
This would likely give the user info on ammo, gas and system capabilities. It’s an intricate piece of tech, one that was infamously difficult to drive during the production. Believe it or not, this is a real bike -- and it was sold a few years ago for around $400,000. But for a bike that looks this cool, it’s worth it.
Tom Hardy has a hard time of it when it comes to directors covering his face up in the films he stars in like The Dark Knight Rises, Mad Max and Dunkirk. His villainous take on the back-breaking villain saw a redefinition of Bane’s backstory. In the comics, he’s pumped full of "Venom" to enhance his strength and bulks his muscles up to a superhuman level. In The Dark Knight Rises, it’s more of a medical necessity as he would die without the facial harness.
His mask wasn’t comic accurate, but this concept is a little closer to what fans know and fear from the comics. With the shape around his eyes and the pipes seemingly feeding behind his head, it would have brought the villain closer to his origins. But this would have meant covering up Tom Hardy’s face even more and who wants that?
Which of these pieces of concept art is you favorite? Let us know in the comments!