Batman is just a gadget geek at heart. A very, very wealthy gadget geek. But until recently, he's employed some tech that's, well, pretty unbelievable. Ice skates popping out of boots? Come on!
Not in The Dark Knight. Director Christopher Nolan's version of Batman is an almost-believable early adopter, with every high tech gizmo at his disposal firmly grounded in real-world technology. To get the lowdown on the five coolest pieces of gear from the film, we sat down with the film's Oscar-nominated production designer, Nathan Crowley, to find out where the inspiration for each Bat-gadget came from.
After the Batmobile (aka the Tumbler) is destroyed, Batman is forced to continue his pursuit of the Joker on this machine-gunning, shoulder-navigated, gimbals-sporting two-wheeler. This is a vehicle made for multitasking, allowing Batman to fire its guns, steer hands-free and maneuver hard without much risk of a wipeout. Says Crowley, "If you go over on its side, it keeps you upright."
Real-World Counterpart: Dodge Tomahawk
The Batpod most closely resembles the V-10, 500-horsepower Dodge Tomahawk concept vehicle
. But designwise, Crowley says, the 'pod draws most of its inspiration from the general design of the Tumbler itself. Just compare the front tires on the two vehicles: They're the same. "We didn't want it to be anything more than raw function, and that's why it looks like it does," says Crowley.
Past Batmen have had a hard time turning their heads (paging Michael Keaton), because the cowl was a solid piece of rubber attached to the suit itself. Not this time. Able to move independently of the suit, Batman's new mask now allows him to crane his head up and down and side-to-side with ease.
Real-World Counterpart: Motorcycle Helmet
When racing a Hayabusa at 180 mph, visibility and flexibility are everything. That's why the independently pivoting design of a motorcycle helmet and racing suit served as the chief point of reference for Batman's cowl design.
The new Batsuit is designed with mobility in mind. Batman can now turn his head up and down and side-to-side.
Courtesy Warner Bros. Pictures/TM, © DC Comics
"We really wanted to change up the suit," Crowley admits. Adding more protection in addition to more flexibility (and less nipple) than previous versions, the armor worn by Batman comprises hundreds of interlocking plates that move independently of each other. The result? Batman is more mobile, can do more stunts, and can kick a lot more ass.
Real-World Counterpart: Samurai Armor
The interlocking plates of the Batsuit -- while made of modern materials like Nomex, titanium and Kevlar -- share their design with ancient armor once worn by Samurai warriors
in feudal Japan. These lightweight, lacquered get-ups were strong, contained hundreds of interlocking pieces, and allowed their wearers a full range of motion.
When Batman has to apprehend a villain in Hong Kong, he utilizes a weapon that fires sticky, orange bomb pellets that adhere to glass. The gun is collapsible, breaking down to small pieces that Batman can store on his belt. "It's more like a piece of origami than anything else," says Crowley.
Real-World Counterpart: Collapsible Rifle
The sticky-bomb gun owes its DNA to any collapsible weapon. Just have a look at the M-40 rifle
(.pdf) favored by Marine Corps snipers: The gun can be broken down into multiple parts for easy transportation. The explosive, sticky ammo, though? That's 100 percent pure Crowley.
3-D Sonar System
Since the Joker does not have a lair or a base, Batman must track the constantly mobile madman through the streets of Gotham. To do this he uses a cowl-mounted sonar device that triangulates the baddies' cellphone signals and then renders the sound of their communication into a 3-D visual map.
Real-World Counterparts: Lidar and Sonar
Usually utilizing lasers, a Lidar system
measures reflected light to find the range, dimensions and other properties of far-off objects. Sonar, of course, is the technology of bouncing sound waves off faraway objects
to get a realistic picture of where those objects are. Combine the two, and you've got the 3-D system Batman uses to hunt his quarry.
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