The Batsuit (1989-2008)

I’m a Batman geek…and proud to say it (which coincidentally contradicts this blog site’s name). Batman will always be cool to me because of the mystery, darkness, and psychosis inherently involved with the character. Almost everyone loves Batman but at the same time almost everyone has their own take on him. As far as I know, he has had the most number of Elseworlds titles released giving testament to his story being quite open to interpretation. Which leads us to the blog topic of the evolution of the batsuit. Again everyone has their own pick of the greatest movie batsuit created and once again this is due to every fan having their own distinct opinion on what makes, not just the batsuit the batsuit, but what makes the Batman himself.

Batman (1989) [Michael Keaton]

designer: Bob Ringwood

Man, how I feel for Michael Keaton! The original foam-rubber costume he had to wear for this movie weighed a ton and was hardly breathable. It was so hot in fact that during shooting breaks, the crew would put air hoses into the suit to cool him down while he sat for a breather. (EDIT: I realized recently that I got my information mixed up and that this air hose business wasn’t related to Batman but to Robocop and Peter Weller instead. My bad.)

I really dig this suit though. I think it was ahead of its time. I mean the only live incarnation of the character we had seen at that point was Adam West on TV. The 1989 movie suit’s body was greatly sculpted and made us forget that inside it was 5’8″ Michael Keaton. The cowl, even though a tad on the bulky side, was fantastic and incorporated a scowl-like visage and man, were those ears huge. Oh, and let’s not forget the whole ensemble was black! (“..and black! Oh, I looove black!“) The choice for a  slightly modified bat-symbol on the chest was odd though.

Batman Returns (1992) [Michael Keaton]

designer: Bob Ringwood

Wow! My absolute favorite of ALL movie batsuits. Look at that cowl! Majorly adjusted to fit Michael Keaton’s head this was leaps and bounds ahead in terms of flexibility. But more importantly, Batman looked damn cool. The angular shape of the musculature on the torso made it a dead giveaway to opponents that he was wearing body armor but it still looked fantastic. And this time the bat-symbol was just like in the comics.

Batman Forever (1995) [Val Kilmer]

designers: Ingrid Ferrin/Bob Ringwood

Ah yes, the nipple fiasco. Well what would you expect from Joel Fudgepacker Schumacher?! I, for one, wasn’t for it but really didn’t mind it in the end. The suit here turned out pretty nice as well but it was a heck of a lot shinier than the matte finish of Batman Returns’. The cowl this time also had some very distinct lines and curves not seen in earlier versions. Another change came in the all-black utility belt and the stylized, highly embossed bat-symbol on the chest.

Of course in the film, The Riddler infiltrated the Batcave, turned the place to a shamble, and forced the ever resilient and conveniently resourceful Batman to create a second (garish) batsuit. This suit was obviously thought up by the powers-that-be as a complete marketing tool to sell various Batman action figures (Laser-Attack Batman anyone?)

The end result was hideous in my opinion. Even shinier than the initial suit, this one had a slightly blue hue, a humongous black bat-symbol on the chest, an additional bat-symbol on the front of the utility belt, and what seemed to be air-intake holes on the ears of the cowl. Yep, it was all downhill from here.

 

Batman & Robin (1997) [George Clooney]

designer: Ingrid Ferrin/Robert Turturice

Oh the absurdity! The film itself was basically a modernized version of the camp 60’s TV series that retained all the campiness. I’m looking at you, Joel Schumacher. To be fair, the first suit used in Batman & Robin wasn’t too bad. It was very similar to the 1st Batman Forever costume but had an all black bat-symbol instead. The cowl though looked really off. Instead of looking menacing, George Clooney ended up looking dopey. I think the eye holes were maybe a bit too large.

The second suit is introduced in the latter part of the film when the bat-team must go after Mr. Freeze in his icy lair. Once again, the suit is a marketing ploy to sell merchandise. I really don’t have much to say about this travesty of a costume. Just look at the photo and throw up for yourself.

On a side note, I think the red Robin costume looks great and would’ve been perfect if he were Nightwing.

  

Batman Begins (2005) [Christian Bale]

designer: Lindy Hemming

I really like this suit. Being the most thought-out and ‘realistic’ of all the suits we’ve seen so far, this version just screams “functional”. The design team also decided to go back to a matte finish which I love. The cowl on the other hand, I am not raving about. It’s oddly shaped, makes Batman’s head look gargantuan, and the ears are placed in an unusual spot. On the flip side if one of the cowl’s functions is indeed to conceal Bruce Wayne’s identity, then I give this rendition top scores as, really, you would be hard pressed to recognize Christian Bale in it.

The Dark Knight 2008 / The Dark Knight Rises [Christian Bale]

designer: Lindy Hemming

Well this one certainly is hit-and-miss for me. The biggest draw is the new cowl and neck design which now enables Christian Bale to turn his head (yes it took almost 20 years for technology to achieve this feat). The design and shape of the cowl itself has hardly changed from Batman Begins and the somewhat small space for Batman’s jaw is still off-putting for me.

Then there’s the suit itself which was part of a lot of controversy amongst fans. Chris Nolan has really gone for the armored urban warrior look. Functionality-wise its great but I think the suit looks way too busy. There is so much going on there with all the individual armor plates and whatnot that he kinda looks like Robobat now. I hope, in the third film, they’ll tone it down a little. During the last action sequence though, where Batman turns on his high-tech infra-whatever goggles, the film makers created a really clever and great homage to the classic white-eyed Batman look of the comics.

Batman: Dead End (2003) / World’s Finest (2004) [Clark Bartram]

designer: Sandy Collora

As one would expect from a film made by a fan-boy, the suit in this indie short is as close as you can get to the comics. When I first watched the film, I was stunned. It didn’t even matter that freakin’ Aliens & Predators were involved. I proceeded to re-watch the thing several more times to convince myself I wasn’t dreaming and then giggled like a giddy school girl because I realized the Batman I love from the comics was actually right there on screen in front of me the way I had always envisioned him to be, albeit for 8 fantastic minutes only.

Oh and the white contact lenses? GENIUS!!!

Click here to watch the short film

Click here to watch a rare behind the scenes look at the making of Batman: Dead End

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7 thoughts on “The Batsuit (1989-2008)

  1. I think Christian Bale should wear Michael Keaton's batsuits from 1989 and 1992 as well Val Kiler's batsuit from 1995 and George Clooney's batsuit from 1997.

  2. Good article. Keaton's Batman looked the best. Captured the duality of the character. Keaton himself is not threatening (which works for Bruce Wayne) but put him in that Batsuit and he looks wicked cool and mad enough to bring serious harm to someone. I also agree about Bale's costume. Its like they get so much of it right but the part they get wrong is really wrong. BB cowl almost makes Batman comical looking. The cowl was alot better in Dark Knight but now he's in that tech suit that reminds of transformers for some reason. Looking at the suit for the first time I half expected the suit to transform into a mini arsenal. I'm hoping as well they make a more functional suit that looks more like Keaton's or the comic book in the next film.

  3. I subscribe every word of this atricle. the only thing I would add is that the Nolan suits (especially the second one, are coherent. The hi-tech-urban-warrior approach fits the tone of the films and the coal (even though a bit oddly shaped) goes well together with the resto of the costule. the Bob Ringwood coal on Bale's costume would have been a wrong choice.

  4. It's one of the most critical review I've ever read, my compliments to you!! I just want to add a personal point, and it is that the 1989 suit is definitely the closest to a Bat-creature look, with those ears that remind to a demon and the cape made in leather!! Besides, the body armour resembles muscles, but not like the crappy style of Schumacher's movies, so gives the creature the final touch!! Personally, the cowl is the best looking ever, but the Returns cowl is a bit more practical!! I like BB either, which is very Bat-ish, but the cowl is definitely wrong!! No comment about TDK suit, it's very practical and I like that, but it resembles anything on earth rather than a Bat!! It's one of the reasons for I consider TDK a great action movie but definitely not a Batman movie, even with all the elements they took from the comic books!! However, there is only one Batman; Michael Keaton!!! He IS the Bat!!!

  5. I TOO AGREE WITH FUNZI159, KEATON (DOUGLAS) WAS AND WILL FOREVER BE THE BAT. THE WEIRD "TWO POINTS" ON THE TAIL OF HIS CHEST PLATE ARE NOT SO WEIRD IF YOUD KNOW THAT IT WAS A COPYRIGHT ISSUE FOR TIM BURTON AND HE WANTED TO GO AROUND THAT. BUT ANYWAYS , KEATON ALL THE WAY. FOLLWED BY BALE. EVERYONE ELSE? SHITTY AS …LIKE ID KILL MYSELF IF I WERE GEORGE CLOONEY AND ESPEECIALLY (TYPO) VAL FREAKING KILMER..SEE HIM NOW? WASTED AWAY! FAT AND FULL OF SELF LOATHING, YOU KNOW WHY? CAUSE HE FLUNKED ON ONE OF THE BEST AMERICAN ICONS OF ALL. SHOULDA STAYED IN TOP GUN AND NEVER RETURNED TO FILM,

  6. I discovered Val Kilmer as a child while watching Top Secret with my big bro. I've liked him since. He was definitely not right for the role of Batman though but I have a feeling the producers cast the actors who have pouty lips due to the mask hiding most of the face.Did you know they originally were fighting to cast Bill Murray as Batman?

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