The Batman franchise never really received the big-screen treatment that it deserved. Sure, there was The Lego Batman Movie, which became a surprising box office success but otherwise it was hard to get excited about the caped crusader’s adventures on the big screen. That is, until now.

In 2022, Warner Brothers is finally giving Batman the big-screen treatment he deserves with the upcoming Batman 20th anniversary exhibit. And to celebrate this momentous occasion, they’ve gone all out with the new Batman suit.

From Lego to Real

It was back in 2019 that we first heard rumblings that Warner Brothers was finally going to give Batman the big-screen treatment he deserves with a movie called The Batman.

Although it was based on a famous comic book series, The Batman didn’t look like any other superhero movie you’ve ever seen. Yes, the costume was similar to those seen in the legendary 1989 film but otherwise, it was something new.

Warner Brothers didn’t really do sequels, so the next logical step was to give it a sequel. The first one to be exact, titled The Batman vs. Dracula.

And wouldn’t you know it, that was followed by another sequel, The Batman vs. the entire force of evil. And now, we’re finally going to get a true Batman movie to complete the trilogy. But before all that, we need to take a step back in time.

A Brief History Of Batman & The Movies

It’s been 20 years since Tim Burton’s 1989 movie The Batman which, in 2019, was chosen by National Film Registry to be preserved in the library of the Smithsonian Institution. The movie is so memorable because it broke all the rules and was such a unique take on an iconic superhero. But aside from the incredible costume designs, it’s also memorable for its innovative make-up and character designs. It inspired a generation of artists and continues to influence many creators to this day.

After that, the franchise pretty much lay dormant for a while, until 2017 when Ben Affleck was chosen to play the Dark Knight. Although he didn’t fully commit to the role until 2018, Affleck was able to cast a spell not only over Batman but over the entire cinematic universe, resulting in one of the best superhero movies ever made, Dark Knight.

Despite its critical and commercial success, Affleck decided to leave the role soon after. But even for a superhero movie, there wasn’t much else to do in 2020, so Warner Brothers decided to put the franchise back together, with the plan being to launch a new Batman series in 2021.

The Return Of The Dark Knight

So, in 2021, we got not one but two new Batman movies. The first being The Batman, which focuses on the Caped Crusader’s early years. And then there was Joker, starring Joaquin Phoenix as the iconic Joker. The films did well enough financially to warrant another trip to the big screen with plans for yet another sequel. But before all that, let’s rewind the clocks back to 1989.

The Legacy Of Burton

It was back in January 2021 when Warner Brothers finally gave fans what they wanted and announced that a fifth Batman movie was on its way. Titled The Batman, the news came as no surprise considering that just a few weeks earlier they had announced that Robert Pattinson had been cast as Batman.

Pattinson, who had been a finalist for the role of Christian Grey in the upcoming Netflix series, Money Heist, had been working his charm on the cast and crew of The Batman. And it showed, as he ended up landing the role of the Caped Crusader. Although it was a relief to finally have a Batman movie, the reaction on social media was one of disappointment, as many had been expecting a reboot of sorts.

Luckily, that wasn’t the case. The Batman was a return to form for the franchise, picking up right where the 1989 movie left off. And due to its phenomenal success, it was subsequently followed by four more installments, The Dark Knight (2005), The Dark Knight Rises (2012), The Batman vs. Superman (2020) and The Justice League (2021).

What is interesting is that although the films are set in the same universe as one another, they do present significant differences. For instance, Batman vs. Superman is an origin story, focusing on Batman’s early years, while The Dark Knight and The Dark Knight Rises are more of a self-contained story, with Batman addressing the audience directly. So it’s safe to say that different filmmakers had different creative visions behind the scenes and this is something to be celebrated.

Unique Design Inspired By Burton

The unique thing about The Batman is that it wasn’t just a movie. It was an entire franchise that had been 15 years in the making and had seen five movies and counting. And it showed, as the costume for the Caped Crusader, which he wears in the film, is one of the most memorable of all time.

The inspiration for the costume design actually came from an unlikely place. You see, in addition to his acting career, Burton had dabbled in filmmaking, making short films and art installations. And it was his love for the circus that led him to create the ultimate circus-like costume for the Caped Crusader. Or as he put it, “I wanted to do something different, something that hasn’t been done before. So I drew inspiration from the circus.”

The result was a brilliant piece of work. While the rest of the characters, with the exception of Alfred Pennyworth, were all based on earlier incarnations of Batman, the design for the Caped Crusader, inspired by the circus, was completely unique. Not only did Burton design a new suit but he also gave his protege, Michael Kaplan, who worked as an art director on the movie, the task of finding a way to make the suit stand out. And Kaplan, who had also worked on Richard Simmons’ Biggest Loser, came up with the idea of using neon lights, which had never been used in film before, to form the letters B A M B A.

The combination of the neon lights with the sheerness of the material, coupled with the fact that it was made in Hungary, which is known for its sturdy uniforms, made the suit stand out. So much so that it won an Oscar for Best Costume Design and became, quite literally, the “talk of the town”. But it wasn’t just about the look of the character, as Burton had put a lot of effort into making sure that the entire suit, from the helmet, to the tights, was functional.

An Effortless Transformation Into A Modern Day Unicorn

Although the neon lights were a nice touch, what really made the suit stand out were the various pieces of trick technology that Burton had incorporated into it. But you wouldn’t know it by looking at him; at first glance, he seems like any other average guy. And that’s exactly what Burton wanted – to play down the mythic nature of the character, so that the audience isn’t immediately reminded of his iconic association with the Joker.

But, like with all good things, there’s a price to pay. While the rest of the outfit was designed to make the character look like a modern day Unicorn – white, with a purple mane – the mask, which covers the face, was designed to be a challenge. As director Matt Groening said in an interview with Rolling Stone, “You don’t want to see his identity ruined.” So much so that in an effort to not ruin his looks, the designers had to make modifications to the mask so that it would fit over his facial features.

There’s also a great deal of controversy surrounding why the character of Alfred would not be included in the film. After all, they’re clearly friends from a young age and Alfred has known the true identity of Batman since he was a child. So why not put him in the movie? Well, there are a few reasons. One being that Alfred is largely a supporting character in the original comics; another being that because they’re setting the movie in the ‘80s, they didn’t want to remind audiences of the current political climate.

While many will argue that The Batman is the best of the five movies, it’s not without its flaws. One of the big problems is that although the filmmakers tried their best to humanize the character of Bruce Wayne/Batman, they couldn’t help but compare him to a young Michael Keaton, who plays the young Bruce Wayne. And even though they go through similar growing pains as their character does, the comparison is still there, even if it’s not said aloud.