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Matt Reeves and production designer James Chinlund have worked together before “The Batman.” The pair’s collaboration has been focused on creating grounded worlds, based in reality. That approach was no different for building the world of the new DC adaptation.

Reeves wanted fans to feel like they were in a complete world in which a viewer could feel like they could get on a bus and go to Gotham. “We wanted this idea that it was somewhere around us,” says Chinlund.

With that, Chinlund, onboard from the get-go, was in constant communication about constructing this gritty, crime-ridden city of Gotham and bringing it to life.

The Batmobile

The Batmobile wasn’t going to be like a tank or a specialized weapon. It was a car designed for relentless pursuit.

Despite its many incarnations, the Batmobile’s sleek ride remains iconic. That led to one of the key decisions by Chinland when approaching this project. Through many conversations with Reeves, the pair knew they wanted it to be a car.

“It wasn’t going to be like a tank or a specialized weapon,” Chinlund explains. Rather, the notion was that Bruce Wayne had built the car himself, turning his back on Wayne Industries. “He was not James Bond, he was a singular vigilante.”

Chinlund’s design of the car was motivated by Reeves’ note early on that it was “relentless [and] motivated by a mission.”

“Every design choice you see in the car is born out of the function required,” Chinlund shared. Notably, while the front has a reinforced steel bumper and frame “because he needed to be able to push his way through any obstacle,” the back of the car was left open because they didn’t need to protect that area

Wayne Manor

Bruce Wayne’s Batcave, an urban dwelling

Chinlund and Reeves were excited that this journey saw Bruce Wayne as an urbanite.

“A lot of the previous Gothams have had Bruce situated in a mansion in the suburbs. He comes in to fight crime and goes back to the suburbs. Bruce is of the city, a part of the fabric,” Chinlund says. That led to the idea that the famous Batcave was an old private train station that the Wayne family had once situated under Wayne Tower.

“That made perfect sense as a center for operations for Bruce and it allowed us to explore all the beautiful decay and patina which set the tone for the rest of the film.”

The rich Gothic architecture of the U.K – specifically Liverpool, Glasgow and around London served as the perfect stand-in for Gotham’s Wayne Tower skyscraper. “Liverpool, particularly, just has the most incredible patina and I found it very, very inspiring for us as we started to build the world.”

Chinlund explains, this Gotham was booming.

“It was similar to many American cities like Pittsburgh and Chicago, that they had this real sort of heyday.” He looked at buildings of the 1920s, ’30s and ’40s, which allowed him to play with a pastiche of architectural styles. “It’s where ornament really is king.” He even looked at movie palaces in Los Angeles for inspiration, which helped create the decaying masterpieces of Gotham.

That was the base layer of Gotham that Chinlund was looking for in his efforts to not make it give the impression that it was frozen in time. Additionally, the city had attempts at economic revival, and then those two, for reasons of corruption and graft had fallen apart.

“It allowed us to litter the skyline with these unfinished skyscrapers so skeletal rusting iron forms,” Chinlund said. “When you see the skyline you really see all the grit up there in the skyline.”

Gotham’s gritty skyline

The Iceberg Lounge

Penguin’s lair, The Iceberg Lounge, a club steeped in corruption. Jonathan Olley

Serving as the Penguin’s lair, the Iceberg Lounge is also one of Gotham’s coolest places to be seen. Once inside, it’s a maze of corruption and scum for the city’s finest. Between the different levels, the lounge called for a massive backlot build.

“There was the exterior, the space inside and just this maze of sets,” Chinlund says.

This set was close to Chinlund’s heart, as someone who has experienced club life In New York. Not only was it exciting to bring it to life, but it was important to get it right. Freeway architect Robert Moses further inspired the aesthetics.

“Legend has it that he had an office under the Triborough bridge, and all the money from the tolls flowed in a tube through his office, and it always stuck with me,” Chinlund explains.

The beauty of working with Reeves so early on was it gave the two a real opportunity to collaborate: “When we were still writing, we could kick that back and forth and play with space. It’s one of my proudest achievements on the film and it’s super visceral.”

Aside from the multiple stage builds, London’s abandoned Printworks space, now a nightclub, was also used as part of the set.