Dark Knight Rises: Batman's best gadgets from the movies
We've picked our favourite gadgets from Christopher Nolan's Batman Begins, The Dark Knight and The Dark Knight Rises.
Richard TrenholmFormer Movie and TV Senior Editor
Richard Trenholm was CNET's film and TV editor, covering the big screen, small screen and streaming. A member of the Film Critic's Circle, he's covered technology and culture from London's tech scene to Europe's refugee camps to the Sundance film festival.
From the humble batarang to a gizmo that summons a chirruping cloud of bats, Batman's utility belt has a gadget for all occasions. With The Dark Knight Rises now in cinemas, we've picked our favourite gadgets from Christopher Nolan's caped crusader trilogy.
Let's start with the best bat-kit from Batman Begins and The Dark Knight, before taking a quick -- spoiler-free -- look at The Dark Knight Rises.
Clothes make the man, and Batman's threads in the movies are made of Nomex biweave with Kevlar plating and reinforced joints, enough to stop a knife or even a bullet. At 300 grand the outfit proved too expensive for the army, but that's pocket change to a man of means like Bruce Wayne. Meanwhile in the second film, he upgrades to a lighter titanium-dipped tri-weave fibre armour with separate kevlar plates, which makes him faster but more vulnerable.
One of the most fun aspects of Christopher Nolan's Bat-films is the plausible explanations for the more outlandish elements of Batman's costumes -- including the serrated fins dangling from his gloves. In the films, Bruce Wayne learns to use the fins to ward off blades, a trick he picks up from beardy ninja Ra's al Ghul.
In The Dark Knight, the fins shoot from the gauntlets, which gives Batman the last laugh over the Joker. In that film Batman also uses a power-assisted mangle on his forearm, allowing him to bend guns and cut his way into the Scarecrow's speeding van.
Batman's signature 'ears' are also explained: they're antennae for a high-powered listening device that allows Batman to eavesdrop on the city from a distance. The ears are mounted on a graphite cowl, which in the later films becomes a separate helmet to allow Batman to look around more freely.
Billionaire playboys may not have wings but they can still fly, thanks to Wayne Enterprise's memory-cloth. It looks like regular fabric, but becomes rigid when an electrical charge is applied to it. So when Batman fancies jumping off a roof but doesn't fancy being turned into pavement guano, he triggers an electric current from the microcircuits in the palms of his gloves and the cape stiffens to allow him to glide gracefully to his next darkened alleyway punch-up.
In Nolan's films Batman is kitted out by Lucius Fox, avuncular head of applied sciences at Wayne Enterprises. He sets up Batman with a mobile phone with a twist: a Nokia Tube 5800 that sends out a high-frequency pulse and records the response time, building up a picture of the surroundings. It's a sonar -- like a bat, geddit?
When in costume, white lenses flip down to cover Batman's eyes, letting him see in the dark. Although the technology was developed by Lucius Fox, when Bruce Wayne applies it to every phone in the city, Fox agrees to use the resulting city-wide surveillance network just once before destroying it.
The caped crusader spends a lot of time on rooftops, alternately duffing up wrong'uns or standing around staring into space, all brooding an' that. When he needs to get from grubby alleyway to steamy roof in a hurry, Batman whips out his trusty grappling gun. Another of Lucius Fox's trinkets, the pistol fires a grappling hook that trails a tensile cable, strong enough to support a 350-pound weight -- or dangle even the tubbiest bent copper and demented clown off a building.
In The Dark Knight, Batman heads to Hong Kong to retrieve an erstwhile mob banker. Cornered by local cops at the top of a skyscraper, capeman and captive are suddenly hoiked out of a window by a passing plane. It may seem like a flight of fancy but it's actually based in reality: the system is called the Fulton surface-to-air recovery system, or Skyhook. It was developed in the 1950s and used by the CIA to make a swift exit from dicey spots -- at least until helicopters began to look like a better option than spring-loaded jaws on the front of a cargo plane that grab a cable with a balloon on the end.
You can tell a lot about a man by his ride, and this more serious take on Batman includes one serious set of wheels. Another ex-military project, the Tumbler is a high-speed, highly armoured bridging vehicle designed to jump over rivers. When Bruce Wayne tries it out he only has one question: "Does it come in black?"
It certainly does, engaging in a car chase that goes from Gotham's streets to Gotham's rooftops. Inspired by the tank-like Batmobile from seminal comic The Dark Knight Returns, the Tumbler may not be the prettiest movie Batmobile but it's certainly the toughest.
In The Dark Knight, the Tumblr is wrecked by the Joker, but not to worry: Batman simply ejects from the stricken vehicle with the 20-inch wheels rearranging themselves into a futuristic bike, the Batpod. Piloted by Selina Kyle in the Dark Knight Rises, its niftiest trick is the ability to spin its wheels independently and change direction almost instantly.
One of the themes of The Dark Knight Rises is the misuse of technology, and when the Tumbler falls into the wrong hands, the dark knight rises -- literally. The Bat is kind of a flying Tumbler, with a rotor on the bottom like an upside down helicopter -- but is it enough to stop arch-terrorist Bane and his anarchic army?
The Dark Knight Rises is in cinemas and on IMAX screens now. Batman Begins and The Dark Knight are available now on DVD and Blu-ray and online.