On location: Batman Begins

When Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins hit screens around the world comic book fans couldn’t help but sit up and take notice of the movie’s incredible look and feel. The director created a film with a compelling storyline and visuals that matched – a fact that was re-enforced in the two spectacular sequels that followed.

Movie fans are now looking forward to a new incarnation of Batman, in an upcoming film in which the caped crusader takes on Superman. However, we’re going to take a look back in this post to see some of the locations that made the Nolan trilogy such an arresting visual feast.

Re-imagining an iconic hero

Batman has been through many incarnations, both on the page and on the screen. In both cases his persona has changed to reflect the times in which he has lived, since his first appearance in Detective Comics issue seven way back in 1939 to the growling vigilante portrayed by Christian Bale in The Dark Knight Rises.

Recently it was announced that Ben Affleck will be next to don the famous cowl. While there has been a mixed response to this news, there is one thing that all Batman fans can unite behind – the three most recent Batman films are amongst the best version of the caped crusader that have ever been captured on celluloid.

One of the main things Chris Nolan brought to the film series was an impeccable eye for a shot. The director went through great pains to find exactly the right locations in which he could construct the unique look and feel of the films. In some cases that meant going to some pretty unusual lengths.

Making Gotham

The city at the heart of the Batman story is Gotham – a massive American metropolis with corruption and crime running deep through its murky heart. It is the city that took away Bruce Wayne’s parents, creating the Batman identity, and the place the hero works tirelessly to clean up.

In Batman Begins the image of Gotham we are presented with is that of a slick modern city with a dark underbelly filled with decay and social deprivation. The filming of Gotham primarily took place in the states, in Chicago but to achieve the perfect look throughout the film series cameras were also taken to other locations around the world – including the UK.

In fact in 2011 an area of Glasgow was transformed into Gotham City to continue to help create the distinctive look. And that is only just a short sample of the UK’s involvement in the visual style of the recent Batman trilogy.

Britain’s Batman link

A surprising number of British locations stood in for the American comic-book landmarks in the filming of Chris Nolan’s Batman trilogy. If you’re a film buff who fancies some movie tourism, you needn’t go that far to discover some of the prime locations. We’ve picked out some of the main ones you might not have known too much about. They can be the perfect excuse for a short break, or weekend holiday:

Wayne Manor

Billionaire Bruce Wayne’s spectacular house looked every bit the English country manor before it came a cropper at the end of Batman Begins. There’s certainly a good reason why this was so – the building used is actually Mentmore Towers, an extravagant 1854 mansion in Buckinghamshire.

Arkham Asylum

This was the hellish facility at the heart of a plot to destroy Gotham in Batman Begins. St Pancras Chambers on Euston Road in London stood in for the interior of the building but for the imposing facade of the terrifying structure, Nolan looked to the National Institute for Medical Research which is also in the city.

Mean streets

Out of all the UK locations that were used in the filming of the trilogy, the enormous studios set up at the Cardington Airship Sheds are arguably the most important. The huge structures are amongst the biggest hangars in Europe and they were the site of many sets across the films. The Airship sheds can be found in Bedfordshire – just a couple of miles from our Park Inn by Radisson Bedford Hotel. Many of the atmospheric street scenes were shot here in recreations of the grimiest Gotham areas in the first film and Nolan continued to make the trip to Bedford for the sequels. 

A Bhutanese prison

Finally, one of the more outlandish uses of a British filming location. You may remember in Batman Begins a disaffected Bruce Wayne stuck in a far-eastern prison, fighting furiously with the vicious inmates. Well, that “Bhutanese” prison can actually be found in a slightly less exotic location – Essex. The scenes were filmed at the old Coalhouse Fort in East Tilbury.

The future of the Dark Knight

Having finished his trilogy with the triumphant The Dark Knight Rises, Chris Nolan has stepped away from the caped crusader leaving Zack Snyder in charge of his newest revival. Snyder was the man behind the recent resurrection of the Superman franchise and the next time we see the Caped Crusader, he’s due to be locked in battle with the Man of Steel – and it’ll be Ben Affleck playing the billionaire playboy with a thing for bats.

Whether or not any more of the filming will be brought into the UK is yet to be seen, but one thing should be obvious. If Zack Snyder wants to create something as visually arresting as the films which have come before, he need look no further than the amazing locations spread across the UK.