Yep, the dark knight has used many different gadgets over his multiple movie lifetimes, from various explosives to two and four-wheeled vehicles of various (and garish) kinds to a spray that repels specific types of fish, to get out of the ridiculous situations he usually finds himself in. So without further ado, sit back on your giant typewriter with your feet on your rubber ducky/SUV and enjoy the best of what Batman puts in his utility belt.
1966 brought us many great things. England won its first and only world cup, Patrick Dempsey and Shabba Ranks make their entry into our world, and we see the debut of a little show called Star Trek. It also brought us the big-screen adaptation of the Batman television series starring Adam West and Burt Ward and the one and only appearance (to my knowledge) of the Bat-Shark Repellent. Handy for getting rid of pesky sea predators, just a quick spray from the can and your attacker will be exploding a fair safe distance away, leaving you free to camp it up to your heart's content.
But this wasn't the only ocean-going-animal-deterrent-aerosol Batman had in his arsenal. When you see him pull the spray out of the Batcopter, he also has cans of Barracuda Repellent, Manta Ray Repellent, and - surprisingly - Whale Repellent. What a bastard. I guess this is why Batman is big in Norway and Japan.
The Batarang. One of Batman's original and most reliable weapons in his arsenal. The quintessential Bat-gadget (outside of Shark Repellent). The original batarang was essentially a boomerang with some very basic bat-detail added, but its function was pretty clear. It didn't feel the need to show off, basically.
The movies have never quite managed to achieve that simplicity of design and function; few of which really screamed "aerodynamic". Tim Burton's Batman had a weird, impractical shape but it folded in half, making it easier to store in his utility belt. That's something, I guess. Batman Returns changed things up by introducing the automatic Batarang, which flew and targeted foes on its own. Presumably because throwing with any forethought was too much effort.
Then we moved into the Joel Schumacher-era. Batman Forever incorporated a similar folding/compact design but came in a circular shape, which actually seemed designed with the intention of travelling through the air. Who would have thought Joel Schumacher could do something well? Batman and Robin, for all the movies ridiculous excess, did not go overboard with the Batarang design, either. It may still not look like a boomerang but it was heavily inspired by Batman's iconic emblem (good design) and it looked like it could actually be thrown effectively (functional). Surprisingly, Schumacher's contribution here may be better than Burton's. That will probably be the last time I say something nice about Joel Schumacher's Batman movies. Mark it on your calendars.
Finally, Christopher Nolan's Batarang was the least 'rangy of the line-up, devolving from a boomerang into a more basic throwing star; smaller, more compact, designed to inflict harm. Given Batman's more overt ninja-origins, this made sense. Nolan has always tried to be logical in his design decisions; this is one of the best examples of that.
Nothing else says ‘ostentatious billionaire playboy’ than a boat. When Russia’s oligarchs want to flaunt their wealth and power, they invest in frivolous purchases like this:
When Bruce Wayne wants to make a splash, he buys this:
The Batboat has been through plenty of iterations throughout the years, but this is the one I’m most fond of. It was featured in the 1966 film version of Batman, and was decked out in just such a way to replicate the hugely camp vision of the caped crusader and Robin as portrayed by Adam West and Burt Ward. Not for them Roman Abramovich’s vulgar advertisement of wealth and power. No sir! Where a Russian might go for a 557 foot floating palace, Bruce Wayne preferred a refitted Glastron V-174. Instead of two helipads, two swimming pools, a disco, 30 cabins, a mini-submarine and a missile defence system, Wayne opted for a pair of glowing eyes on the prow, a flashing beacon, a Bat-Signal on the fin and a water squirter and jet nozzle to make the Batboat look as if it was powered by a nuclear reactor. In your face, oligarch!
I had a replica when I was a youngster, and I loved it. It’s for that reason that the other versions of the Batboat never gained much traction in my household. The Bat Skiboat made an appearance in Batman Returns as Wayne traverses the sewars of Gotham to reach the Penguin’s lair. Batman Forever saw another version, this time piloted by Robin, and quickly destroyed by the Riddler and Two-Face. There have been other variations: the Batsub, the Batstrike, the Batwing’s submersible cockpit.
But there will only ever be one Batboat. Christopher Nolan might have made an impression with his militaristic updates of the Batmobile and the Batwing, but he knew not to mess with a classic. How could you possibly improve the design of a speedboat with a few funky decals pasted onto the sides? For crime-fighting on the High Seas, there’s no better way to travel.
Other than not drinking blood and not navigating completely via sonar, the one ability that real bats have that Batman lacks is the ability to fly. This must also be a bit of a sore spot whenever he sees Superman, although that's probably true for most of the DC universe in some way. But while Superman can fly because of Earth's yellow sun, Batman has the smarts to put something together to help him achieve the goal of flight, namely the Batwing. While Batman has had all sorts of Batplanes in the comics, it wasn't until 1989 when Tim Burton introduced the iconic vehicle.
Shaped like the Bat-symbol (probably initially just for that one crazy shot where he flies against the moon), the Batwing is armed to the teeth, with gatling guns, rocket launchers, and computer targeting, but apparently is poorly armoured to the point where it's downed by one shot from the Joker's comically-oversized revolver. And thus the Batwing ends up as flaming debris at the bottom of Gotham Cathedral, so hopefully the city's homeless got a bit of warmth out of it.
Of course, the infinite resources of a certain Bruce Wayne mean that everything can be replaced in Batman's life (well, except his parents) so in 1995's Batman Forever he showed us the shiny new one he has stashed in his Batcave under the Batcave. Based on the previous one, only with more gothicesque styling, it's a pretty mean machine, albeit one that unsurprisingly comes to a sticky end. Although this one is handier in that when you are shot down over water, the middle section detaches from the wings and becomes a mini-submarine. Unfortunately, the stereo is stuck on a channel that only plays Seal and U2.
With the way Christopher Nolan's Batman gets all of his tech from Crazy Lucius's Discount Military Prototype Basement, it's unsurprising that there may be something able to take Batman into the air tucked away somewhere. Already shown in a bunch of trailers, The Dark Knight Rises' Batwing - simply dubbed "The Bat" - looks to be the result of an illicit liason between an Apache Gunship, a stealth fighter and the Tumbler. We've only really seen it evading missiles and chasing vehicles, but it looks freaking cool and I expect it has to do something awesome at some point. And then will inevitably crash and burn. After all, that's just the way Batman rolls.
Bat-Sonar isn't pretty, it isn't glamorous, and it isn't one of the most hi-tech gadgets under Batman's belt. However, it is one of the best, and one of the easiest to apply in the real world. Which is handy, seeing as Bats is all about the real world, at the end of the day. Let's imagine a Bat-World without Bat-Sonar, for a moment.
Without it, Bats would be shit at driving the Bat-Boat, it's fairly safe to say. Christopher Nolan wouldn't have been able to confuse the lesser among us with his magic mobile phone sonar mind map creation thing. We wouldn't have been shit scared by Heath Ledger's Joker flying at us in creepy sonar vision. We wouldn't have seen Bats' creepy silver eyelid shields.
Bat Sonar's usage pre-Dark Knight was pretty standard 'I am underwater which direction am I going in' sonar'. Post-Dark Knight, though, it becomes something else entirely. Without Bat-Sonar, we wouldn't have been given one of the more interesting conflicts in The Dark Knight. Lucius Fox's disgust at the clear invasion of privacy Bats has taken it upon himself to employ opened up some fairly serious questions about the ethics of Batman's tactics. If these are the lengths he's willing to go to, where is the line drawn between good guy and bad guy? It seems The Joker's goal has been achieved - Bats has been driven to using the everyman as a weapon, the only way he can possibly destroy The Joker. It's clear that Lucius feels Bats has overstepped the line, and his resignation is proof of that. Of course, it's then followed up by the fairly awesome self-destruction sequence, perhaps proving that, as usual, Bruce Wayne is one step ahead of the game.
Batman Begins gave us the Tumbler, the Nolanverse's hulking take on the Batmobile, but sequels always need to push forward and try new things if they want to make an impression. The Dark Knight did just this, by scrapping the Tumbler (literally, they blew it up in a most unceremonious manner) and introducing the Batpod. Bursting loose from the wreckage of the Tumbler, like some sort of gun-mounted Phoenix, the Batpod is swift in all the ways Batman's last ride was not; but just as dangerous and effective.
Equipped with two cannons, this stripped down, low-riding cycle allows Batman to get around Gotham quickly, able to cut through tight gaps and make the sort of detours that the giant Tumbler simply could not without causing massive collateral damage. That's not to say the Batpod is some sort of wimp; the front-mounted cannons are capable of explosive blasts that can turn a long line of parked cars into flaming wreckage.
As an aside: Why were those cars parked? They were in an underground tunnel, where other moving traffic could be found, so why were those cars parked in parallel rows before Batman blew them to smithereens? They were clearly empty but we saw glimpses of kids in the back of cars watching the vehicles explode. Did Batman luck into the most impatient traffic jam in Gotham?
The Batpod is powerful and while it seems to take corners with all the grace and precision of a man threading a needle with his feet, it was capable of trip-wiring the Joker's lorry in a spectacular fashion. We will see much more of the Batpod when The Dark Knight Rises hits cinemas; hopefully nobody leaves their car unattended this time.
The thing that I liked most about the gadgets in the more recent [Christopher Nolan directed] films is that they have some basis in reality, which gives them an exciting credibility – if you had enough money, you could feasibly replicate something similar and play around to your heart's delight. My personal favourite out of the new bunch of toys is the grappling gun: not only is it very handy when you're in a bit of a tight spot and need to make a fast exit, it's also really useful for dropping criminals from high places to scare them into a confession (catching them first, of course, otherwise they'd kind of...well, splat on the floor). I'm looking at you, Flass; the Joker actually seemed to like it. Who needs an elevator when you can be super cool and grapple your way to the top floor?
The ultimate gadget in Batman's arsenal and the ultimate movie car, the Batmobile is the epitome of cool. Over nine theatrical films and forty years there have been six different Batmobiles. But when it comes down to it, which one takes the prize as the coolest and best, the diamond of the caped crusader's car collection? The answer is not the Batman Forever neon-lit one, although I liked the Batman & Robin roadster that reminded me of the Jaguar convertible from hell. There's also a lot to say about the 1966 model, as designed and built by George Barris on the base of a Lincoln Futura concept car. It's beautiful and a classic icon, and it has an awesome carphone. And of course the animated Batmobile from Mask of the Phantasm, a stunning behemoth that totally belongs in an alternate 1940s.
But it really comes down to two models, both from interpretations of the dark knight that defined him for a generation and brought a new freshness to the legend. Whatever you say about Tim Burton's two Batflicks, Anton Furst's Batmobile design is a stone-cold classic. A huge bulk of a car, yet with a slender and refined look, this has been most citizens' Bat-ride of choice, at least until Christopher Nolan reinvented Batman and brought us the Tumbler. A super military-prototype built by Lucius Fox, production designer Nathan Crowley based the look on a tank crossed with a Lamborghini.
Both have their good and bad points. Burton's Batmobile comes with massive machine guns that come out of the hood and a grappling hook that clamps onto lampposts in order for it to pull off sharp turns. Then again, it has that very silly shield (really, where does that excess metal come from?) and is probably a bitch to parallel park. The Tumbler has no real parking issues, as it can just roll over as many cars as it wants. It also has a bunch of rockets in its nose, a booster feature that allows it to make awesome jumps (albeit ripped off from K.I.T.T. and his turbo boost), but it's a very modern vehicle.
Burton's has a timeless design, whereas the Tumbler is more about function, something Burton's can't really say. It also has terrible security and its secret hidden vehicle (the Batmissile) is pants compared to the Tumbler's (the Batpod), so I'm going to give it to Mr. Nolan. The last we saw of the Tumbler it was a heap of burning rubble, and with no clips of it in the trailers for The Dark Knight Rises, it might have had its day? Then again, you have Bruce Wayne's huge bank account, and there are a few camo-deco Tumblers seen on Bane's side, so the bestest Batmobile may yet rise again...