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The Dark Knight Rises: the Batmobile 'Tumbler' secrets unveiled

By and Amie Parker-Williams

"Where does he get those wonderful toys?" So asked Jack Nicholson's Joker in Tim Burton's 1989's incarnation of Batman. In Christopher Nolan's Dark Knight trilogy, Morgan Freeman's Lucius Fox may be arming Bruce Wayne to the teeth on screen, but pull back the curtain and Chris Corbould, Oscar-winning special effects veteran of the Bond franchise, is the man kitting out Christian Bale to fight crime in Gotham City.

Since 2005's brooding franchise rejuvenation Batman Begins, Corbould has treated superhero fans to vehicular mayhem with motorcycle the Batpod, flying aircraft 'The Bat' and an all-new Batmobile. Dubbed the Tumbler, this car is part Lamborghini, part tank - a menacing machine in stark contrast to the sleek, missile-like vehicle that cut through the streets of Tim Burton and Joel Schumacher's hyper-stylised Gothams.

Digital Spy ventured down to Dunsfold Aerodrome in Surrey - home of Top Gear - to meet Corbould and take a ride around the track in the Tumbler. Our driver? Non other than former Stig Ben Collins, now working behind the wheel in Hollywood when the likes of Christian Bale and Daniel Craig need a stunt driver.

The Dark Knight Rises, Batmobile, Tumbler


Corbould explained that Nolan and his production designer Nathan Crowley had a specific vision of what they wanted the new Batmoblie to look like from early in Batman Begins's development.

"When I first met Chris we had a long chat and he said, 'Right, come next door, I want you to look at something,'" he recalled. "Between him and Nathan they'd built this plastic model about ten inches long made from bits of Airfix kits - cars, planes, hummers, you name it. He said, 'What do you think? That's what my Batmobile is. Can you build it?'"

Fully realised, the Tumbler would regularly roar past 100 mph as it sped through Chicago's Lower Wacker Drive during location filming for The Dark Knight.

"We geared it for faster acceleration," Corbould said. "We had an ML55 camera car, a crane rotating around the top, which struggled to keep up with it. I'm very proud of that. I remember when they came back on Dark Knight Rises, they said, 'We've got you this time, we've super-charged the camera car.' Well, we super-charged the Batmobile as well!"

Up close the Tumbler is a bruiser of a vehicle, muscular with sharp, jagged edges. In many ways its aggressive design is a perfect mirror to the splintered psyche of Nolan's Bruce Wayne. In motion, it's even more impressive.

The Dark Knight Rises, Batmobile, Tumbler
The Dark Knight Rises, Batmobile, Tumbler


Low to the ground and with the bullet-from-a-gunbarrel acceleration that Corbould promised, it pins its passengers back into their seats. The suspension pulls the vehicle around tight corners (even lifting up the far wheels), while mounted cameras feed back to two LCD screens, allowing the driver an unobstructed vision of outside. And the engine... so loud we were required to wear noise-muffling headphones!

If the Tumbler and Batpod covered land and The Bat air, what about sea? Corbould admitted that he unsuccessfully lobbied Nolan to include a water-based vehicle in The Dark Knight Rises.

"I was heavily pushing for a Batboat," he said. "I love working on water and thought it would have been a great Bat-vehicle. Chris felt that it wasn't big enough for the last in his trilogy so he went for [The Bat instead]."


Corbould went on to illustrate how dedicated Nolan is to grounding his Batman in a tangible reality with his approach to visual effects work on The Bat.

"Initially I had reservations about it because I thought it's all going to be CGI, I can't build a real flying thing like that," he commented. "When I got talking to them, I quickly learned that they wanted us to do as much as we could so that the CGI guys had a reality-based vehicle that they could match.

"We ended up building a special truck that enabled it to go up and down, bank left and right. We also hung it on high wires between two cranes, so when you see it first come out the alleyway, that's on wires. We went to extremes of suspending it under a heavy-lift helicopter to fly it across building tops."


Asked if there was a particular sequence he was most proud of during his time on Batman, Corbould said there were "too many to pin down to one".

"There are so many things I'm proud of," he said. "The vehicles for one: the Batmobile, the Batpod, the Bat. They were all wonderful to work with, I had a genius team making them."

The Dark Knight Rises is released on Blu-ray, DVD and digital download on December 3.

Gallery - The evolution of the Batmobile:

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