After a long wait, The Batman is now officially available to stream at home. The critically-acclaimed Matt Reeves flick has been adored by many, largely thanks to its fresh take on the Caped Crusader. On top of that, the film also includes one of the most adrenaline-pumping sequences put on film this year as the eponymous vigilante played by Robert Pattinson chases The Penguin (Colin Farrell) through the streets of Gotham.
The team at Wētā FX was responsible for helping craft the sequence, and we recently had the opportunity to sit down with visual effects supervisor Anders Langland to chat about how the scene came to life. It all started with a practical set built at the United Kingdom’s Dunsfold Aerodome. There, they used half a mile of the track to transform into a highway that stunt driers could drive back and forth on.
Langland tells us he suspects around 50 vehicles were practically used during the sequence to mimic traffic on a bustling interstate highway. On top of that, digital models were created for both the Batmobile and the Maserati driven by Farrell’s iconic villain.
“Towards the end of the sequence it gets heavier and heavier in terms of digital limitations to the point where right at the end there’s a whole bunch of shots that are fully digital in there,” the artist tells us. “Because we had to change a little bit of the flow of what’s going on in terms of speed of the chase, positions of vehicles and they took their correct place as a part of the action, essentially.”
He adds, “So, we had to build digital versions of all of the hero stuff as well as a bunch of other cars to fill out the highway and fill out front and back, where it didn’t have quite enough practical vehicles on the day to actually make you feel like a full highway.”
Much of the chase was actually completed in pre-vis due to Reeves preparation and desire to have a good understanding of how the chase will look in the final product. Because of that, virtually all of the shots Wētā did for the project made it in the theatrical release.
At one point, there was supposed to be a delivery van exploding during the sequence. Because of Farrell’s performance in the scene, however, the filmmakers behind the movie opted to digitally alter the vehicle that exploded, giving time for the actor’s line to be kept in the movie instead of cut.
“That shot [of the exploding fuel truck] ended up being much longer than was originally intended because the take of Colin’s performance reacting to that event was so cool,” Langland tells us. “He’s going, ‘I got you! I got you!’ And he loved it so much he wanted to hold on to that for ages, so we had to add a second and third explosion to keep that event going long enough that the Batmobile could then come through the fireball afterwards.”
Then came the rain. Despite the United Kingdom typically being very rainy, the production had to keep the road dry for the stunt drivers involved in the production. That mean’s all the nighttime rain was added in post-production as CGI.
“The final touch was adding little impact splashes from where raindrops are hitting the ground and our compositing team lead by Beck Deig came up with a nice way of adding that relatively inexpensively to a whole bunch of shots so we could add that as a final dressing element to help complete the illusion,” Langland says of the storm. “And all those things together got us to a place where it felt wet enough for what Matt was after in terms of the sense of danger with driving high speed down this super wet highway.”
The Batman is now streaming on HBO Max.