James Field’s The Art of The Batman, the official artbook for The Batman, the newest film adaptation of the caped crusader, is perfect for fans of the film who crave more from the world of the film and find it hard to wait for the forthcoming HBO Max series The Penguin. The book, which clocks in at a meaty 224 pages, combines concept art, behind-the-scenes photos, and shot-by-shot comparisons of previsualization and the final versions with insightful commentary by the cast and crew of the film.
First of all, I’m very much a fan of the world. I have been itching to learn more to the point that I recently read the young adult prequel novel, a book which describes itself as “high-octane,” because the movie wasn’t available digitally until yesterday and Riddler: Year One isn’t out until October (not to mention that we have no dates for The Penguin or the eventual Arkham series). This is all to say that I was going to be predisposed to love this book; I just didn’t realize I would love it as much as I do. Everything about it is fantastic, and none of it feels unnecessarily included, a feat with a book as big as it is.
In terms of standouts, I’ll start with the most obvious thing that I latched on to, the section about the Riddler (Paul Dano; There Will Be Blood, Swiss Army Man), which is a standout not only because, for reasons that to this day elude even me, I am a lifelong fan of the Riddler but also because the work that was put into this portrayal of him is so impressive (as would be expected of any character Paul Dano is playing) that it’s hard not to be taken aback by all the thought put into it. Anyone who knows me would be unsurprised to find out that I love this Zodiac Killer meets Jigsaw take on the character, that is if they somehow didn’t already know. If anything, the Riddler’s chapter has somehow made me even more excited for Riddler: Year One.
Aside from that, the section on Batman himself (Robert Pattinson; The Lighthouse, Tenet) stuck out to me, particularly in how detailed it was, with comparisons to comic panels, concept art of both the suit and of the character perched atop various rooftops, looking broodily at the city below, and easily my favourite part of the section, schematics of the various gadgets he uses throughout the movie, something which cosplayers will take delight in perusing. The section on Gotham City itself is another aspect of the book that stands out, solidifying that Gotham is just as much a character in The Batman as Bruce Wayne himself, something which I unabashedly loved about the movie; it’s one thing to make a real city a character, it’s an entirely different beast to do the same with a fictional city, even one that’s been around for as long as Gotham has.
In terms of things not limited to one section, the notes from costume designer Jacqueline Durran (Spencer, Cyrano) grabbed my attention the most out of everything; granted, that is because I know more about costume design and garment construction than I do about most other aspects of film production. I’ve been fascinated with the ways in which costume designers use colour to tell parts of the story since I was a kid, the origin story for that fascination being one part my mother’s background as a seamstress and the other from stumbling upon the Ella Enchanted commentary track and learning about the idea of characters wearing specific colours. The Art of the Batman doesn’t disappoint on this front, and Durran is quoted frequently throughout the book as her work as the costume designer is highlighted, be it pieces of the puzzle, like Riddler’s mask (an army surplus cold weather mask, as the book explains) or the colour they pulled from the comics for Penguin’s (Colin Farrell; In Bruges, Killing of a Sacred Deer) costumes.
In short, The Art of the Batman is a must have for fans who are itching to learn as much as they can and find the wait between now and when the next piece of media tied to The Batman comes out to be nigh unbearable.
“The Art of the Batman” by James Fields retails for $45.00 USD and is available wherever books are sold