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The Buildings of Batman Begins
An Architectural Tour Behind the Scenes of Chicago as Gotham City

Introduction
Purpose
Geographic Overview
Buildings and Photographs
Observations

Introduction

2004 was a busy year for movies in the Chicago Loop. Several major motion pictures were filmed here -- an area that is already no stranger to movie making. This is where The Blues Brothers, The Untouchables, and Ferris Beuller's Day Off got their flavor. In July, about two dozen production trucks hired by Warner Brothers rolled into town. Warner people told the public they were making a movie called "The Intimidation Game." A quick search of the Internet Movie Database reveals that is merely the working title of "Batman Begins." When the Batmobile started showing up on local TV news a few days later being chased by Gotham police cars, there was no doubt.
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Purpose

I am neither a film buff, nor a comic book fan. However, on those occasions when I do see movies I wonder if the buildings and other items I see in the background are real, or some kind of movie magic. When I saw the chase scene in "Arlington Road" with the Houston skyline in the background (an error, as this film is supposed to be set in Virginia), I figured it might be cheaper to make movies on location, rather than fake things in a studio. This web page attempts to showcase some of the real buildings you may see in Batman Begins. It is by no means all of them, because Warner has also shot scenes from this film in London. This page just covers the bits that Chicago contributed.

At the time of this writing, filming has not finished. In fact, they're not even done filming in Chicago. But I can make an educated guess about which building might appear in the film based on the fact that Warner Brothers bothered to light them up.

Geographic Overview

Map of the area where Batman Begins was filmed in Chicago

The area of the Loop used for filming runs roughly from West Wacker Drive at the north to Washington Street at the South, and from North Wacker Drive at the west to North La Salle Street at the east (see map). In addition, a long stretch of Lower Wacker Drive (located underground, beneath West and East Wacker Drives) was used for a chase scene.

Buildings and Pictures

General Pictures
The Batmobile
Gotham Police Cars
Gotham Police and Camera Helicopters
Support Vehicles

Buildings Where Scenes Were Filmed
Samuel Cole Building
Alexander White Building
Randolph and Lake Parking Garage
Franklin Street Bridge
Lower Wacker Drive

Buildings That Will Likely Appear in the Background
123 North Wacker
180 North LaSalle
200 North LaSalle
225 West Wacker
333 West Wacker
LaSalle-Wacker Building
Merchandise Mart
Randolph Tower
Randolph-Wells Building
SBC Building
Skyline Century of Progress
William Rowney Building

Observations

  • The Batmobile in this film is much smaller than the ghetto sled we're used to seeing. It's much more compact, more like an Audi than a Cadillac.
  • There appear to be two batmobiles. One that runs and sounds like a normal car. This is used for scenes that aren't shot up close. Then there's another one that is the loudest thing since the Indy 500. Its growl is clearly intended to be captured on film.
  • When filming some scenes, mass transit service was suspended for hours on the CTA Green, Brown, Orange, and Purple lines.
  • The people operating the helicopters are among the most skilled pilots I've ever seen. They were able to maneuver down narrow streets and squeeze between buildings while just a few feet off the ground. Very impressive.
  • All helicopters cleared the area at exactly 11:00pm each night -- exactly when their permit ran out.

Words and phrases like Batman and Gotham City are very likely trademarks owned by other people, not me. Their appearance on this page in no way implies that they are in any way connected to this web site.

The Batmobile

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