Riddle me this, Batman: How do you transport a group of five superheroes, none of whom possess flying abilities, around the world to battle evil in the most efficient (and cool-looking) manner?
For Warner Bros.’ superhero mash-up “Justice League” — which opens Nov. 17 and brings Batman (Ben Affleck), Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot), Aquaman (Jason Momoa), the Flash (Ezra Miller) and Cyborg (Ray Fisher) together to save the world from a villain called Steppenwolf (Ciarán Hinds) — the job of working that out fell largely to production designer Patrick Tatopoulos.
The result? Batman’s newest vehicle, a massive transport plane with the maneuverability and firepower of a fighter jet, dubbed the Flying Fox.
The Flying Fox began as a series of sketches by the Parisian-born Tatopoulos, as he tried to find an overall design that would nod to classic planes like the Harrier jet while showcasing the bold, brutalist aesthetic of the Dark Knight.
Tatopoulos’ first major brainstorm: shifting the cockpit back from its usual spot near the nose of the plane. “That little movement made it special,” said Tatopoulos, who also served as production designer on last year’s “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.” “It started to make it more like the Batmobile.”
Physically constructing the entire jet was deemed unnecessary given the magic of CGI. But Tatopoulos and his team designed and built a full-scale three-level interior, with a bottom cargo area big enough to easily fit the Batmobile and a slew of do-gooders, a middle floor packed with tech (“like a Batcave in flight”) and an upper-level cockpit — making sure to give it all a slightly roughed-up quality. “You can tell it’s used,” Tatopoulos says. “Batman doesn’t go in the Batcave every weekend and wash the car and the jet.”
Not all of the Flying Fox’s capabilities made it into “Justice League.” Can it go underwater? Fly into space? For now, Tatopoulos won’t say. But he and his team designed the plane with features like a machine-gun turret that can be utilized in future movies — and sooner than that for any kids who get their hands on a Flying Fox toy this holiday season.
“The more cool things it does, the more it becomes both a great vehicle for the movie and a great toy for kids — it’s all the same thing,” Tatopoulos says. “We’re all like kids. We all want that jet on our desks at home.”
This story is part of The Times' Holiday movie preview. See our complete coverage here.