That’s my city doubling for Gotham, sort of!

I was telling someone the other day that there was a scene in Tim Burton’s Batman (1989) in which a map of my hometown of Vancouver was used as a map of Gotham City — and I hated to make this assertion without a visual aid to back me up. So today I rented the film on DVD and captured the image you see above.

That’s Vicki Vale’s hand — and thus probably Kim Basinger’s hand, though you never can tell with insert shots — pointing in the general vicinity of Simon Fraser University and saying that that is where Batman has been sighted so far. Immediately prior to this, she had pointed at the West End and said that that is the location of Axis Chemicals, the place where the Joker has his origin.

The other hand, the one resting its knuckles on the map, belongs to Robert Wuhl, and when I interviewed Wuhl in Vancouver — I think it was in conjunction with Open Season (1995), the only film he ever directed — I asked if he had any idea how a Vancouver map came to be used on the set of a movie filmed in England. Not surprisingly, he said he had no memory of the map at all.

Incidentally, now that I have taken a closer look at the image — I had only seen it on paused VHS before today — it occurs to me that there is something a little, well, strange about this map. There seem to be ponds and lakes in places where there shouldn’t be, and the roads don’t seem to match, either — and I don’t think it’s just because this map would have to be about 20 years old, now.

I may be wrong, but check it out for yourself; if you click on the picture above, you will see a larger version of this image, and you can compare it to the maps of Vancouver available, say, here.

It seems like the props people took an outline of Vancouver and then revised it a bit — but I can’t imagine why they bothered.

About Peter T. Chattaway

Peter T. Chattaway was the regular film critic for BC Christian News from 1992 to 2011. In addition to his award-winning film column for that paper, his news and opinion pieces have appeared in such publications as Books & Culture, Christianity Today, Bible Review and the Vancouver Sun. He has also contributed essays to the books Re-Viewing The Passion: Mel Gibson’s Film and Its Critics (Palgrave Macmillan, 2004), Scandalizing Jesus?: Kazantzakis’s The Last Temptation of Christ Fifty Years on (Continuum, 2005) and The Bible in Motion: A Handbook of the Bible and Its Reception in Film (De Gruyter, 2016).

  • Magnus

    Robert Wuhl needs another baseball movie. Bull Durham, Cobb…

  • gabriel

    The roads in Richmond are right. Are you sure the odd pond you’re seeing isn’t just the north arm of the fraser?

  • Peter T Chattaway

    Actually, I can’t tell now if some of the features that seem odd to me are water-y blue or park-y green.

    Turning to the roads, though: Note the three parallel diagonal lines (representing roads, I assume) that run straight down into the T and Y of “GOTHAM CITY” — and note how they appear to be directly south of the Cambie Street Bridge, and how there don’t seem to be all that many other roads around them. Now does that correspond to anything on any of the maps of Vancouver that we know…?

  • jasdye

    “It seems like the props people took an outline of Vancouver and then revised it a bit — but I can’t imagine why they bothered.”

    copywrite infringements, of course.

    on the other hand, i know for a fact that chicago did double as gotham in the latest version. the bridge? ours. the train system? ours, with some modifications (much like in spidey 2).

  • nate

    i think it actually says RICHMOND, where richmond's supposed to be.