A recent comment on my earlier post about Batman Begins has me thinking more about the costume itself, and I realized in responding that I've got another post's worth of opinion to share.
Now, I love the film, and this is by no means grousing on what I think is a near-perfect effort, but I am in the camp that wishes they'd had the guts to forgo the body armor introduced in the 1989 Batman film.
The problem I have historically had with the Bat-armor is similar to the one that Sandy Collora (director of the Batman: Dead End short) has - which is that there is no body armor currently available capable of deflecting bullets that still leaves one flexible enough to do karate. Sandy argues that you are faced with a suspension of disbelief either way - either that a man can fight sans armor and survive or that a super-armor has been developed that doesn't exist in the real world. Similarly, I've always felt that Batman relied on fast moves and close combat instead of armor, and, in fact, the Batman Begins filmmakers seem to understand this too, as evidenced when Henri Ducard tells Bruce, "You know how to fight six men. I can teach you how to fight six hundred." Lucius Fox's later statement that the armor can stop anything but a direct shot also suggests they are actually "playing down" the armor of previous films, where their choice to keep Batman to the shadows reflects their understanding of his M.O. (Side note: I do like the heavier cape of some of the Batman films, which suggests that the cape itself may have some defensive qualities. Capes are impractical, yes. But you can't dispense with Batman's, so I'd like to see a martial art worked out specifically with that in mind, incorporating his cape into the combat in a way that made sense - both defensively and offensively.)
My second problem with his use of armor goes back to my analysis of his primary motivation - which you know from my previous post I conceive of as his (selfish) need to prove to himself that death cannot catch him unawares no matter what the situation. The use of armor negates the threat, and therefore, fails to feed the psychological need that compels the character in the first place. Simply put - it's a cheat. Recall again the line from Frank Miller's Dark Knight Returns when Batman switches off the (rubber bullet firing) guns of the Batmobile, stepping out to face the Mutant Leader because, "he has exactly the type of body I wish he didn't, and I honestly don't know if I can beat him."
My third objection to the armor is that it is a strong connection to the previous franchise, whereas every other aspect of this film is a relaunch. The armor was the invention of the 1989 Batman (along with the unfortunate misconception that the Joker's mouth is frozen in a grin - a mistake that prevented Nicholson from using the full range of his facial expressions, and one which I hope the filmmakers will forgo for the next film in this new franchise. But I digress...) It was interesting to watch the statements released to the press before Begins was released. The studio was officially calling the film a "prequel," while the filmmakers, possibly cautioned about dismissing the previous franchise too openly, hemmed and hawed about whether it was a prequel or a reboot. However, their inclusion of Joe Chill as the murderer of Thomas and Martha Wayne (as opposed to the Joker) is an obvious indication of their intent to separate from the Burton/Shumacher monstrosities - and their allegiance to the continuity of the comic books - and it's even possible the body armor was a studio-insisted upon aspect of the production they were not allowed to challenge.
However, despite all of the above, I am slowly, grudgingly accepting the necessity of armor in a world where street gangs can have access to military grade weaponry, and if armor we must have, appreciate the attempts in Batman Begins to justify it as cutting-edge prototype technology. Furthermore, while no such armor currently exists, every day our technological world makes it a more credible fiction than it was in 1989. I am also a big fan of the animated spin-off Batman Beyond, so much so that I wouldn't object to that story becoming part of official DC continuity, and since that future Batman relies on a high-tech suit decked out with sensors and weaponry, it necessitates a gradual evolution from the current cloth suit to the future suit. In fact, something of the sort is already happening, as witness the computer-assisted vision and armor plating of Jeff Loeb and Jim Lee's recent two-part graphic novel, Batman: Hush.
One thing I'd really like to see incorporated into the live-action suit is the traditional white eye slits. I was hoping they'd forgo the black eye make up in favor of something like the plastic eye-bubbles used in the recent Daredevil film (the only aspect of Ben Affleck's costume I liked actually). Spiderman showed us that you don't have to have an actor's face visible at all for him to emote or for the audience to connect with him emotionally. And masking the eyes might actually lend Batman a psychological advantage and add to his intimidating visage. (It also makes it less likely that close associates like Rachel Dawes will recognize him.)
As to the cape - absolutely it should detach from the cowl. One of my favorite visuals is still the Denny O'Neil penned, Neal Adams draw desert swordfight between Ras Al Ghul and Batman, where Batman removes his shirt and cape but retains his mask. Also, the cape should fasten in the front, under his neck, not at the shoulders, so that it can hang down straight in front and completely cover him.
As to the yellow oval, revisionist history/fan opinion holds that it was added when Batman began his formal relationship with the police and was meant to reflect the Bat Signal, so its absence is justified here. Personally, I prefer the black and grey outfit to the blue and grey one, though it would be nice to see the actual blue and grey of the comics on the screen one day - just to see it "brought to life" somewhere other than (and hopefully more convincingly than) the old Adam West series.
A word on his height - Batman's height in the comics has long been established as 6'2". Of all the actors to portray him on screen, only two are this height - Adam West and Christian Bale. But Bale's Batman isn't heavily muscled. He's much closer to Bob Kane's original idea of the "acrobat-man" or Neal Adams renderings than he is to Miller's Dark Knight. (His temperament is closer to the O'Neil Batman as well.)
Finally, a few years ago, at the San Diego Comic Con, I met a guy in a Batsuit who I actually thought look the part. Both the quality of the suit, and the physique of the person inside, simply worked. Standing next to this Batman, it was the first time in my life I actually believed that someone could wear the costume and not look silly. This in broad daylight too. In fact, this guy was actually a little intimidating. And I'm not sure but what I didn't like the mask better than any of the movie versions. The utility belt could use some work, and I'd certainly go for a non-reflective grey for the tights, but otherwise I think this costume is spot on. And his torso should amply demonstrate to Hollywood producers that they can dispense with those sculpted latex muscles once and for all if they have the right actor in the part. Click on the picture for a larger view and see if you don't agree with me.