Grissom front company
The plant allegedly had ties to Gotham mob boss, Carl Grissom, and was a frequent target of investigations by the GCPD. Grissom, worried about the continued police presence, sent his hitman Jack Napier to destroy any evidence of Axis Chemicals' ties to his empire. The operation was actually part of a scheme by Grissom to have Jack and his men killed in revenge for Jack having an affair with his mistress, Alicia Hunt.
When Jack and his men arrived at the plant, the group broke into the office and broke open a vault that contained the incriminating documents. After his men removed the locks that secured the vault, Jack glances at what appeared to be a smoke-like gas coming out of the files, indicating that they were already destroyed much earlier. Realizing that his operation was a set up, Jack warned his men to keep an eye out for anything suspicious.
At that point, the GCPD, led by Lt. Max Eckhardt and Commissioner James Gordon arrived, who was tipped off by Grissom after sending Jack and his men to Axis. The gang opened fire on the police, and Napier made a hasty escape. Batman soon arrived and assisted the police by stealthily taking down several of Napier's men.
Napier turned up several of the plant's machines to dangerous levels to try and create enough chaos to escape, and inadvertently caused several of the vats to fill up with an uncontrolled mixture of hazardous chemicals. Napier made it up to the final gantry, just beyond which was the exit door. Free to escape, Napier prepared to kill Commissioner Gordon. Batman soon stopped him, but Bob put Gordon at gunpoint - which forced Batman to let Napier go. Napier did not leave, but first shot Eckhart in revenge, which killed him, then he attempted to shoot Batman. Batman deflects the bullet into Napier's face, and caused him to tumble over the side. But rather than fall, Napier grabbed the gantry. Batman tried to pull him up, but couldn't, and Napier plummeted into the vat of chemicals below. He sank into the green slime, quickly disappeared, and was presumed dead by onlookers.
Commissioner Gordon ordered his men to get Batman. However, Batman threw a smoke bomb and disappeared into the pipe works. Batman watched over Axis, and was lit from behind with the luminous Axis sign. After Batman left, a deathly white hand rose from the murky wastewater underneath the plant's drainage pipes, and several playing cards floated to the surface.
The Joker used the factory as his primary base of operations and started tainting chemicals produced by the company.
Destroying the factory
Batman realized that the only way to stop the Joker's master plan was to destroy the nexus of the poisonous products - Axis Chemicals. Batman controlled the Batmobile via the communicator to drop an explosive device at a certain point in the facility, setting off a chain reaction that destroyed the most of the structure. The explosion took with it the tainted products and a few members Joker's gang that stayed behind to repeatedly fire at the armored vehicle with handguns. Joker fled in a helicopter adorned with his logo. A majority of his men remained at large to take control of the bicentennial parade.
Behind the Scenes
Shooting the interior scenes
While the external set was a model, many internal shots of of the factory were shot within the closed Acton Lane Power Station, which was originally a coal-fired power station near Wembley in West London, commissioned in 1899 and closed in 1983. The cast and crew complained about the conditions of the building, including asbestos issues which were only partially taken care of prior to filming. There were also catwalk sets built in Pinewood Studios, the section where Jack Nicholson sees Batman for the first time was on a set.
Destroying the miniature
A miniature of the building was built based on illustrations by Anton Furst and his assistants. A miniature batmobile was also used during the explosion.
- This location is a combination of Apex Chemical Corporation first mentioned in Case of the Chemical Syndicate and Ace Chemicals from Man Behind the Red Hood! in the comics. Making it the site of Batman's first major adventure and the birth of the Joker one and the same, rather than one or the other. In place of Batman dropping Alfred Stryker into a chemical vat, it is the film's Red Hood equivalent. In Sam Hamm's drafts it was called Ace, later in Anton Furst's earliest sketch it was called Apex before the production team settled on the name Axis. The idea of combing these events would not be done in the comics until the New 52 version of the story in 2014.
- The map Bruce studies of Axis shipping routes in the Batcave is a map of the Capitol Hill neighborhood in Burnaby, British Columbia, Canada.
- The power station was previously used as a filming location for Aliens, where it was significantly renovated and stood in for the interior of the Atmosphere Processing Plant. After filming was completed, the set was left as it was and much of the rotting futuristic and grotesque set dressing had to be removed by the crew of Batman. Particularly recognizable, the stairways that Ripley had to negotiate while searching for Newt were used by Jack Napier in his attempt to escape during the firefight. A seat from the M577 APC interior set left behind at Pinewood was used for the Batcomputer chair in the Batcave.
- Axis Chemicals was mentioned in the episodes "Nothing To Fear" and "Batgirl Returns" of Batman: The Animated Series.