Last week saw the official reveal of the latest iteration of The Batmobile, an intimidating black muscle car that Matt Reeves will direct Robert Pattinson driving through the streets of the newest live-action Gotham City in next year's The Batman. The car might, once upon a time, have been just a way for the superhero to get from Point A to Point B in a hurry, but the 1966 TV series Batman introduced fans to a shiny, powerful sportscar emblazoned with a red Batman logo and featuring a siren and rear rockets. It was an instant hit with kids who watched the show, and the iconic image left an impression on everyone who would follow the original TV series into the fray.
In the years since, Batmobiles on TV, in comics, animation, and video games have been a wild ride. There are literally too many to really parse out in any meaningful way -- there's a whole website dedicated to just that -- and so we're just going to look at the live-action cars (as well as one video game Batmobile that's wildly popular).
So -- how does Robert Pattinson's Batmobile compare to the ones driven by Adam West, Michael Keaton, Christian Bale, Ben Affleck, and more?
We'll break down our thoughts below, with a tip of the hat to The History of the Batmobile, which was useful in making sure we hadn't missed anything huge.
The first time Batman graced the big screen, it was in the form of a serial drama that played out in 1943, with another serial in 1949. You can pick these up in the public domain now, but just because they're free doesn't mean they're worthless.
In the 1943 serial, the first live-action Batmobile was a 1939 Cadillac, which did double duty as the Batmobile and Bruce Wayne's personal automobile. If the top was down, it was Bruce Wayne driving. If the top was up, it was Batman time.
In 1949, they used another stock automobile -- and while the Cadillac looked like what a rich guy might drive around in if he wanted something dark and sporty, the 1949 car looked like...well, a car.
A maroon 1949 Mercury convertible, to be precise. And apparently, being stock was actually a benefit to this one. In a serial that had a lot of car chases, the History of The Batmobile says they ran through 6 of these cars during production, because it was heavy and didn't take corners well. The fact that it was stock meant they could swap it out with a replacement on short notice and keep filming.
Batman: The Movie
Maybe the most famous Batmobile was designed by custom car builder George Barris, who had only three weeks to finish it before the 1966 Batman TV series went into production. He used the base of an abandoned Ford concept car, the Futura, and modified it with Batman's colors and gimmicks.
This is the first time we saw the Batmobile get really souped up, but it still looked like something that might actually drive on a civilian roadway. In that way, it feels a lot like the Pattinson Batmobile, which seems to have drawn parts of its silhouette (and the external motor and headlight shapes) from the Futura/Barris Batmobile.
Batman (1989)/Batman Returns
Anton Furst designed this Batmobile for the Tim Burton movie. It was assembled using a pair of Impala chassis, powered by a Ford V8 engine. The body was all custom design and body work on top of some high-impact racing tires.
The Furst/Keaton Batmobile is heading in the direction of being really militarized. With the giant turbine in the front and a rocket at the back, it certainly doesn't look like an ordinary muscle car.
The racing tires and resultant oversized rear wheel wells seem like they're echoed in the car from The Batman.
This same car turned up in Batman Returns, with some notable upgrades, including the ability to split off the two sides of the car and have just the turbine, the car's cabin, and the rocket at the rear pass through tight spots as a "bat-missile."
Embracing some of the over-the-top visuals of the comics in a way that nobody really had since the '60s, Joel Schumacher's Batmobiles integrated giant fins and other over-the-top elements that felt ripped from the comics page (even if they technically weren't designs from the comics). This one, however, has a low profile and some traditional sportscar elements if you ignore that fin. Of course, other than those exaggerated wheel wells in the back, there's very little similarity between this ostentatious, wild ride and the one from The Batman.
Batman and Robin
With a long front end and a cockpit, this feels like a natural evolution of the Burton Batmobile -- and it does have colored light pushing out through some of the detaliling, as the The Batman Batmobile will have.
The Dark Knight Trilogy
At this point, we are deep into tactical military vehicle territory. Even in-story they don't pretend like this is a car, with it being explained that this is a Wayne Enterprises military vehicle that turned out to be prohibitively expensive to mass produce. There isn't much here that will find common ground with the "muscle car" approach, although it did set the standard for the next couple of iterations, which start to walk their way back toward looking like a car gradually.
Batman: Arkham Games
This one looks like it's a bit of a marriage of the battle tank from The Dark Knight and the muscle car/race car-inspired Furst design. While there is a lot of Batman: Arkham influence that seems to be seeping its way into the new movie, there's not a ton in the car that's immediately evident, aside maybe from the panel/vent design that's a shared commonality of the Arkham games and the Dark Knight Trilogy.
Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice & Justice League
Walking back from the armored truck look and a little closer to a muscle car philosophy, this one had a low profile and rested on racing tires -- but it still had a bunch of guns, and armor, and a high-tech cockpit. The similarities to the Pattinson Batmobile seemto be only in the car having some version of plate armor and the "vents" on the hood.
We come full circle here: when Gotham introduced a Batmobile for Bruce Wayne toward the end of its run, it was a black, stock Mustang, souped up and given the bulletproof treatment. It tracked with the world Gotham was working with because it could be a proto-Batmobile, while also just being the car that a rich kid might have as his first vehicle in a crime-filled city.
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