Thursday, September 11, 2014

Let's Rank The Batmobiles!

Earlier this week, photos of the Batmobile from the currently in production Superman v Batman: Dawn of Justice hit the Internet. The first batch were leaked and were all kinds of unofficial…




But then director Zack Snyder released an official photo via Twitter…



With the Batmobile once again getting a redesign to go along with a new Batman and a new movie, I felt like it was appropriate to take a look back at the cars live action Dark Knight’s of the past have driven into battle. After all, the Batmobile is an important piece of the Batman mythos, one that both filmmakers and show runners alike consistently try and put their marks on. Some nail it while others seem to miss their mark entirely.

So let’s see how they all stack up…

#7- The Nolan Batmobile (aka: “The Tumbler”)



Yes. I’m ranking this one dead last and it comes down to realism. Or, unrealism as the case may be.

Understand, I don't go into super hero movies expecting realism. Quite the opposite, actually. Batman movies are still super hero movies and super hero movies are, at their core, unrealistic. Trust me, when it comes to super heroes, I can forgive a lot when it comes to realism or a lack thereof. However, the Nolan Batman films are a different animal. In his Batman films, realism is paramount. Because he goes to such great effort to ground everything firmly in the real world, every time The Tumbler rolls out it undoes so much of that effort.


For starters, it’s not a car; it’s a tank. And when was the last time anyone managed to look inconspicuous in a tank? While having any identifiable car runs counter to the mission of a guy who’s bag is to blend into the shadows, a tank outright scuttles that mission completely. Not only that, but The Tumbler also consistently does massive amounts of property damage to the streets and buildings of Gotham City almost every single time Batman takes it out. Again, when you’re crafting a film wherein you want the audience to believe everything they’re seeing can actually happen, it’s hard for that same audience not to notice that the hero wantonly destroys city infrastructure as well as people’s homes in his giant tank as he runs from the police. Nolan did successfully make Batman movies I believed could, for the most part, happen. Until, at least, The Tumbler hits the road.

#6 and #5- The Cadillac Batmobile and the Mercury Batmobile From the Batman Serials





I guess technically you have to consider these cars from the serials of the 30s and 40s to be Batmobiles since they were both cars owned and operated by Batman. But besides looking classy like all cars before the late 1970s, there’s really not too terribly much to go crazy about with either of these models. In fact, unless you see Batman driving, you'd never know either was his car. It would be like making a Batman movie today where the Dynamic Duo rush to thwart The Joker’s most recent schemes in a regular, run of the mill, 2013 Hyundai Elantra. Sure, he would get there, but no one’s going to cower in terror as he rolls up.

#4 and #3 The Batman and Robin Batmobile and the Batman Forever Batmobile




Hold on. I can’t hear anything over the din of: “WTF, CHRIS?!?! HAVE YOU LOST YOUR GODDAMN MIND?!?! HOW DARE YOU RANK ANYTHING JOEL SCHUMACHER HIGHER THAN CHRISTOPHER NOLAN! HOW DARE YOU RANK ANYTHING JOEL SCHUMACHER HIGHER THAN?!?!?”

Are you calmed down now? Just take a deep breath. I’ll be right here.

Ok. Ready?

The reason I rank Schumacher’s over the top, ostentatious Batmobiles as high as this is simple: For better or for worse, they match the world Schumacher crafted for Batman. Schumacher’s Batman operates in an over the top, over exaggerated DayGlo world where everything from the buildings to the people walking the streets look like set pieces from an Adam West LSD excursion. So it was only fitting that so too did Batman’s rides. For the purposes of these particular Batman movies, both of these Batmobiles worked.

Don’t, however, confuse this as an endorsement for Schumacher’s films. While I totally get where he was coming from with his vision, I don’t see that markedly different vision as an excuse for shoddy filmmaking. And thematically correct automobiles aside, that’s just not OK.

There’s a lot wrong with both of Schumacher’s Batman films. The Batmobiles, however, are not among them.

#2- The Tim Burton Batmobile


Speaking of a ride fitting into the world built around it, this one is damn near perfect. The thing I’ve always loved about Tim Burton’s Batman movies is the unique look of the film. He took the 1930s aesthetic of the original comics and mashed them together almost flawlessly with then-modern sensibilities. That went a long way towards creating a movie that, Prince soundtrack aside, still feels timeless. Everything fit that vision, and so too did the Batmobile.

The Tim Burton Batmobile looked to be designed by engineers from the 30s who were allowed to peak forward in time and use technology from the late 1980s. It looked vintage and futuristic all at once and it still does. Most of the Batmobiles that came before and after this one started to look dated within just a few years, but this one is aging quite well. Plus, it doesn’t hurt that it was functional and looked like a car that Batman would and, more importantly, could drive around in.

#1- The 60s TV Show Batmobile


This is the Batmobile that, more than any other, has stood the test of time. Kids are still, almost 50 years later, able to point to this and positively ID it as belonging to The Caped Crusader.

And what’s not to dig about this Batmobile? It’s sleek. It’s practical. It has both style and substance. Sure, it looks like it came straight off the set of a trippy, camp-fueled 1960s TV show, but it also looks like a masked crime fighter, campy or dark, would actually be right at home behind the wheel.

This is the Batmobile that filmmakers, game designers, comic artists and everyone else will be chasing for as long as Batman is a money making venture. This Batmobile has cast a long shadow that still looms over pop culture and there’s a reason for that: when you get something so absolutely right, it can’t help but have staying power that lasts through the ages.

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