What is black and blue and red all over? With its black muscle car body, blue rocket booster flames, and sinister red lighting, it’s the Batmobile in the new Matt Reeves movie “The Batman.” Stepping into the boots of the dark knight is Robert Pattinson, giving Batman an emotionally stoic interpretation of his dual persona.
Integral to the mythos of Batman is his car. As much as the shape of his cape and cowl, fans can easily identify which Batman they are seeing based on his wheels. Adam West and Burt Ward started up the “atomic batteries” of the 1960s-futuristic Batmobile. Then came Michael Keaton’s matte black car with impossibly long phallic hood and pair of bat wings at the rear. Val Kilmer and George Clooney drove weird, colorful toys, much like the movies they were in. For Christian Bale’s more “realistic” take on the Dark Knight, the armored military vehicle Tumbler served as the Batmobile. Ben Affleck likewise drove a heavily-armed, more car-like vehicle. Lego Batman assembled his own “Ultimate Batmobile” that could transform into different modes.
For “The Batman”, director Reeves and production designer James Chinlund wanted to place the hero in a world very similar to ours. Gotham is darker and grittier than ever, while vehicles are recognizably modern. Corruption is entrenched, as is collusion among government officials, the police, and private citizens hungry for power—realistic indeed. The Batman features Bruce Wayne in an earlier part of his being the Batman—a Year Two, so to speak. Thus his fighting style is rougher, he makes mistakes, and he builds his own gadgets.
Chinlund said, “Every Batman film…starts with the car.” All of this film’s designs reportedly sprang from the concept of the Batmobile. The idea was: rather than have the Wayne Enterprises industrial machinery making his gadgets, Bruce works on them himself. The Batmobile is clearly muscle-car inspired. It has a big steel bumper for ramming vehicles and obstacles, and a huge mid-mounted engine as a well as a rocket booster. The engine is a Chevy V8 with 627hp.
The Batmobile’s reveal has more similarity to “Christine” than to previous Batman movies. The Batmobile comes to life in a dark alleyway, all red glare and blue flame. For the car-chase setpiece, Oswald Cobblepott (Colin Farrell), aka the Penguin, tries to run off in his own fast car, a Maserati Quattroporte. But try as he might, Penguin’s Italian supersedan is no match for the Batmobile.
Bruce Wayne usually has his own set of wheels separate from Batman, and his choice here is a classic Chevrolet Corvette Stingray. The black split-window coupe’s appearance in the film apparently boosted interest in the C2, with a reported spike in Ebay sales. The Lincoln Aviator driven by a corrupt government official gets a heavy dose of Riddler graffiti.
“The Batman” also focuses on the character’s skills as a detective. For a more discreet way of going around town and tailing suspects, Bruce uses his custom Drifter Bike. Designer Ash Thorp says of the bike, “these designs are an amalgamation of my favorite kind of Cafe Racer and hot rod parts kit, bashed together into a working prototype.”
Kindred spirit Selina Kyle (Zoe Kravitz) rides a customized BMW R nineT. For the Batcycle, designer Thorpe was inspired by the Ducati Monster’s front cowl and forks, built on a exposed trellis frame. Two BMW boxer motors were stacked to give a muscular appearance.
“The Batman” has been a success, racking up more than $750 million in sales and serving up a visually and narratively stunning take on the dark knight. The new Batmobile is, no doubt, a big part of that success.