What the New Batmobile Says About 'The Batman'

Robert Pattinson - Getty - H 2020
Kimberly White/Getty Images
There's a lot to learn about filmmaker Matt Reeves' take on the Dark Knight by examining the character's ride of choice.

Holy Batmobile! Director Matt Reeves, who has mastered building a hype machine for The Batman on social media, has revealed the first pictures of the Caped Crusader’s new ride, alongside another look at the costume for Robert Pattinson’s Batman, complete with ears this time around. The set photos that have made their way online in the previous weeks showed Batman riding a sleek, black motorcycle — a Batcycle, if you will — leading to some speculation that the Batmobile wouldn’t be featured in this film. But no Batman pic has ever been without an appearance from the Batmobile. Batman’s car, first appearing in Detective Comics No. 27 in 1939 and originally red, is as much as a staple of the character as the cape. Like the previous cinematic incarnations of the vehicle, it seems that there’s a lot to learn about this take on Batman, and his Gotham City, from his ride of choice.

The Batmobile’s appearance in Reeves' film is the first time since Batman (1966) and its TV series of the same name, which featured a Lincoln-Futura, that the vehicle actually retains the shape and body of a car, one you could picture driving down the highway without overturning everything in its path. The Batmobile featured in Tim Burton’s films, Batman (1989) and Batman Returns (1992), is perhaps the most iconic onscreen look. Fitting in with Burton’s Art Deco Gotham, his Batmobile opted for a more stylized approach, a gothic machine that felt more like a creature than a workable vehicle. Joel Schumacher’s films, Batman Forever (1995) and Batman & Robin (1997), pushed this approach even further into the realm of fantasy, stripping away some of the menace but fully embracing the comic book sheen, along with the questionable ability to drive up walls. These designs also became the standard base for the Batmobile's features in the comics at the time, as well.

Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy (2005-2012) took a complete 180 from what had been seen before, opting for a militarized vehicle that had its design basis in Frank Miller’s iconic comic series, The Dark Knight Returns. More tank than car, the vehicle in Nolan’s films stripped away the comic book elements, with even the name The Tumblr replacing the more kitschy Batmobile. The last onscreen Batmobile, featured in Zack Snyder’s Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016) and Justice League (2017), perfectly blended the elements of Nolan and Burton’s Batmobile for a combat vehicle that felt both grounded and of a world of comic book characters. This version of the Batmobile, a personal favorite, is the vehicle of a man who has spent two decades perfecting it. It’s great for the film it’s in, but for a Batman early in his career like the one in Reeves' movie, it’s obvious that a different direction was needed.

Reeves has gone back to the basics with a muscle car equipped with a mean-looking engine. Much like Batman’s costume, there’s a quality to this car that looks handmade, cobbled together from different parts. It’s easy to believe Bruce Wayne worked on this car himself, making alterations and tinkering with it, instead of relying on military tech from Wayne Industries. The realism of this car evokes Neal Adams' Batmobile design from the '70s and '80s, and one designed by Irv Novick and Dick Giordano in 1992. In the comics, Batman is a skilled engineer, but we’ve yet to see his skills as a grease monkey onscreen. Hopefully we’ll get to see Pattinson’s Bruce Wayne working on the car and making it more efficient for his needs.

The fact that it’s a muscle car also continues the visual ties to George Miller’s Mad Max series, and the sense that this Batman will be something of a Road Warrior, with utilitarian equipment picked up on the go, rather than the uniform costume and gadgets of a more traditional superhero. While it’s hard to tell without seeing it in action, this latest version does appear to be smallest Batmobile we’ve seen onscreen, with Batman providing the size contrast. The smaller size, jet black color and subtle thematic design choices suggest a quiet vehicle that can sneak up in the dark and move through the streets of Gotham relatively undetected, should Batman choose that approach.

As for Gotham City, the little that we see of the metropolis in these photos does seem to share some aesthetic similarities with Batman Begins (2005) and yellow-tinted impoverished neighborhoods that made up The Narrows. No doubt a broader look at Reeves’ Gotham City will reveal its own unique traits. But the car suggests that Batman won’t need to do much off-road action, or use the vehicle itself as a weapon. There’s a notable lack of guns on the Batmobile, something previous iterations have incorporated, suggesting a ride built for speed and travel, rather than waging war. But, with Batman being Batman, there’s undoubtedly some unseen features of the Batmobile that we’ll just have to wait to see on film.

The Batman is set to open June 25, 2021.