Jeremy Kay checks out the Batmobile exhibition at Comic-Con.
West, Keaton, Kilmer, Clooney, Bale. The years pass and still they come: hearts full of hope, chests inflated, arms akimbo. Each has squeezed into the Batman livery, suffered the amusing pointy ears, mastered the gadgetry and taken a stab at the growl. The quality of performance varies, however if there is a consistent thread of pedigree running through the cinematic depictions of Gotham City it is the Batmobile.
Prowling the streets with its dark master, this juggernaut of justice has seldom disappointed at the movies. So in the run-up to this week’s release of The Dark Knight Rises, now seems an opportune time to report on a Batmobile exhibit that drew lines of admirers at Comic-Con over the weekend.
The curators assembled a fine display of vehicles, with handy notes for each. There was Christian Bale’s ride, the Tumbler, which is the only vehicle used by a Batman that isn’t referred to as the Batmobile. It boastes an axle-less front end, silent mode and rope mines released to detonate behind the vehicle to deter foes in pursuit or unlucky civilian cyclists. Apparently director Christopher Nolan and production designer Nathan Crowley bought a load of model kits and “kit bashed” until they came up with a hybrid of a Humvee and a Lamborghini. Now that’s interesting.
There was the Michael Keaton-era Batmobile, my personal favourite. Zero to 60 in a not-too-shabby 3.7 seconds, grappling hook for high-speed turns, grenades deployed from – get this – the centre of the wheels and voice recognition, admittedly very 1989.
The Val Kilmer Batmobile was highly organic in look and production designer Barbara Ling was aiming for this: the car sported a fin and fender structure designed to resemble a real bat’s wing. There were alternating red and yellow lights located on the side ribs to create the illusion that the vehicle was actually breathing.
I lost the notes to George Clooney’s car so let’s end with the Batmobile from the 1960s TV series, a converted 1955 Ford Lincoln Futura with a rather quaint assembly of bells and whistles. Gotham’s most cutting-edge crime fighter at that time had access to a batphone, laser beams and a bat-turn lever that popped the batchutes. It even had a batcomputer. You can just picture Adam West wagging his fist at the blinking green cursor as the Penguin waddles away, again.