Batman has become such an iconic character in our culture that he is constantly being reinvented for new generations. And, as we have seen, so is his car. Our look at the history of the Dark Knight’s ride continues.
Schumacher’s Batmobile twins
Director Joel Schumacher took over the series after Tim Burton, and with the regime change came another overhaul for the iconic vehicle. In Schumacher’s first entry, “Batman Forever,” the urban crime-fighter’s (Val Kilmer) car had an impossibly cumbersome wing-like fin rising from its roof. It packed a ZZ3 Chevrolet racing engine under its hood and had rib-like vents cut into its side that were lighted blue from the inside. What function they served, nobody knows, but clearly the designers wanted to add an organic quality to the street-tank.
To its arsenal was added a powerful but improbable retractable grappling hook that allowed the car to scale walls, much like Adam West and Burt Ward had done on foot in the campy 1966-1968 “Batman” television series.
Schumacher returned for the next installment, “Batman and Robin,” although Kilmer did not. George Clooney, looking uncomfortably out of place, put on the rubber suit that time around. But Warner Brothers needed a new car to promote the movie with, so the Batmobile was taken back to the drawing-board yet again. It was stretched into an over 30 feet long roadster-like design that lost its passenger seat, leaving only room for the Batman himself.
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The Dark Knight
The series was becoming increasingly campy. In 2005 it was rebooted by director Christopher Nolan, with his more reality-based “Batman Begins.” Nolan sought to distance the material from its previous versions. For that reason, no mention is ever made of a “Batmobile.” Instead, we get a uniquely-designed urban assault vehicle know as the Tumbler.
Style was given a backseat to function in designing the Tumbler. It was built for jumping and for rugged terrain, and was actually capable of doing many of the stunts it performs in the film.
In 2008’s “The Dark Knight,” Nolan’s follow-up to “Batman Begins,” the Tumbler is given a detachable motorcycle, fashioned from its front wheels. Dubbed the Batpod, it was designed in mock-up by director Nolan himself. His concept was then fleshed out by Tumbler designer Nathan Crowley. Batman (Christian Bale) had to lay belly down on the fuel tank to operate it, steering with his shoulders while his arms were protected behind armor shields. It was powered by a water-cooled, single-cylinder engine and had no exhaust pipe. The exhaust was channeled through the hollow tubing that formed the bike’s frame.
“The Dark Knight Rises” has not yet released at the time of this writing. From the film’s preview trailers, however, it is clear that the Tumbler returns, as does the Batpod. This time around, though, it seems that Cat Woman (Anne Hathaway) has one, too. However, her fat-wheeled bike is silver-colored in contrast to Batman’s black one.
According to Tumbler builder Andy Smith, the revamped Tumbler has a new rocket launcher and a top turret, mounted with a double-barreled gun.
Those wishing to see more images and learn more details about the Batmobile on the screen and on the printed page may wish to look for a new book, “Batmobile: The Complete History” by Mark Cotta Vaz.