Batfleck’s Ride Does the Tradition Justice
Author: Matt Boyd
Model: Batmobile from 2016’s Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice
Mfr: Hot Wheels
Genre: Movie Car
Price: $150 est
What We Like:
- Sleeker,Speedier Return to Batform
- Lots of opening/moving pieces
- Functional suspension
It’s a phenomenon unique to the franchise film: fans dissect each new interpretation of a character so beloved that it has become an institution. We analyze the actors cast, the performances rendered, the filmmakers’ vision realized. But with two franchises in particular—James Bond and Batman—the analysis takes on an additional automotive dimension. Each new iteration of the Caped Crusader is judged not just for the man who dons the mask, but for the car he then jumps into. Generally, there have been three main camps: the Adam West/George Barris 1960’s TV Batmobile, the Michael Keaton/Tim Burton Batmobile, and the Christian Bale/Christopher Nolan “Tumbler” Batmobile. (With all due respect to the Joel Schumacher era, neither the Val Kilmer/George Clooney performances nor the neon-encrusted parade floats they drove really make the cut.) Enter now a fourth contender: Ben Affleck and his razor-like Batmobile from Zack Snyder’s Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.
While Batfleck (as fans have coined him) has proved as controversial as one might expect in this era dominated by social media, his Batmobile has largely met with approval. With its essence defined by production designer Patrick Tatopoulos (whose credits also include the Underworld and 300 franchises) and built by Dennis McCarthy and his company Vehicle Effects (of Fast & Furious fame) the new Batmobile had the potential to be something special. McCarthy, himself a veteran of off-road racing, turned Tatopoulos’ design into reality starting with an Class 1 Unlimited Buggy—a tube-frame, composite bodied race machine like those racing (and frequently winning) the Baja 1000. The frame was extended considerably, resulting in machine more than 20 feet long and a staggering 12 feet wide at the rear axle. By the time McCarthy’s crew was done adding gadgets and appearance items the thing reportedly weighed more than 8000 pounds!
The Elite Series model captures the look of the new Batmobile nicely. You may be wondering about the color. We commonly think of The Dark Knight’s ride as being black, but this one actually is dark gray in the film. The movie version is a shade darker than the model, but this is pretty close. The shape and proportions are correct too, but the claimed scale is off. The model measures 10 inches long and just under 6 inches wide; comparing that to the film version’s 20×12 feet dimensions, that puts the model at 1:24 scale rather than 1:18, but that’s not exactly a criticism. Hot Wheels has upped the engagement factor by making the boomerang-shaped active aero wings at the rear fully adjustable on five separate simulated pneumatic pistons each. Snyder’s vision of Batman is grittier and less polished than Nolan’s, so the Batmobile appears far from pristine; it shows signs of field repairs to damage sustained fighting crime. That fight can get messy, so the nose sports a pair of independently targeting turret-mounted machine guns, which are also moveable.
Accessing the interior showcases one of the model’s cooler features—the two-piece hinged canopy that splits up and out to reveal a twin-seat cockpit. Movie car interiors are often neglected by prop departments; vehicle scenes tend to focus on exterior action and headshots of drivers and passengers so shots showing seats or other interior bits not immediately viewable behind the actors’ heads looking back from the windshield or through the passenger window (when the vehicle in question actually has side windows…). Batman v Superman is rather unusual in that regard. Though the Batfleckmobile only gets about 5 minutes of screen time, its return to the Batcave—battered and bedraggled from its (literal) run-in with the Man of Steel—has a clear shot of the interior from above as a frustrated Batman vaults out of it. That produced both an opportunity and a dilemma for Hot Wheels. An opportunity because they had high-resolution film footage of the car as it appeared in film to go by. A dilemma because pain-in-the-butt reviewers like yours truly have the same footage to pour over frame by frame to nitpick every missed detail!
First, the good: the canopies look and function very well. The film car’s appear to fold all the way back due to the magic of Hollywood whereas the model’s hinges are limited by physics, but they open plenty wide enough to get a good view of the interior. The dash pad is also correct, and the seats—which are Recaro race seats with a re-skin—are shaped just right, although they should black per the movie instead of the model’s are a medium gray. The most obvious difference from the film is the reinforcement/roll bar that runs down the center of the cockpit. That center spine is the main support that joins the canopy halves and gives the chassis structure, but it’s not present at all on the model. There is very little detail on the dashboard either, although that is less of a problem because almost nothing of it is shown in the film so it would all be conjecture, or based off of the mockups of the car that made the rounds for press tours. The Vehicle Effects crew used a Chevy V-8 to power the movie car, but there is no engine represented in the film or on the model. The Class 1 buggy’s long-travel A-arm suspension is visible up front, and the aggressive off-road tires—which were actually developed for an obscure Israeli tractor!—are well-rendered as well.
It’s unfortunate that Batman v Superman was not well received by most fans and critics. The script was deeply flawed, and for that reason this Batmobile—and Affleck himself—probably don’t get the credit they deserve for their respective portrayals. Batman comes across as a dour, cynical, psychologically damaged mountain of a man pursuing an obsession with grim determination—which is as true to the character as any screen version yet. And his Batmobile manages to recall the flowing sleekness of the Keaton/Burton car while blending in the right amount of the military brutishness of the Bale/Nolan Tumbler. By the time you read this, the Batfleckmobile will have returned in the new Justice League movie, butched up with extra armor and weapons. Here’s hoping the rest of the movie is as cool as this Batmobile is!