A brief history of the Batmobile on the big screen


Across comics, television and film there have been a huge number of Batmobiles used by the Dark Knight in the last 75 years. Now that director Zack Snyder has revealed the latest iteration that will be seen in 2016's "Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice," let's take a look back at the iconic vehicle's evolution on the big screen.

1989: "Batman"

Children of the 80s have fond memories of the curvacious, jet black ride driven by Michael Keaton in Tim Burton's "Batman." This version of the Batmobile was so popular, so instantly memorable, it was became one of the stars of the film.

It was outfitted with retracting armor, remote voice control, grappling hooks for taking tight turns at high speed and a handy interior light for keeping damsels in distress from looking too closely at Batman's profile. In Insight Editions' excellent Batmobile: The Complete History, production designer Anton Furst describes it as "the most brutal expression of a car, an image which also suggests sex and violence."

The Burtonmobile was seen again in 1992's "Batman Returns," and it was essentially the same vehicle though it showed off a new ability. Presented with an alleyway too narrow for the car to traverse, Batman jettisoned the vehicle's sides, transforming it into an ultra narrow missile-like shape. Which unfortunately made it useless for the rest of the film.

1995: "Batman Forever"

Today, the two Joel Schumacher movies are cited as cautionary tales about giving in to excessive spectacle at the expense of good storytelling. Originally envisioned as a continuation of the two Burton films, it's clear now that Schumacher was engaged in a completely different franchise, a bright, candy-colored world full of clichés and cheesy characters.

The "Batman Forever" Batmobile emphasized this approach. Where Burton's car was all black to blend in to the night, the "Forever" car was made to be noticed. Flashy doesn't even begin to describe its over-the-top, glowing ribcage design. It would have been more at home in a science fiction movie, perhaps.

In the end, it turns out chicks didn't love the car.

1997: "Batman & Robin"

Val Kilmer was out, George Clooney was in, and apparently Joel Schumacher didn't think he'd done enough damage to the Bat-franchise with his last outing. So he hammered a fistful of nails into the coffin with this abysmal trainwreck.

Ironically, the Batmobile crafted for "Batman & Robin" was actually something of an improvement over the last one. While still too colorful, it managed to give the vehicle back some of the sleek hotrod shapes seen in the Burton films.

It was basically the lovechild of Burton's car and Schumacher's first.

2005: "Batman Begins"

Ah, the Tumbler. Christopher Nolan's ultra-realistic Batman trilogy brought us the most functional, no-nonsense Batmobile ever. Its description as half tank/half Lamborghini was apt, abandoning the curves and comic book leanings of the past in favor of sharp angles and an overall severe appearance. If Batman were a real-life human being in the real world, this is surely the car he would drive.

This was the Batmobile that proclaimed, Don't mess with Batman.

The Tumbler returned in 2008's "The Dark Knight," though it was destroyed, revealing a previously unknown ability: transforming one side of itself into the motorcycle-on-steroids Batpod. 2012's "The Dark Knight Rises" saw multiple camouflage-flavored versions of the Tumbler stolen and used by Bane, though Batman never drove one again after the second movie.

2016: "Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice"

Finally we come to today. It's been less than 24 hours since the Batmobile that will be driven by Ben Affleck was revealed, and this is what it looks like. We have no information (yet) about the thinking that went into its design, but it appears to take the black, angular look of the Tumbler and push it in a different, more stylized direction.

It also bears a remarkable resemblance to the Batmobile that will be seen in the 2015 video game, Batman: Arkham Knight. It's also armed with some serious guns on the hood, which could have been inspired by the rubber bullets the Batmobile used in "The Dark Knight Returns." 

Which Batmobile is your favorite?

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