There have been many notable versions of the Batmobile over the years, from the sleek red and black wing-tips of the sixties’ TV show’s Bat-Cadillac (the Batillac, if you will) to the more rough-and-ready, practical-minded Tumbler (76023) of Christopher Nolan’s more realist vision of the Dark Knight; but none have become lodged in the collective imagination more so than Anton Furst’s ground breaking design for Tim Burton’s gothic comic book opera that took the world by storm in 1989, and changed the superhero genre forever.
With its brooding, voluptuous curves and aggressive yet elegant aesthetic, this was the Batmobile of your darkest dreams, wrought into being by master engineers.
For a while Lego-heads had to be content with the 342-piece ‘Pursuit of the Joker’ set (76119) aimed at years 7+ but then towards the close of 2019 in celebration of 30 years of Burton’s vision, everybody’s Bat-prayers were answered with this more discerning, absolutely stunning replica that adheres closely to the original design and wastes not one of its 3,300 pieces in making you relive the sheer awe you must have surely felt when The Batmobile first charged onto the screen in 1989.
I defy you not to start humming that Danny Elfman theme when the vehicle’s iconic shape begins to materialise before your eyes.
Firstly, the box is impressive in itself, with its hefty weight, packaging dominated by jet blacks and plastered with the infamous Bat-insignia given pop culture omnipresence back in ’89 by Warner Bros.’ marketing campaign, it exudes promise and dark day dreams.
Faced with 24 sturdy numbered bags of Lego goodness within (plus two numberless bags consisting of larger set pieces) and weighing in at 3.5kg, this blogger, keen to start assembling his 50th birthday present, couldn’t wait to get stuck in, or as Batman himself once put it: “And now I’ve gotta go to work…”
The splashy instruction manual which accompanies the set outlines that this pet project, from John Cuppage, Christopher Perron and Adam Grabowski, was researched intensely from blueprints, video clips and behind-the-scenes stills to ensure fidelity to the original concept, right down to the precise curves of the windshield and smooth motion that seals the sloped canopy, housing a perfectly-detailed cockpit within.
The latter of this dream team also designed the Tumbler set and it seems fitting that he has repurposed that model’s wheels for use here.
The initial sections of the build focus, not surprisingly, on erecting a sturdy chassis out of Technic elements (4x6 bricks), common to most large-scale vehicles, that once assembled give you an idea of the impressive scale of the model. This phase may feel somewhat perfunctory but soon enough, black slabs of the bodywork emerge, making a guest appearance to give the model shape and form, extending its length considerably.
The next phase of construction entails intense, tricky assembly of more Technic elements to build the model’s complex steering mechanism which requires patience and a steady hand, but blends nicely with the standard bricks and curves of the outer pieces.
Once assembled and linked with the steering column effectively, one achieves an early satisfaction in the build that will soon be outshone by other boxes ticked as you proceed through the manual.
The impressive modelling of the armour on the flanks of the vehicle through a build up of curved slopes and tiling which spreads to the turbine engine housing and wheel arches is where this Batmobile really comes into focus.
By the time you get to intricate detailing on the side under carriage, courtesy of smaller dark pearl-coloured elements like roller skates and conduit piping that houses the grapnel, you’ll believe it actually fires to make those dramatic 90 degree turns as seen in the film.
Too bad it doesn’t! I’m glad to see that the designers have stayed faithful to the distinctive air intakes that hang like earlobes on either side of the bodywork.
The cockpit is a triumph, festooned with a high level of detail afforded by a majority of the pack’s somewhat disappointing tally of only 19 stickers containing a footwell with adjustable pedals and gear sticks.
The workable-steering wheel has a cool bat sign which matches the hub caps. The very fact that the wheels are steerable from the cockpit controls is a major plus.
Some might find fault with the lack of a locking mechanism on the canopy but the beautifully-sculpted windshield, one of the set’s much touted one-of-a-kind elements, provides an elegant and design-faithful support which makes this a robust feature of the model and provided you have set all the docking-bricks correctly, you should achieve a smooth and decisive motion.
The rear of this vehicle is particularly gorgeous to behold, the wings fan out like sea shells, lavished with nifty detailing, achieved through inverted bows and ridges.
The subtlety of the curvature on display is highly impressive given that it is one of the main challenges with Lego designs, but the team have done exceedingly well to emulate this key element of the film’s original design. The model looks truly magnificent from any angle but it does cut a rather dramatic figure when viewed from behind.
The louvered exhaust vents, which attach to the underlying bodywork, are exceedingly fun to execute as is neat turbine exhaust nozzle, comprised of pearl dark grey elements.
Trans-red tail lights and pearl silver exhaust pipes perfectly offset the overall darkness and personally, I would have welcomed a fiery element like the one which spun on the earlier model when propelled forwards.
Some have carped online that the twin Browning M1919 machine guns don’t pop their panels as advertised but I can attest that diligent application of the central axel from the twistable-turbine to the rack-and-pinion mechanism that houses said weapons will most definitely cause them to rise in unison, although they won’t rocket the panels sky high as the film’s Electronic Press Kit would have had us believe back in 1989.
The turntable base construction is simply enough although hardly an aesthetic piece, comprising as it does of light grey Technic bricks and mainly hidden from view by the vehicle itself once mounted which I discover some have had issues with but I had no problems in attaching.
You have to feel your way through this part but the model probably looks its most impressive without this component, still the accompanying information plaque is a nifty addition for display purposes and the option to rotate is a welcome one.
The unique thing about this particular Batman is the beautifully-sculpted cowl, cape and insignia one-piece that has been made from rubbery elements and has a nice, tactile feel to it but, in a neat echo of its live action counterpart, it does restrict movement and limits display options of the figure (Michael Keaton discovered upon donning the Batsuit for the ’89 film that he was unable to turn his head).
The cape looks its most impressive from behind and special care has been taken to emulate the redesign of the insignia for the Batsuit from the ’89 version.
However, the omission of a separate bespoke element for the iconic utility belt feels like a sloppy oversight, especially given the project’s anniversary providence. Similarly, more care could have been taken with the head piece: specifically we just get clear lenses to provide the eyes behind the mask and no effort has been made to resemble Michael Keaton’s distinctive grimace or his knowing Bat-smirk.
A minor gripe but it doesn’t growl “I’m Batman!” Still, it’s cool that he goes for at least £50 on eBay (I have a spare one if anyone is interested?)
‘Love that JOKER’
No qualms with this purple and plaid zoot-suited ringer for Jack Nicholson’s incarnation as the Joker. With a snap brim hat, high cheekbones and gargoyle grin, this figure is a winner. The only thing lacking is a fake gun that pops with a ‘BANG!’ banner.
‘And who might you be?’
Sporting a Veronica Lake mane of blonde hair and the same spearmint green dress Ms Vale wore to her unplanned-for date with the Joker at Gotham’s Flugelheim Museum, the photo-journalist is ready for a scoop with her camera accessory in tow.
These figures look dynamic when spaced apart on the display stand, made to look like a rooftop on Gotham Cathedral, replete with monolithic masonry and rather crude-looking gargoyles. The colours of these figure pop against the greyness and strike an iconic trio together.
Priced at a whopping £220, this item is top-of-the-line, a desirable object d’art and must-have for collector-builders everywhere should their budgets permit. But is it worth it? Absolutely!
It looks fantastic when displayed, with or without the revolving base: it’s aimed at builders 16+ (although today’s teenagers were not around in 1989) so it’s a seriously detailed but thrillingly joyous build to undertake.
However, even though those who witnessed this cinematic event at the end of the eighties would now be well into their forties and fifties, the particular version of Batman from which this model derives transcends the generational gap and would undoubtedly appeal to younger master builders.
It took this builder approximately two weeks to complete, at a deliberately steady pace of around two bags a day, as I wanted to savour the experience and lavish nerdy attention on the detailing. But, I know my seven year old nephew Alex would have made shorter work of it. That is for certain.
Let us know what you think by dropping a comment below! Get yours TODAY from LEGO!
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