Batman Begins. While most of the toys based on this incredible film have been appalling, there's been one piece of raw awesomeness that's a must-own for collectors and players alike: the Batmobile. Yes, that beast from the film that roared across the streets and roofs of Gotham is an excellent toy, a diamond in the rough for Mattel, whose other Batman Begins toys (Collector's Edition Batman excluded) have been mighty disappointing.
Nicknamed "the Tumbler," the Batmobile seen in Batman Begins is very similar to the Batmobile seen in Frank Miller's seminal The Dark Knight Returns, which was based on a tank, although the similarity is not intentional; rather, Nolan simply wanted to modernise the vehicle. In the same way that the streamlined, finned Batmobile was modern in the 1950s, his was to be the Batmobile of today.
Measuring 12" by 8", the Batmobile is a nice big toy that seems to be in perfect scale with the 5" figures (our very own Rustin Parr has seen the Tumbler in person and swears that it is smaller than it looks onscreen - about nine feet by 15 feet). The sculpt is perfect; every little detail is captured across the vehicle, including the spoilers at the back, the nice big traction tires, the dual windows at the front and the sharp insignia covering the entirity of the "car". Painted in sharp metallics and dark purples, it looks spectacular. Wait, purple?
Yes, purple. As I'm sure you've heard by now, what with the way the fanboys are crying about it on all the message boards, the Batmobile is not painted solid black; rather, it's a black base with purple highlights. "But why," the fanboys cry. "Why would they do this?" Well really, it's simple basic colour theory: pure black will never look as dark as black with another color added. If your monitor is properly calibrated, you should be able to see two black boxes to the left, there - one was pure black, the other a mixture of all four colors.
Why do figures look better with a paint wash than without? Because, as miniature representations of full-sized items, they're not large enough to cast their own shadows appropriately. Why does the Batmobile have purple highlights? Because it's too small to reflect light the way it should. A Tumbler toy painted flat black would just look cheap, and then the fanboys would all be crying about that.
So yes, the Batmobile is purple, but it's not a colour that will show up under normal lighting conditions. On display, in your home, you'll never know it. The colour only shows up under incredibly bright conditions - outdoors, for instance. And if you've got enough lights in your house to rival the power of the sun, a purple Batmbolie is the least of your worries. It's not like Bruce ever drove the damn thing in the daylight, anyway.
When it comes to play, you can't beat the Batmobile. First up, the front compartment opens to fit a 5" Batman figure inside - it looks somewhat similar to how the Batmobile looks when the driver slides into the middle before leaning forward to engage in the battle mode, but that kind of detail is irrelevant; what's cool is that Batman can fit inside it. His head will bump against the roof when you try to close it, but he still looks good in the seat. Good thing Mattel is too crappy to ever release a Katie Holmes figure (with real religious confusuion action!), because there's no way you'd ever be able to get her drugged-out corpse into the passenger seat, even if Tom Cruise somehow managed.
There are three red buttons on the top, which distract from the paint and sculpt, but are worth it; the first makes a loud rocket/driving sound and lights up the back engine in a flashing red, the Batmobile taking off. The third fires guns or lasers or whatever from the front, flashing green lights and making appropriate firing noises. Like the Simpsons playsets, the Batmobile has on, off, and display settings via a switch on the bottom, though there doesn't seem to be any real difference between the two on positions - same flashing and everything.
The middle button, the granddaddy of them all, opens the side compartments and pops out nice big missile launchers with appropriate sound effects. The bright red projectiles don't really blend with the look of the toy very well, and they have odd designs - why not just a pair of simple black missiles? Both launchers fire, though not harsh enough to knock out an eye, certainly enough to take down Scarecrow. Pushing the missile launchers back in also makes a sound effect; it kicks ass!
I think this is the best Batmobile design yet, and the best Batmobile toy of them all; certainly the best Batman Begins toy. Those anal enough to demand a black Batmobile can easily apply spraypaint, but there's no need; it looks great as is. Plus the play value and fun of the thing, not to mention how good it will look on display, makes it all awesome.
Which version of the Batmobile do you like best? Tell us on our message board, the Loafing Lounge.