Wheels within reels: the evolution of cars on the big screen
Christopher Nolan’s urban battle machine. Judging by early images, Robert Pattinson’s ride in the forthcoming reboot resembles none of these so much as a 1970s muscle car. This is bang on trend, because if you want to be taken seriously in the movies these days, a muscle car is what you need to be driving.ike hemlines or facial hair, the Batmobile has always been a barometer of fashion – from Adam West’s extravagantly finned 60s version to Tim Burton’s 80s stretch limo to
The definition is vague but the term broadly applies to a handful of souped-up US models of the late 60s and early 70s, whose mean lines and outsized horsepower made them the coolest cars on screen. None of your fancy European sports cars, thank you; these were more like crime cars, built for a fast getaway, an interstate smuggling run, or a leap across a rickety bridge that the pursuing cop cars just weren’t going to make. Muscle cars were lionised at the time in movies such as Vanishing Point, The Driver, Bullitt, Two-Lane Blacktop, Smokey and the Bandit, Gone in 60 Seconds (in the 2000 remake the most sought-after car was basically the same model), not to mention the good ol’ Dukes of Hazzard, which eventually ran out of Dodge Chargers to trash.
Half a century on, they are very much back in vogue. While all kinds of flashy new models drift through the Fast and Furious franchise, Vin Diesel’s Dom Toretto, for example, keeps it firmly old-school, lovingly restoring (then usually trashing) 1970s classics, beginning with the Dodge Charger his daddy gave him. On the character posters for Furious 9, there’s Diesel in classic pose, frowning, biceps bulging, in front of yet another Charger. It is probably written into his contract.
He is not the only one: see also Ryan Gosling in Drive, Kurt Russell in Death Proof, and John Wick, who drives a 69 Ford Mustang (“She’s not for sale”). The recent Ford vs Ferrari pined for a similar vintage. And let’s not forget Clint Eastwood’s beloved 1972 Ford Gran Torino, which kicks off a rumpus in his movie of the same title. Like so many others, it symbolises a bygone era of not just powerful motor cars but the macho values that went with them. Muscle cars might look way cool on a film poster but you can’t help feeling they are the kind of “proper cars for proper men” Jeremy Clarkson would approve of.
None of which bodes particularly well for Batman’s fresh start. If he really wanted to reflect the times, perhaps he should be driving something greener. A Prius, maybe? Although the last thing you want as a caped crusader is people climbing into the back thinking you’re an Uber. Who knows, perhaps Pattinson’s Batmobile will turn out to be a self-driving, solar-powered electric version. As long as it is black and looks mean, nobody will really mind.