Black is the new black: LEGO 1989 Batmobile 76139 [Review]

This year, the world celebrates the anniversary of the Dark Knight; the story of Batman is 80 years old. For many, many fans of the legend of Gotham it’s time to thumb through the oldest comics issues, while others will enjoy night marathons of movies featuring George Clooney, Christian Bale, and, of course, Michael Keaton. For the LEGO Group, it’s time to refill their supplies of bricks in black as not many things go together better than LEGO and Batman. This Black Friday comes the latest LEGO DC exclusive set, LEGO 76139 1989 Batmobile. A 3,306-piece monstrosity is an ultimate copy of the iconic vehicle from Tim Burton’s Batman movie. The set will be available on November 29 for Black Friday and will sell for US $249.99 | CAN $299.99 | UK £219.99. Make sure your Bat-Signal is on as we are about to go on a ride through the gloomy streets of the Gotham City…

The box and the contents

Although we tend to save all the thoughts and conclusions for the final part of a review, it would be better to start the story with the following idea: this set is not a LEGO toy, but rather a fantastic showpiece. Since 1999 when LEGO introduced its first mainstream-licensed product with Star Wars, the company has made a very long journey from selling all-original products to the introduction of licensed themes and finally on to releasing exclusive collectibles and memorabilia. The target audience of the latter includes not just kids or even adult LEGO fans but also the fans of the creative content the set is based on.

This is the case of the 1989 Batmobile. The box doesn’t feel like a regular LEGO toy; although the style of the front and the back of the box are familiar to a regular LEGO fan, overall there are a lot fewer images of the set that we are used to.

One of the sides of the box features a striking graphic featuring Michael Keaton’s portrayal of Batman. It’s a shame it can go unnoticed by many customers depending on the way the boxes are placed on store shelves.

Inside the box are 24 bags (half of them are packed in the white box) and 4 loose tires (smaller front ones are in the white box as well). By dividing the set’s 3,300 pieces by 24, it’s easy to see that each bag contains about 130-140 pieces, which is fewer than many sets this size. Additionally, each building stage requires only one bag. No doubt this is because LEGO expects many a future owner of this set to be a Batman fan first rather than only a LEGO-lover. Despite being an “ultimate” model, the way the Batmobile and the building book are designed guarantees that anyone can build this set on their own.

As for the more experienced LEGO builders, be patient as you will have to open another bag every 10-20 minutes, which will be fairly irritating.

Another special thing about the set is the front of the white box, which stores the building guide and the first half of all bags. We have seen similar line arts in exclusive LEGO Star Wars sets like 75192 UCS Millennium Falcon and 75252 Ultimate Collector Series Imperial Star Destroyer. Now, it’s the Batmobile’s turn.

As usual, the building guide and the stickers are packed together in a dedicated plastic bag. While the sticker sheet is nothing extraordinary, the building booklet is yet another point of interest of the set. Traditionally, the design of the cover of the book repeats the design of the front of the box. LEGO has been experimenting with special designs of the books for several years already; you may remember the fantastic design of the building guide from LEGO Ideas 21309 NASA Apollo Saturn V set. If it were not for the LEGO logo in the corner of the 1989 Batmobile building book, I’m sure I would mistake it for some anniversary edition dedicated to Tim Burton’s movie.

As expected with this type of set, the book starts with the story of the model and design team commentary. While other similar sets feature no more than 8-10 pages of extra content, this book is loaded with all kinds of facts about the movie and the vehicle, including some behind-the-scenes pictures and photos from the designers’ workshop. This section of the book is so populated with related content that it could have been issued as a separate booklet.


Minifigures

Not many things can make a huge exclusive model better, but a trio of exclusive minifigures is totally among those things. Batman, Vicki Vale, and the Joker, the main characters of Burton’s film, come in new unique designs.

During the previous several years, numerous Batman versions have been released by LEGO across several themes. Designing a very special minifigure for this anniversary set was no easy task for the designers. In the search for inspiration, they turned to the actual outfit worn by Michael Keaton and come up with a jaw-dropping one-piece cape and cowl. The cape is made of a rubber-like material, but it’s not adjustable at all. Because of the cape’s length, it’s impossible to bend the figure back, while the arms’ movement is also very limited by the gear.

Batman has two faces — just like many other LEGO iterations of the Dark Knight.

Batman is accompanied by Vicki Vale, a photojournalist played by Kim Basinger. After Batman’s magnificent cape, Vicki’s plain design looks a little be underwhelming. Moreover, neither the headpiece nor the hairpiece is new or exclusive to the set. Although the torso and the legs capture Basinger’s outfit pretty great, I wish the alternative facial expression would have captured another emotion than anger.

Considering that all three minifigures’ designs are based on real actors, the Joker is my favorite one; it perfectly captures Jack Nicholson’s charisma. The outfit looks as absurd as the one on the screen, but its details and printing quality are second to none. After a whole army of bizarre Batman enemies from The LEGO Batman Movie sets, this Joker reminds us what a true collectible looks like — just like that one in a green vest from 76023 The Tumbler set.

Just like any other LEGO minifigure, these are full of playability, so hours of fun and great pictures are guaranteed. But if you like your toys on a shelf or behind glass, you will love the brick-built display. I love how the designers captured the atmosphere of Gotham City with just a handful of gray bricks.


The build

As was mentioned above, this is the most builder-friendly exclusive set I have ever built. The packaging, the building guide, and the building steps are all planned and designed to make the assembling a pure joy for the least experienced builders of all ages. Building monochromatic models is always a challenge, but not in this case. However, the inner structure of the vehicle is rather colorful.

It all starts with a whole lot of Technic bricks and frames. At this point, it all looks like a Batman spaceship, not a vehicle. Jokes aside, the set continues one of the most important and fundamental trends of huge LEGO sets — functioning steering. Functioning steering systems almost completely disappeared from LEGO sets in the early 2000s. Only children and adults who are interested in Technic models had fun and joy of steering a huge vehicle while playing. Now, the situation is changing for the better. Earlier this year we got a fantastic 10265 Ford Mustang with steering, which was recognized by many as one of the best LEGO cars ever designed. Not only does the Batmobile have the functioning steering, too, but it’s steering mechanism utilizes some of the most original and complicated geometry ever.

This particular steering system is called virtual pivot point steering. By using a system like this one you can use much narrower mudguards around the steering wheels and build a lot more realistic models. For a scaled model like the 1989 Batmobile, the empty spaces between the tires and the wheel arches are crucial, so this kind of steering works exceptionally well for the model. Bravo, design team!

The following bags bring a ton of black pieces. Very quickly the inner structure disappears under a thick layer of glossy armour.

Before the rest of the body is covered with black slopes, it’s the best time to take a look at the Batmobile’s cockpit. Full of tiny details, it has more indicators and levers than I can identify. Since the model has no external steering wheel for human hands, it’s the inner steering wheel that can turn the front wheels.

The build features at least a dozen fascinatingly different building techniques. You will see small and large sections placed at various angles, bricks and connectors attached vertically and even upside down, and many other surprisingly smart solutions. Despite the sea of black, there is no part of the structure that felt boring or tedious to build.

The second half of the assembling is entirely devoted to the exterior of the vehicle. Since the model is very, very symmetrical, you should be ready to assemble some smaller structures twice, four times or even eight times in a row. This is why every superhero needs a sidekick, so make sure your Robin joins you on this adventure.

Such a special set could not be designed without a couple of new exclusive pieces. First of all, it’s the futuristic windshield that gives the vehicle its iconic shape and look. The new single piece is one of the most bizarre LEGO windshields I have ever seen. With black prints in several places, I think neither will it be easy to find a way to use this piece in a custom creation nor will we see it in any other LEGO set.

Another rather interesting discovery is a couple of new tires. The new front 68.6х27 tires are designed to fit the regular 43х26 rims. Basically, this is a smaller version of 94.3×38 ‘Unimog’ tires. These will be popular among LEGO Technic builders, but it’s a shame there are only 2 of the new tires in the set. As for the rear tires, 81.6×44 ‘Tumbler’ tires make their first appearance since 2016.


Finished model

The new 1989 Batmobile is among the sets that you wish you could go on building forever, but at the same time, you want to see the final result as soon as possible. With the final tile, the dilemma is over, as the glorious two-foot long (60 cm) masterpiece stand complete in front of you. Do I need to search for epithets to tell you how breathtaking the design is?

This model doesn’t have any bad angles. To fall in love with the Batmobile again, you simply need to rotate it slightly in any direction. The pictures on the box and online do no justice to how magnificent the set appears in the proper light.

To make that rotation possible, the vehicle comes with a special rotating stand. Its structure is fairly simple, as it has no special mount; the car simply rests on the stand with its gravity center right above the turntable. I had to take the model from the stand a few times during the photoshoot, and sometimes it was not that easy to find the right position to put it back in place. The vehicle is pretty heavy and bulky, so there’s no chance you can see the center of the stand underneath it. Mounting the model on the stand can be a little bit challenging, but probably I just need some practice.

The scale of the model is one of its strongest features. Thanks to the modern variety of slopes, the design team managed to convey all the iconic curves of the original car. It’s only after you finished building the model that you start to notice how sleek and elegant the design of the original is.

The majority of the pieces in pearl colors are used for mechanical elements on both sides of the car. I refuse to give away any details on how it is built as it would be morally wrong to spoil one of the best part of the set. Of course, many pieces can be identified by a couple of pictures, but I guarantee you will be very surprised about certain building solutions.

The front of the car is yet another sight to behold. I find it amazing that so many different kinds of pieces are used here, including various wedge plates and curved bricks. However, the contrast between the curved slopes and the regular slopes is very noticeable at certain angles. While curved slopes form vast smooth areas, a structure made of regular slope bricks always looks like steps. In my opinion, slopes were the main problem of 7784 The Batmobile Ultimate Collectors’ Edition of 2006, and while that issue is vastly improved here, it’s not completely solved.

I doubt I can describe the wings in the back of the car as anything other than astonishing. The size and the shape of the inverted bows suit the model so well, it’s amazing. There are a lot of other pretty remarkable design features, including another function of the model. By turning the exhaust you can engage…

…a pair of machine-guns. LEGO is known for avoiding copying existing modern weapons, but it would be such a shame were the designers to ignore this massive feature of the vehicle (and after all, a similar pair of hidden guns featured in 10262 James Bond Aston Martin DB5). Both machine-guns emerge very smoothly, accompanied by the rattling sound of gears inside the car’s body.

When not activated, the machine-guns rest under a couple of panels. Unfortunately, these panels lack hinges, so you have to remove them manually each time before engaging the guns. I won’t argue about this design flaw; obviously, there should be certain reasons for this particular design solution.

Another function of the vehicle is the sliding canopy. Thanks to a pair of long Technic axles, the canopy raises a little and slides forward revealing a very detailed cockpit. It takes a few building stages and a handful of pieces to put the whole mechanism together, but the final result looks stunning.


Conclusion and recommendation

Where does he get those wonderful toys?“, asked the Joker. Now, it’s clear that toys like this one can only be supplied from a factory in Denmark. LEGO 76139 1989 Batmobile is such an outstanding collectible, I can’t see how this choice can be disappointing. I’m not the biggest fan of Batman, but the set makes such an enjoyable build and an excellent display item, I simply can’t recommend it enough.

LEGO 76139 1989 Batmobile comes with 3,306 pieces and three minifigures and will be available on November 29 for Black Friday and will sell for US $249.99 | CAN $299.99 | UK £219.99.

The LEGO Group provided The Brothers Brick with a copy of this set for review. Providing TBB with products for review guarantees neither coverage nor positive reviews.

Check out the full gallery of images below.


4 comments on “Black is the new black: LEGO 1989 Batmobile 76139 [Review]

  1. Uday Kataria

    You’re supposed to leave the panels on so that they fly off when the machine guns pop out, just like in the movie. I absolutely love this set and can’t wait to pick it up!

  2. thor96

    @i Love bricks: i think the lego design is waaaaay better, mainly the proportions. The one thing that Lego could improve is the use of lightbrick, but other than that this batmobile is an absolute masterpiece made from Lego bricks which I would love to build and have but it costs too much. Thanks for the great review!

  3. Brickster

    Dave Slater’s MOC is built at a completely different scale and has no working steering so it’s really a toss up.

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