Ask any Star Wars collector and they’ll tell you that Lego’s $800, 7,500+ piece Ultimate Collectors Millennium Falcon set was an absolute showstopper and the pinnacle of plastic brick model making. Until last week I would have agreed, but then I spent the past weekend building Lego’s new 1989 Tim Burton Batmobile—and I truly believe it’s the best set the toymaker has ever released.
At 3,306 pieces, the Burton Batmobile (or the “1989 Batmobile” as Lego refers to it) is less than half the piece count of Lego’s UCS Millennium Falcon, and almost 1,500 pieces smaller than the recently released UCS Imperial Star Destroyer. But at 23 inches long it still feels massive, and every time I pick it up I use as much care as I would hoisting a toddler.
It might lack the extensive greeble detailing that those larger Star Wars models use to create the impression they’re both gigantic spaceships, but I’d argue that recreating the iconic curves of one of the most recognizable vehicles in movie history with plastic bricks was a bigger model making challenge—and one that I think Lego’s designers absolutely nailed with this new set.
I rarely keep Lego models assembled and on display. Once built they’ll stick around for a few weeks, before I tear them down and they get absorbed into a giant plastic bin of loose pieces. But I don’t think I have the heart to do that to Lego’s new Batmobile. I’m not only impressed with how the model looks, but also impressed with the extra functionality it includes. The lid of the cockpit, which is built with a custom windshield piece, slides forward on a rail mechanism that also allows it to subtly raise and then lower again when it closes—mimicking how it worked on the real Batmobile in the movie.
There’s a fully detailed cockpit inside as well, with lots of levers, foot pedals, and a stickered dashboard covered in gauges and buttons. The steering wheel can even be used to turn the Batmobile’s front wheels—although it’s tight quarters in there, and squeezing your hand into the cockpit to reach the wheel is a bit of a challenge. Lego’s designers have also included the Batmobile’s pop-up machine guns, which are deployed and retracted by rotating the turbine exhaust on the back of the car.
It’s not just features built into the Batmobile that make this set such a joy; also included are a trio of new minifigures. Michael Keaton’s Batman has a new molded cowl and cape, so you can’t turn the figure’s head (now that’s some attention to detail!), Kim Basinger’s Vicki Vale comes with her own little camera, and then there’s a villain for them to square off against, Jack Nicholson’s Joker. They’re great for displaying alongside the Batmobile, but the model itself is built at a much larger scale than the minifigures, so it kinda looks like a couple of costumed children have hijacked Batman’s ride when you try to place the figures in the cockpit. It’s far from a dealbreaker, however.
Having assembled some of Lego’s gigantic sets in the past, what I enjoyed most about the 1989 Batmobile is that the build never felt like a grueling marathon. The set has 24 bags of pieces to work through, and an accompanying instruction manual that clocks in at 435 pages, but I was able to complete the build over a weekend. By comparison, it took our own Germain Lussier over a week, some 34 hours in all, to assemble the UCS Millennium Falcon. Even if you love Lego, that’s quite a time commitment.
Some of the earlier parts of the build, including the Batmobile’s underlying infrastructure that’s assembled from Lego Technic pieces, can feel a bit tedious, as you’re not entirely sure what parts of the car you’re building. It does make the model look and feel incredibly solid, however, which is something I can’t say for Lego’s other large vehicle models like the Bugatti Chiron. But as you move onto the vehicle’s exterior, seeing the Batmobile slowly but steadily come together is incredibly satisfying. Despite having assembled hundreds of Lego sets to date, there were still some clever building techniques used for the 1989 Batmobile that I hadn’t encountered before. It kept on surprising me, and reminded me why I’m not a professional Lego designer—but am very glad that someone else out there is, and doing a damn good job at it.
So when can you get this wonderful toy? The Lego 1989 Batmobile officially goes on sale starting November 29 for $250, which is just in time to justify that hefty price tag as a holiday gift to yourself.
For more, make sure you’re following us on our Instagram @io9dotcom.