In Honor of the Batpod, 9 Other Memorable Movie Motorcycles
The Dark Knight Rises finally arrives this weekend, and curiously, amid the hype attending Christopher Nolan and his top-flight cast, two other performers have been strongly covered in the media: The behemoth tank that is The Tumbler, and the exciting off-shoot vehicle known as The Batpod. Considering the latter is one of the most arresting two-wheelers ever featured on-screen, we celebrate its revival by highlighting nine other curiosities Hollywood has offered up in the motorcycle category.
Captain America Chopper - Easy Rider
At first it might seem a pedestrian selection, but upon release in 1969 this was in fact a striking departure for motorcycle design. Following World War II, returning veterans kicked off a wave of automotive redesign with self-created modifications; garage-built hot rods rose in popularity, and similar to that were the emergence of "bobbers," motorcycles mechanically altered by their owners. This involved taking a showroom motorcycle and trimming away parts deemed superfluous, such as fenders and foot boards, in an effort to make a streamlined and lighter bike. By the 1960s bobbing gave way to more extreme experimentation. Owners began making changes to the basic structure of the motorcycle itself, cutting and welding the frames into new shapes in a practice called "chopping." This produced wholesale alterations to the appearance, and Easy Rider opened America's eyes to the new practice. Features such as the lowered rider position, extended forks, and raised sissy-bar seat backs were stark visions at the time, and soon the term "chopper" entered the national lexicon to describe the lengthened cruising style motorcycle.
Light Cycles - Tron, Tron Legacy
It's one thing to design a new look to motorcycles artistically, but to have that creation become iconic makes a real statement. Initially conceived for the video visual realm in the original movie, the light cycles quickly became one of the most popular components of the cult classic. These concept vehicles even became a linchpin component to the related video game. When Disney announced plans to remake their property years ago, much of the anticipation surrounded what the new light cycles would look like,and the studio made the digital vehicles a center point in their marketing. Where previously the design involved the characters morphing into a pixilated cycle, the new version had the rider stretched forward across and becoming incorporated into the cycle, remaining visible on camera. Even as both films had a number of detractors, the light cycles from each have maintained high levels of appreciation.
Kaneda’s Street Bike - Akira
What is probably the most popular anime out of Japan is one that instantly calls to mind a lone visual; any mention of the title automatically provokes the image of this highly-stylized motorcycle. Conceived with a futuristic combination of street-bike esthetics and over-sized touring-bike comfort, this vehicle provokes envy while challenging engineering. There have been many attempts over the years to replicate the physics of this hand-drawn creation into a reality (Kanye West even commissioned one to be built for a music video), but the results of those builds to date have underwhelmed. Fans still hold out hope that the proposed, yet oft-delayed, live-action version of the film will someday bring about a fully realized physical version of the famed bike.
The Lawmaster - Judge Dredd
When Sylvester Stallone donned the famous helmet of the violent jurist (and angered many by removing said helmet), he also had to carry forward other elements from the British comic. The opulent uniform was both true to form and ridiculous in execution (the codpiece was a nice touch); conversely, his famous ride paled in comparison to the comic origins. This is due to the motorcycle having rather cartoonish features in print, so when Stallone rode into frame for his introduction, the famed Lawmaster came off as almost a disappointment, and thus an afterthought. At the recent Comic-Con, footage of the reboot generated positive responses. Hopefully the producers worked on this detail.
The Bonnevile Bike - The World’s Fastest Indian
Some may have questioned Anthony Hopkins trying to pass himself as a Native American, but the Indian in the title actually refers to the make of motorcycle featured in the film. This is the true story of a New Zealand motorcycle racer named Burt Munro, who, in the 1960s, set a series of land-speed records on a bike of his own creation. Rather than state-of-the-art engineering, Munro modified his cycle entirely in his own garage simply with the tools at his disposal. More stunning was his doing so using a nearly 50-year old motorcycle. He cracked the 200mph threshold on his archaic ride, and even more amazingly, one of his speed records is still in place today.
The Demon Chopper - Ghost Rider
As a child stunt rider Johnny Blaze sells his soul to the Devil; later in life he is enlisted by Old Scratch to serve as a bounty hunter. In paying off his debt, Blaze changes into The Ghost Rider, and as he does the motorcycle transforms as well — into a rather daft looking set piece. As Johnny is full ablaze he lays his hands on the gas tank of his cherished bike (probably not the wisest move), and we watch as his ride morphs into a garish piece of machinery with a massive skull perched between the handlebars, long forks made of chain link, and an aforementioned gas tank webbed with bony fingers. The end result truly appears less a menacing conveyance from Hades than it does a goofy prop you’d likely see on stage during a GWAR concert.
The V-Rex - Fast & Furious
The fourth iteration of this car-intensive series features Paul Walker perched in the saddle of this wildly conceived motorcycle. The futuristic appearance also features a unique design function. The front wheel is not held by a traditional fork assembly but instead has a swing-arm mount, the sort normally seen as a rear-wheel set up. It is dampened by a solitary large shock absorber positioned beneath the twin halogen headlamps. This gives a vaguely robotic appearance, one which was actually pitched to Michael Bay as a possible component for the second Transformers. (He ultimately dismissed featuring a robotic motorcycle gang in that franchise.) Rather than a piece of fancy from a Hollywood design garage, this vehicle is actually a production model by Travertson, a Florida manufacturer.
Moto Terminators - Terminator: Salvation
One of the components included in the attempt at rejuvenation of this franchise was a collection of automaton two-wheeled terminators, outfitted with heavy ordnance and shown as distinctively riderless. The automatic gun turrets featured an articulated mounting that served as counter-balancing when the motorcycle leaned into turns. Sporting artificial intelligence and rocket launchers, the end result was a motorcycle gang on the roads more intimidating than the Hell’s Angels.
The Turbine Bike - Priest
Last summer's Priest was soon forgotten by those few who watched it, and yet there has been one enduring memory: The title character's motorcycle. The story is an odd one, set in both in a dystopian future and an alternate universe, involving a centuries-long battle between humans and vampires. Paul Bettany plays a warrior priest who breaks from the church to wage a battle, yadda-yadda. The one takeaway for most viewers was the striking bike Bettany uses to run down a train carrying vampires, a curiosity featuring an impressive turbine engine, mounted where one might normally expect the gas tank to be found.
BONUS: Tricked-Out Scooter - Quadrophenia
In this 1979 film adaptation of the classic Who album, disillusioned youths play out a dramatic existence in London, and mini-motor-bikes feature prominently. Some may find it a stretch to conjure a fully appointed Lambretta scooter serving as a metaphor, but the appearance of the multi-mirrored ride is enough to bring about a grin. [Clip language NSFW]