In the heart of the Batman universe, there exists an indomitable sense of self-sufficiency, a narrative thread that weaves through the very fabric of the mythos. Bruce Wayne, the man beneath the cape, possesses no otherworldly superpowers to his name. Instead, his arsenal comprises an extraordinary blend of intellect, combat prowess, and a vault of ingenious gadgets. Yet, there’s more to his legend – the Batcave, an underground lair brimming with an array of fantastical vehicles that defy the imagination.
This iteration delves deeper into the darkness, presenting a grittier and more brooding Batman than any we’ve encountered before. The movie’s production design stands as a testament to its excellence. Gotham City, in all its melancholic glory, exudes a palpable aura of gloom, immersing the audience in a world teetering on the brink of chaos. Notably, the Batmobile in this rendition is a true marvel, among the most magnificent to ever grace the grand cinema screen, a roaring testament to the fusion of art and engineering.
But here’s where things get even more exhilarating. It appears that Mr. Reeves shares a fervent appreciation for motorcycles, as “The Batman” features not one, not two, but three thrilling two-wheeled machines. This isn’t just a Batman who soars through the night sky in his iconic Batmobile; he’s also a vigilante who tears through the streets astride powerful motorcycles, a symbol of his relentless pursuit of justice. These motorcycles become an extension of his character, embodying the audacious spirit of a man who battles darkness with every fiber of his being.
In this dark and riveting cinematic experience, “The Batman” transcends the boundaries of conventional superhero storytelling. It delves deep into the psyche of a tormented hero, a beacon in the shadows, and a master of ingenuity. With a backdrop as hauntingly atmospheric as Gotham and a Batmobile that sets new standards, it’s clear that this rendition of Batman is prepared to leave an indelible mark in the annals of superhero cinema. And as for the motorcycles, they bring an extra dimension of adrenaline to the already intense narrative, showing that even in the face of darkness, the spirit of the bat endures, whether on four wheels or two.
In the realm of iconic superheroes and their trusty two-wheeled companions, we’ve seen Batman astride his formidable Batcycle, Bruce Wayne opting for the undercover charm of a rugged café racer, and Catwoman exuding enigmatic allure as she exclusively rides a bespoke BMW R nineT, lovingly crafted by the masterful hands of Kaichiroh Kurosu at Cherry’s Company. But when it comes to envisioning the Batmobile and its unique design, the genius behind the curtain is none other than the visionary artist, Ash Thorp.
Ash Thorp, a true polymath of the digital arts, is celebrated for his extraordinary CGI “kit-bashing” transformations of automobiles, a skill honed as part of the creative dynamo known as Make.Haste.Corp. As if that wasn’t enough, he’s also a distinguished design partner for the renowned Ken Block. Yet, his talents extend far beyond the automotive realm; he’s lent his creative expertise to various design projects, including the visually stunning 2017 film, “Ghost in the Shell.” As fate would have it, this cinematic journey unwittingly paved the way for his most exciting endeavor to date.
In the interconnected world of Hollywood’s elite visionaries, when “The Batman’s” production designer, James Chinlund, was in search of a brilliant mind to shape the future of the Batmobile, he turned to Rupert Sanders, director of “Ghost in the Shell.” And it was here, in the midst of creative conversations, that Ash Thorp’s name emerged as the answer to the Batmobile’s design conundrum.
As Ash reminisces, “James and I had a remarkable first conversation. He revealed his involvement in ‘The Batman’ as the production designer, and from that moment, it was clear that our creative wavelengths aligned harmoniously.”
With a fresh canvas awaiting his creative strokes, Ash’s first mission was to conceive the next-generation Batmobile. He vividly recalls the initial discussions: “When I visited James at the Warner Brothers lot, he shared a few pivotal inspirations with me. He summarized, ‘This Batman is rooted in reality; he builds it himself. The vehicle should exude the essence of American muscle cars, an unrefined authenticity, and it must evoke visceral emotions.'”
Over the course of two exhilarating months, Ash channeled his passion for American muscle cars, sculpting a Batmobile that was an intriguing fusion of DIY spirit and unbridled eccentricity. With an imposing turbine protruding from its rear, it embodied the raw, visceral ethos that James envisioned. Its inaugural appearance on the silver screen promises to be a spine-tingling moment for audiences worldwide.
But the Batmobile was just the beginning of Ash’s creative odyssey. He soon set his sights on crafting the perfect motorcycles for the caped crusaders—a domain where his familiarity was somewhat less established. In Ash’s own words, “I must confess, I harbor a deep affection for motorcycles. Their aesthetic captivates me. However, there’s a little obstacle called speed that prevents me from personally owning one, much to my wife’s relief.”
In Ash Thorp, the world has found an artist who not only brings imagination to life but does so with an infectious passion that reverberates through every design he touches. Whether it’s the legendary Batmobile or the sleek, powerful motorcycles that will grace “The Batman,” Ash Thorp is the creative force ensuring that every ride, every scene, is a visual masterpiece waiting to unfold.
Ash’s journey into the world of custom motorcycles was inspired by his admiration for Radical Ducati and their groundbreaking work. As an individual deeply immersed in the digital realm of car design for many years, he saw the parallel between what he had been doing virtually with automobiles and what customizers like Radical were achieving with physical bikes. It was a fusion of creativity and mechanics, a process of disassembling, experimenting, and reassembling.
With this notion in mind, Ash embarked on a mission to design the iconic Batcycle. He began by acquiring a collection of stock 3D motorcycle files and delved into the meticulous task of crafting his vision. His approach was akin to stepping into the shoes of Batman himself, meticulously selecting components, mixing and matching elements, and fabricating missing pieces to bring his creation to life. Every decision he made was guided by the question: does it exude an aura of fear and speed, as any Batcycle should?
Ash’s creation drew inspiration from the Ducati Monster, with a distinctive exposed trellis frame as its foundation. He incorporated elements from various Ducati models, including the front cowl and forks, while developing custom brakes and wheels. The tank, seat, and tail of the bike were all original creations, reflecting Ash’s dedication to the project.
When it came to the engine, Ash decided to embrace the cinematic aspect of the Batcycle. In this fantasy realm, he boldly combined two BMW boxer motors, ingeniously stacked one atop the other. He also took cues from the Suzuki Hayabusa, elongating the swingarm and adding an imposing rear tire. The goal was to make the bike appear purpose-built for high-speed pursuits, even if it sacrificed some maneuverability.
Ash humbly acknowledges that his lack of motorcycle expertise may be evident in certain design elements, like the unconventional swingarm geometry. He anticipates that motorcycle enthusiasts might critique these aspects, but he embraces the criticism as a passionate artist rather than a motorcycle expert.
With Batman’s Batcycle design finalized, Ash turned his attention to Bruce Wayne’s two-wheeled undercover ride. For this role, he envisioned a discreet yet fast café racer, maintaining the DNA of what Wayne might create if he were to build his own Batcycle.
The ‘Drifter’ bike design showcased a trellis frame and an L-twin engine, bearing a distinct resemblance to the Ducati Monster. Ash’s digital renders beautifully captured the realism of the textures, demonstrating his mastery of translating visual elements into the digital realm.
After the digital designs were completed, Ash handed them over to the production team for realization. The Drifter bike in the movie was eventually constructed using a mid-sized four-cylinder Honda CB, a real-world choice that adhered to practicality. In contrast, the Batcycle on screen retained its fantastical qualities, rumored to be sculpted atop an electric motorcycle, a common Hollywood practice that allowed the team to prioritize cinematic aesthetics over practicality.
Ash acknowledges the vast divide between digital design and production-ready execution. He emphasizes the collaborative effort required to translate a concept into a tangible reality. The transition from his meticulous renders to the final production was not without challenges, but Ash commends the extraordinary talent of the production team and their ability to bring his vision to life.
Finally, as Ash sat in a theater watching the finished product, he was overwhelmed with a deep sense of connection to the film’s tone and aesthetic. He realized that he had become an integral part of a project that resonated with his personal taste and artistic sensibilities, solidifying his journey from the digital realm to the grandeur of cinematic reality.