Ken's Review: Speed Racer - A Wonderful Experience of Visual Overload
by Ken Evans
May 11, 2008
When I first heard that the Wachowski Brothers were directing Speed Racer, I was extremely disappointed. Unlike most people, I loved all of the Matrix films and I desperately wanted to see them make more movies along those same lines. The best way to describe it is like when your favorite band releases the most amazing album, then after waiting a year to hear their next one, hoping it will be even better, they decide to totally change their sound and it sucks. That is what I thought would happen with Speed Racer. Thankfully the Wachowskis didn't exactly change their style and their newest work turned out to be quite good.
Speed Racer (Emile Hirsch) races for one thing, the love of the sport. He has made his way to the top and has become the hottest name in racing. Not wanting to race for any corporate sponsor, he decides to stay with his dad Pops (John Goodman) and keep it all within the family. Unfortunately, Royalton (Roger Allam) doesn't take kindly to Speed turning down his sponsorship offer and starts sabotaging Speed and his family. Realizing he is the only one who can save his family, Speed makes an unlikely friend and races to turn the tables on Royalton and his cronies.
It's been about a week since I saw Speed Racer and I'm glad I had some time to let it all sink in. My review would be much different if I had written it that same night or the next day. I will say that I didn't walk out disappointed. In fact, I came out of the theater actually very entertained. There were a whole slew of scenes that I loved and the reason I needed time to absorb the whole experience was because of a few scenes that I just wasn't sure about. They weren't bad, but just ones where the Wachowskis had tried something different and I didn't have an immediate positive reaction.
The appeal of the Wachowskis take on Speed Racer is totally visual. The story is somewhat intriguing, but when you boil it down it's nothing special. The performances by the cast are all solid but no one really stood out. Although, I did like Matthew Fox, who played Racer X, but that's probably because of his fight scene with a ninja and my obsession with Lost. So with an average story and cast, what exactly sets this apart and makes it worth your money at the theater? Like I said already, the appeal is visual and that makes up for everything.
There are some scenes that blew me away and shoved my head fully back into my seat. The colors are intense and vibrant in ways I have never before seen. The CGI is incredible and seamless as it integrates the real actors into this fake world. What makes the CGI work so well in Speed Racer is that this story originates from a cartoon. It all fits because it's corny and cheesy while at the same time intense and beautiful to watch. This is what took me a few days to realize. This is a live action cartoon and it is a kid's movie at its core.
When I entered the theater I still had the Wachowski Brothers of The Matrix in my mind instead of allowing myself to believe they could make something totally different. Believe me when I tell you that this is not The Matrix with cars. It is its own film, completely independent of anything I have ever seen. I didn't think the Wachowskis could do it, but they were able to make something different while still letting their style shining through.
This was an extremely fun and entertaining movie to watch. I would watch it again for the visuals, but as far as the story and performances go, it doesn't add up to repeat viewings. If you have any interest in seeing Speed Racer, it is a must see in the theater. Take the family or friends, as it will appeal to all ages. Not as good as Iron Man, but definitely worth a viewing, especially if your one of those that has already seen Iron Man three times or more.