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.
Reader Feedback - 22 Comments
The movie looks very entertaining and visually interesting so I can't wait to see Speed Racer. People need to stop taking everything so damn seriously and just enjoy themselves a bit. And as a sidenote, I too really liked all three Matrix films!
Andreas Climent on May 11, 2008
Mr Evans, i am sorry to say that once you say you actually liked the second and third matrix installments, then you lose all credibility as a film critic, i could not even read past that sentence.
Anon on May 11, 2008
Anon, just because you didn't comprehend the Matrix sequels doesn't mean everyone else did either.
Peter on May 11, 2008
I failed to comprehend the ten minute rave scene. Nuff said.
Phayyde on May 11, 2008
Peter, your syntax left me confused: "Just because you didn't comprehend the Matrix sequels doesn't mean everyone else did either."
Brian on May 11, 2008
All this talk about The Matrix - let's stay on topic, people. Just saw SR yesterday with my son - I'm a first-generation lifetime fan of the original animated series, and I went into this screening with much trepidation, figuring that I'd be cringing and groaning for 2+ hours. In fact, the movie was neither as bad as I had feared, nor as good as I had hoped. I'm a bit mystified by the Mr. Evan's comments that the colors were "intense and vibrant in a way that I've never seen before." I've been to carnival at night in my lifetime, so the neon glow that permeated the film was nothing new to me - but I did find it annoying as hell and I really wish that the art direction was not so Disneyland. However, many of the things that I loved about the original series are here. The cheesy original music is interpolated throughout - even those great percussion solos that were used during the silly fight scenes, and there's a great one in which Pops shows his talents as a former wrestler. We also are treated to a race across the desert and through treacherous snowy mountains that is right out of the original series, even if it is at times spoiled by completely over-the-top visuals. I'm guessing that the W brothers felt that they were only doing what the original series creators would have done, if they had the tools then that the industry has now. I'm not so sure if that's true - something tells me that a bit more restraint would have been used. But despite the often spastic presentation, I still left the theatre feeling some of that adrenaline that the original series can still give me to this day.
Racer Ed on May 11, 2008
A touching and emotional story told with groundbreaking cinematic techniques. Go, Speed Racer! Go! 😀
Manfred Powell on May 11, 2008
Is Ken Evans a writer at his highschool newspaper, because even then, his grammar needs quite a bit of work. Is there an editor to firstshowing.net, or do the reviewers just submit without editing?
Anonie on May 11, 2008
movie tanked. 1. it didn't follow the classic. 2. a little too much neon lights for 2 1/2 hours. I like graphics...but it has to be to a point... 3. the main character speed sucks. unlikable. looks like someone you want to beat up just by looking at him. 4. iron man is much better. 5.what happen to try to mordernise the theme song? I hate the rap music with the classic song. go back and watch the original is much better.
andy on May 11, 2008
I went into the theater thinking this film would just be cheesy and over the top and I would not enjoy it at all...It WAS cheesy and over the top...I was right about that but I didn't hate it...It was truly a lovable film...I have seen way too many adaptions of games and cartoons put to film and butchered so I was happy to see a positive outcome to one of the greatest Saturday morning cartoons ever...I just hope they don't do a sequel...they should let it sit on its own...
Maxx on May 11, 2008
Well Alex, he might be one of the many who didn't like it, considering reviews. Also, word of mouth isn't too good since it didn't do well at Box Office.
Les on May 11, 2008
well,yeah.between this & iron man,i'll take SP because ever since Zodiac I honestly can't stand robert downey jr.-there's something totally lacking in him,and the way he tries to exert this blank charisma and you can sort of see through all the gimmickry in his acting.Anyhu,this film prob won't arrive in aus until 17 years or so.
twispious on May 11, 2008
I agree with this review on almost all fronts. I went into this movie expecting pretty colors and awesome races and campy story. I got that. Gonna have to disagree on Speed being likeable. The idea of him is, but pretty much all the actors were two dimensional, with the exception of Goodman and Allam. Also could've used a little less brother and monkey and some more of stoner mechanic. Seriously, he was robbed. All he got was milk.
Hawkdragon on May 11, 2008
When I heard about the Speed Racer movie I moaned. I have seen far too many bad adaptions of books, cartoons, and video games. After watching another staple of my childhood, Alvin and the Chipmunks, get rendered almost unrecognizable due to horrible over acting, bad preteen music, and not bothering to toss a bone to the old fans. Transformers also disappointed me when a cartoon about robots became a movie about an annoying guy with robots wrecking things when the T & A gets too heavy. Speed Racer on the other hand was a fantastic Technicolor ride. Countless references to the show, from pop's past as a wrestler, Rex's faked death, the poses, the graphic styles, and the niffty gizmos. They obviously did their homework to create a movie just as over the top and campy as the original 1960's show. They even gave their nod to the real original Mach go! go! go! Was the plot predictable? Of course. Speed Racer has been apart of pop culture for several decades, we all know Speed will win, we know there will be near misses, we know Racer X is Rex racer, and that's the point. If you want a completely original storyline you don't watch a movie based on a pop culture icon. The plot wasn't original but the graphics were. It really was like an anime come to life. Just venture into the anime section and you will come across vibrant colors, stylized characters and backgrounds, and the fact that most animation companies work on a budget much smaller than Disney, and as a result take some tricks of the trade form their manga (comic books) cousins such as the speed lines and abstract backgrounds to decrease production costs during fight scenes that require move drawings per second. They take that to the next level with the film and it works. Not to mention I love the mix of past-futuristic. It's like the 60's hist ups all over again in the year 3000. You can just sit back in child like wonder. The characters are enjoyable and true to the original. As are the themes of family loyalty, pride, doing what you love, good vs. evil, and staying true to yourself. It is important to remember that like with the original cartoon, you don't have to dig deep to find the themes. These are all characters who keep their hearts on their sleeves, especially Speed. I was also happy that it wasn't catering purely to children. The show certainly wasn't G rated with people trying to kill each other, explosions, etc. So a few slipped curses, monkey poo, and such helped it out a lot in making the world they created fit together better. All in all I loved the film and came out of the theater grinning ear to ear, which rarely happens at any movie. I now want to see it at an I max theater and I will be buying this film.
Indie on May 11, 2008
dont watch it.
Rigo on May 12, 2008
Do watch it
Hector on May 13, 2008
I honestly don't know why this film got bad reviews. It was amazing. The only reason I can think of is that the critics just can't remember ever being a kid. Yes, it's true that the storyline wasn't extremely deep and riveting. But this is based off of the original show and that's why it didn't have to be. It'll bring out anyone's inner-kid, and it brought back the memorable scenes and characters that we all fell in love with years ago. The cast was superb, the visuals gave me goosebumps, and I'll admit it; I even shed a couple of tears. It had a touch of classic romance and goofy and hilarious fight scenes with moves JUST LIKE the action scenes in the old show. My jaw dropped and I was gaping the whole time- unless I was smiling or laughing uncontrollably. The film did the Tatsuo Yoshida's work justice and I was completely blown away.
Mike Hitchcock on May 17, 2008
I'm getting really sick and tired of people saying that CGI spoils movies, or that they're disappointed when things are "over the top" or "over done." CG people and animals look horrible. CG machines and explosions look perfect. When all the backgrounds are also CG, everything blends that much better. Now we have something that is as much art as film. The real-life actors seem to pop out from the screen and gain an even stronger presence, and the visual style of using characters for scene wipes, etc. is totally original. Do you want to see the same tired cinematography for the millionth time? Do you want to see something entirely unoriginal because it's "safe?" Do you want the movie to be more grown up and sophisticated because you forgot how to dream? Don't people ever wish for more? More than real life has to offer? Why obsess over having realism when you can have something better than real? That's what movies are about. Don't limit yourself. Go for broke. You'll make something incredible, reach the right people, and they'll love you for it, forever. Wachowskis understand this. I thank and applaud them. Speed Racer is one of the best things that ever happened to me, and I'm glad there are still people out there that can love a movie with such absolute direction.
Gmazing on May 18, 2008
My original thoughts upon seeing the SR trailer were...less than positive. I got dragged to a theatre with a group of people and was NOT going to see What Happens In Vegas. I'm only vaguely aware of Speed Racer, being 18. I loved The Matrix, and the sequels weren't BAD...or good. I loved what was done with The Animatrix. After reading V For Vendetta, I can appreciate the Wachowski's adaptation skills. Speed Racer dropped my jaw to the floor. It might be one of the most entertaining movies ever. Iron Man was good, but I don't want to watch it again. I want to see SR again RIGHT NOW (IMAX would be nice, but the St Louis Science Center never does first showings). Oh, and the actors "pop" from the screen because the movie was filmed with 2 cameras at the same time, focusing the foreground and background (or so I've read). If that's true, I applaud the Wachowskis for coming up with a great idea to implement the anime feel. They realized that there's more to an adaptation than the subject matter, which is what lots of other movies are missing.
POKETNRJSH on May 30, 2008
I went to see SR just for my son. i expected another kid movies but it really call my attention. i saw iron man and indiana jones but SR i have seen it like 3 times already without my son. i loved it.
kathy on Jun 23, 2008
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