Speed Racer: – Yes! Someone paid for me to watch and review it!
You’ll never guess what I’ve been to see. Speed Racer. Believe it or not, someone donated the required amount (much less than the requested £83.40 originally asked for) and I reluctantly walked into the cinema and asked for “1 adult for Speed Racer please”. How I wished that someone had come with me. I asked my two sons (10 and 11 – who are surely the film’s prime demographic) and they refused. “It looks lame” one said. The other actually refused to answer. This was not a good start to the evening.
Now I know that many reviews are out already for this film and usually I would just not review it and leave it to some other site to tear into it. However, with the donation button affixed to the site, I had promised that whenever the donation had accumulated the required amount, I would do my job. So here it is: You paid for it and you will get it. A lot of it:
Speed Racer is a film (as I’m sure you all know) that is about a boy (subsequently growing into a man) called er..Speed...Racer. Yes. That’s his name. The Wachowski brothers had completely given up on serious character naming and basically listed the obvious:
- The father is called Pops
- The Speed Racer is called “Speed Racer” (Racer being his surname)
- The mother is called Mom.
- The mysterious racer is called Racer X
- The chimpanzee is called Chim Chim
This list seems endless. It is full of unimaginative names which I’m sure the Wachowskis thought would appeal to kids. There is a problem with this type of thinking though: THEY’RE WRONG! Children are not stupid. If the Wachowskis are under the impression they made a family movie they are so very wrong. It is patronising to children, insulting to adults, too much flickering for Epileptics, too much noise for Narcoleptics, not sexy enough for teenagers, the children in it are all sickeningly smart and overly cute and above all it eliminates half of the target audience......GIRLS!
What about the young girls wanting to watch this “family film”? What do they do as the only categories left from the family (5 year old Timmy and 86 year old Grandpa – who’ll probably be sleeping through most of it)? Are the girls supposed to step out for an afternoon shopping whilst we boys have to suffer this pathetic excuse for a live-action cartoon? That brings me nicely to my next point. Why make a live action cartoon at all? I realise that the Wachowskis as kids enjoyed the Japanese anime “Speed Racer” but that does not mean the rest of the world did. I enjoyed my Egg and cheese sandwich last night, but I expect it would disgust most of you. It doesn’t mean however, that I should market this sandwich and put it on a supermarket shelf claiming this to be the best, most stunning to look at, full-flavour sandwich, money can buy. I don’t do that, because I would be mad! That’s right, completely and utterly off my rocker. You might as well send the men with white coats round to Mr and Mr Wachowski (along with Mr Silver) and explain to them, that they should be taken away for some well earned rest!
This film has been proudly marketed as being almost entirely filmed on green screen. This, you can quite clearly see. The problem with making films using green screen, is that your average viewer can spot when it is being used and when it is not. Life: real life that is, not the Wachowskis idea of life, is not full of bright neon colours. It is relatively more dull (well it is in Britain anyway). The one thing omitting from any green / blue screen production is atmosphere. You have to work hard to re-input the atmosphere into the movie. This is where this film REALLY fails! There is just no atmosphere to speak of. It has its Broadway-lit look with nothing else. If you compare it to another almost entirely green screen movie, “300”, then you will notice again that atmosphere is a big problem. The world we view on these films does not look (or feel) real. However, I would have to admit that 300 did a suitable job of regaining the atmosphere lost from filming in a studio. This is much more (it seems) than those “Matrix creators” did! Along with the atmosphere problem of green screen, you have to rely too heavily on the actor’s imagination (not somewhere you want to trust, considering the narcotic-induced society of Hollywood). You have to act to nothing. How can you expect a perfect performance when there is nothing to respond to? With large sets, the actors can visualise so much better, the world they inhabit. How are you able to do that with a green screen?
The effects were bright. When I mean bright I mean BRIGHT! Far too bright to be truly comfortable. The fact is, with all the acrobatic fast motion of the cars and neon colours along with the unnecessary zooming in and out of the actor’s faces throughout the race, I felt truly nauseous. Surely when you create a film, your objectives do not include making everyone in the cinema throw up before the fourth scene.
I have spoken a little about the names of the characters in the film, but let’s continue with the actors playing them.
John Goodman is suitable as Pops.
Racer X (no surprise to anyone that it is Matthew Fox) is wasted (when you consider his powerful role in Lost)
Christina Ricci is completely pointless and wears pink throughout the film agreeing with Speed on all occasions and even manages to be useful as the pink helicopter pilot supporting the main character.
Emile Hirsch is someone I know very little about, but in truth I have no interest to see this actor in a movie EVER again. I hope that it was the bad screenplay rather than the wooden acting.
Susan Sarandon plays a similarly pointless role to Ricci’s in this film. There is little point in her being there at all (unless you count making sandwiches for the “men”). How can you have an Oscar-winning actress in your film and have her basically making sandwiches and giving needless advice to the main character?
The underlying constructs of this film (as you may have imagined) are completely flawed. Audiences do not empathise well with winners. Everyone loves the underdog in a story. Someone who you can stand by and support. Someone who you know deserves to win at least once. It would be fairly acceptable to have Speed Racer (the character not the film) not very capable of driving and being taught to do so by the mysterious Racer X. It is not however, acceptable to watch a family of winners raising two winning racing drivers whilst the younger one moans that he didn’t get a chance to compete in a race, so he could win. WE DON’T CARE! He could win anytime! It is also difficult to feel empathy for the characters because so little time is assigned for character development. This is a difficult feat for a film over two hours in length!
Important factors in family movies (or those movies specifically aimed at children) are those regarding morals. It is essential for a film to show some moral grounding in it, before a responsible parent is happy for their children to watch it. Let’s see, the moral of this story is: winners win, and get the girl and are loved by everyone and losers are forgotten and ignored. Good morals use that! Winning is everything in this film. In truth, you wish that Speed would just lose a race (accidentally). That would teach the smarmy know-it-all.
In the promotions running up to the release of this film, it was shown that Racer X could kick arse as good as any superhero out there. However, the fight scenes were portrayed as something that might reside in a 60’s Batman series. I realise that there are a few people out there that will claim “that was the intention, to give it a retro look”. I would say to these people, “Be quiet! I’m reviewing here”! I truly expected “THWACK” and “POW” to flash up on the screen. At one point, I’m sure that I had spotted it, but I put it down to my imagination running away with me again!
It has become clear from this fiasco that anime is best left as anime! Leave it as a cartoon. I would rather not sit through another nostalgia trip from the Wachowskis and leave utterly annoyed. You may call me an ungrateful individual since I did not pay for the privilege of attending this movie. I am truly grateful for the donation that enabled me to watch this rubbish, but an honest opinion is what they requested and an honest opinion is what you’ll get.
This film was inspector gadget with cars, Wacky Races with neon (and no humour), a film about racing fast cars which seem to spend most of the time flipping in the air or going sideways that I’m surprised of the need for wheels. This film is for boys that have never grown up after watching a cartoon in their youth. It is the worst example of a family film that has ever graced my viewing eyes. Everything that mattered was done wrong. As I had predicted this film is all style (blurry, bright and neon) and absolutely no substance. This movie is made for two individuals only: Andy and Larry Wachowski!
If you want a film about racing that doesn’t have the above problems listed above, I suggest you get a video camera and film yourselves playing with a Hot Wheels speed track for two hours. It would be far more entertaining than what I have just been through. 0.2 out of 10
Thanks again NickN and CC Riley (hope the review was worth it)