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SPEED RACER = AWESOME

Just saw it. Loved it. Loved it. LOVED IT. LOVED IT! Absolutely five stars without reservation. They could not have made a better Speed Racer movie, or at least if it could be done, I don't know how.

And don't let the reviews fool you — this is a gutsy movie.

"Gneech," you may be saying to yourself, "what the heck do you mean 'gutsy'? Every review I've read talks about the simplistic plot and almost retro sense of do-gooderism."

That's it exactly! It's gutsy because, knowing full well they'd be sneered and spat at by the too-hip-for-the-room types — including many of their own fans — the Wachowski bros. stuck to Speed Racer. They didn't try to "make it cool," they didn't try to "reinvent it for modern audiences," heck, they didn't even get rid of the kitschy names like "Snake Oiler" and "Inspector Detector." Not only did they leave it there, they reveled in it. They made a Speed Racer movie that really looked, felt, and sounded like Speed Racer.

The wild, over-the-top effects and psychedelic colors are absolutely part of that. To see what I mean, first watch the original Speed Racer opening credits. In particular, watch the backgrounds, the distinctive art style, etc. Then watch the movie music video and compare. Yes, it's a little more frenetic and go-all-over-the-placey — but not that much. Not really. Speed Racer the movie, is a movie of what the world would be like, if Speed Racer wasn't a cartoon, you see what I mean? It's a brilliant tour-de-force.

What drives me most nuts about the negative reviews is that they keep sneering at Speed Racer for not being all these things they think it should be, as if they're deliberately ignoring both what it is, and what it's intended to be. The Speed Racer TV show was a boy's adventure tale, aimed straight at the 8-year-old heart and mind, with a few winks for any grownups (or older siblings) who might happen to be watching. That doesn't mean it's dumb, and frankly it's insulting to say so. It does mean that a direct, straight-faced approach to both narrative and characterization is what's called for, and it colors what themes your work needs to deal with.

"What's important in life?"

"How do I succeed? How do I prevail in a competitive world?"

"How do I relate to my family?"

"How do I know right from wrong?"

"How do I act on that knowledge when doing the right thing is hard or scary?"

These are important things for boys to learn, and these are the things that Speed Racer has always been about — the fast cars and explosions is just a framework, something to get the kid's blood pumping and past the "blah blah blah" reflex. (As an aside, the "blah blah blah" scene and Speed's trip into fantasy land is absolutely brilliant and absolutely spot on. I myself have woken up to a classroom staring at me because I was making my own sound effects while I drew. It happens!)

I don't know what exactly the other reviewers were wanting from it, other than a handy scratching post. The general attitude seems to be, "It could have been a good movie if it wasn't Speed Racer." Well, to them I cordially say, "Bite me, it's fun." If you're given something with as strong an identity as Speed Racer, dammit, you GO with it! (So to speak.) You put in corny gangsters, and Spridle and Chim-Chim doing candy raids and stowing away in the trunk, and Racer X being badass and smirking the whole time. Because to do anything else would be to get it totally wrong.

I'm so very, very glad to say, the Wachowskis got it totally right.

Thanks, guys. :) I've been waiting 35 years for this movie, and you didn't disappoint me. :)

-The Gneech

PS: Spridle and Chim-Chim are totally likeable. That is an impressive feat.

Comments

( 28 comments — Leave a comment )
goodluckfox
May. 13th, 2008 02:33 am (UTC)
I enjoyed it thoroughly as well. It was a live action cartoon, and even my gamer pals seem to be paying too much attention to the reviews. :(
the_gneech
May. 13th, 2008 02:46 am (UTC)
Well tell 'em from me they're being manipulated and need to go see it for themselves! ;P

-The Gneech
goodluckfox
May. 13th, 2008 03:22 am (UTC)
Is it just me, or was the kid that played Spridle channeling "Chunk" from "The Goonies"?
the_gneech
May. 13th, 2008 03:26 am (UTC)
Actually, I was thinking "Tom Arnold."

-The Gneech
franzeska
May. 13th, 2008 03:41 am (UTC)
Right on! The reviews almost made me not see it after I found the short preview sort of ho hum. The long preview (which has more of the non-car scenes) convinced me, but I still don't think the previews do the movie justice. The reviews are just inexcusable. Also, some of them made me even more wary than usual about the presence of child and ape comic relief (Dunston Checks In. God. Why did I see that?), but I think this is one of the less annoying instances out there. I love the bit where he gives the bad guys the finger.
the_gneech
May. 13th, 2008 11:11 am (UTC)
I was surprised at just how likable Spridle and Chim-Chim were, actually. They could have been reeeealllly annoying, but instead, they were simply two more characters in the movie. Anytime the "cute comedy relief" doesn't make me cringe, I consider a major feat.

-The Gneech
koogrr
May. 14th, 2008 09:14 pm (UTC)
Agreed. I thought they worked well.
invisiblewolf
May. 13th, 2008 04:16 am (UTC)
That's funny -- your description of the simple themes that actually WORK within the context of the movie reminds me of why I liked the first Pokemon movie. Yeah, it's a kid's show, but the first movie showed a lot of heart and asked many of the questions that more complex stories would ask.

In my opinion, anyway.

-Spiritwolf.
stilghar
May. 13th, 2008 10:25 am (UTC)
Oh, good. I was hoping I wasn't the only one over the age of twelve who liked it. :D
the_gneech
May. 13th, 2008 11:07 am (UTC)
I loved the Pokémon movies! But that's partially 'cause I'm a big ol' Team Rocket fan.

-The Gneech
hossblacksilver
May. 14th, 2008 03:13 am (UTC)
I loved Oak's line in that one. n_n
paradisacorbasi
May. 13th, 2008 02:23 pm (UTC)
I too liked it.

the_gneech
May. 13th, 2008 11:09 am (UTC)
Subvert the kids! Slip literature into their mass entertainment! ;)

-The Gneech
blacktigr
May. 13th, 2008 04:25 am (UTC)
I've seen maybe a half episode of the show. Do you think I'd still like the movie?

...do you think I'd get motion sick? It happened at the Bourne movie.
the_gneech
May. 13th, 2008 11:06 am (UTC)
I don't think you need to be a fan of the show to enjoy the movie, although it certainly helps 'cause you get all the easter eggs. :)

My suggestion is, start with the first seven minutes of the movie:

http://movies.yahoo.com/movie/1808406004/video/7729952

If you enjoy that, keep watching the rest of the clips there. They put a lot of focus on the slam-bang action, but that's not all there is to the movie. But if you enjoy those, you'll enjoy the flick. :)

As for motion-sickness, I can't say. I didn't get any, nor did laurie_robey, but I've heard reports of it. There's not that much perspective work, but there are a lot of shots with weird angles and stuff-flying-everywhere. I think the scene most likely to cause motion sickness comes at the very end:

**** SPOILER BELOW! SORT OF! ***









* Look out! *





At the end of the last race, Speed basically drives through an explosion, doing a jump that turns into a victory roll, which causes the red-and-white checkers on the finish lane to swirl into a vortexey tunnel, which is a very, um, striking effect at full projection size. The same vortex tunnel appears at the beginning of the music video, if you want to see what it's like.

-The Gneech
franzeska
May. 13th, 2008 11:47 am (UTC)
I'd only seen a few clips of the show, and I thought the movie was awesome. Motion sickness would definitely be possible, particularly if you go see it at an IMAX theater, IMO.
paradisacorbasi
May. 13th, 2008 02:25 pm (UTC)
I didn't get motion sick, but the action on screen in certain places did give me vertigo. It was that feeling you get watching a film of being on a roller coaster. So I found myself almost falling out of the seat a couple times from reacting.

the_gneech
May. 13th, 2008 02:27 pm (UTC)
On a totally unrelated note, I love that icon. :D

-TG
paradisacorbasi
May. 13th, 2008 03:03 pm (UTC)
Thank you. It's not quite perfect yet. The eyes don't roll quite as I want them to.

genecatlow
May. 13th, 2008 10:45 pm (UTC)
Erm... If Spridle and Chim-Chim are likeable, I have my doubts as to whether it's really Speed Racer or not. >_<

But I do agree with your assessments. Personally, my favorite cartoon shows derive their greatest amount of charm from the fact that they are cartoons, and neither have not need an RL crutch to lean on. But if one is going to make a live-action cartoon, particularly one that is as much a period piece and an unashamedly upbeat-toon-hero-action rush as Speed Racer, for god's sake MAKE the thing that way and to hell with the uber-serious crowd. It sounds as though the producers did just that. Good!
hossblacksilver
May. 14th, 2008 03:18 am (UTC)
I enjoyed it as well, though my one problem with the move was all the flashbacks and asides in the first half, especially when Royalton gives Speed his thinly veiled threat about not siding with him, which was the flash back, which was the action, was that a visual descriptor or what actually happened. Still, otherwise, I enjoyed it.


Now, I needs me some Star Blazers!
koogrr
May. 14th, 2008 09:18 pm (UTC)
Kinshasa, "We agree."

Kinsha, "Yes, you adequately voiced all the things I couldn't because my sister was hyped-up dazzled by the flashing lights."

Shasa, "Sooooooooooooooo Pretty."

Kinsha, "I can't understand why the reviews were bad, unless like you say, they were expecting an entirely different movie. 'Inspector Detector' made me blink the first time I heard it, then I thought 'they must be being true to the show, that's cool!'."

Shasa, "Go Speed Racer! Gooooo!"

Ess wants the soundtrack for those remixes.
the_gneech
May. 14th, 2008 09:52 pm (UTC)
The MP3s are imminently affordable from Amazon. :) 'swhere I got mine!

Inspector DetectorAnd yes, "Inspector Detector" was from the show, although in the show his beard was huge and looked like it could be used to open cans.

-TG
satyrblade
May. 16th, 2008 06:10 pm (UTC)
Yeah, that's pretty much what I've heard from sources I actually respect. :)
satyrblade
May. 16th, 2008 06:12 pm (UTC)
Okay, I have to know:

Did anyone freeze-frame with their mouth open going "Ohhhhhhhh..."? ;)
the_gneech
May. 16th, 2008 06:14 pm (UTC)
Freeze-frame? Not exactly.

But in the opening race, when Speed jumps over Snake Oiler, Snake comes as near to doing that as can be done in a live-action film.

Later on during the ninja attack [1], Speed does a very similar thing in reaction to Pops' wrestling moves.

So yes, it's in there! :D

-TG

[1] Even Speed Racer is better with ninjas!
drsock
May. 23rd, 2008 02:10 am (UTC)
Yes
Yes, yes, yes, a thousand times yes. I am so relieved to find other people that liked this movie; I saw it yesterday and was totally blown away. I have to say it's probably the best 'live action adaptation' I've ever seen. Most movies of said genre are trying to take cartoons, video games, what have you, and put them in the real world. This takes real people and inserts them into cartoon-universe, which is way more interesting. And they had something for everybody! Explosions, kung fu, old-timey thugs, a chimp - what more do the critics want? I mean, granted, I like cartoons more that a lot of people, but I can't picture anyone disliking this as much as the critics seem to think people should.
( 28 comments — Leave a comment )

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