Friday, May 16, 2008

Go, Speed Racer, Go!

It's still amazing to me to see shows and comic books I loved as a young kid being made into multi-million dollar films. The most recent one I saw was SPEED RACER. And judging by the opening weekend box-office, there wasn't too many people watching (relatively speaking, of course!)

SPEED RACER was, and still is, probably my favorite cartoon show of all time (if you don't count the Warner Bros. Looney Tunes shorts). As a kid I would be in awe of the high speed chases, the dastardly villians, the mysterious Racer X and of course Speed Racer and his family. The show really was about a family, after all.

Because the filmmakers focused on the family apsect of Speed, I think this is what made the movie work for me. Mind you, I was not a big Wachowski Bros. fan. I saw the first MATRIX film and thought it was good...except for the stoic people walking around in black sunglasses and black trenchcoats for 2 hours! So I never saw MATRIX 2 and 3..... But I saw SPEED RACER for Speed Racer. When I first heard about the film, I thought the casting choices were really well chosen. And the Mach 5! Geez, is there a cooler car in the whole world? (The Adam West Batmobile and James Bond's Aston Martin DB4 come very close!). I'll admit though, when I saw the first images for the RACER movie I was a little put off. The night scenes with the huge neon lit racing track caused me some concern. Was this film going to be too dark and hyper kinetic?

But the draw of the movie was too much to pass up. I had to at least see the film. Well, the film really surprised me in all the best ways. First off, I was really surprised to see how well the dramatic family moments in the film came off. There are a lot of great dynamics in the film: Pops Racer's relationship with his two sons, Mom Racer and Speed, Speed and his younger brother. And the nice romance with Speed and Trixie. Real heartfelt family ties.

And the action of course, as I watched it, literally emulated the action in the cartoon series. The Mach 5 flying through the air with it's Jumper Jacks, Speed zipping his car along the most impossible routes imaginable. Right out of the TV show.
The look of the movie reminded me of DICK TRACY with the MATRIX. I was probably thinking, originally, that the film would have looked like it took place in a world most closely resembling ours. But watching the movie, I think the Wachowskis took the right approach in creating a whole world to match the TV show. Here, Speed Racer's world looks like a brand new anime/video game. And the car chases were right out of the cartoon, racing along deserts and icy mountains and gigantic palaces!

It's a shame that the movie has performed so poorly at the box office. But as a lifetime Speed Racer fan, I am glad to see a great adaptation on the big screen.


Jason Martin said...

Yeah man, want to see this but haven't yet... plan to.

It's funny how reaction to it has been so divided, like it, or hate it.

I get what you're saying about Matrix, you're right, that drove me batty to no end, the whole lame ass agent Smith villain... truly the weak point of the movie, and to greater effect, sequels.
The actor's great, but that's the lamest villain ever!

Javier Hernandez said...

MATRIX: My recollection of the first movie is that even the heroes of the film (or protagonists!) were dull and boring. "Lemme wear my sunglasses and stand all tall and somber in my black clothes and try not to exhibit any human emotions."


Anonymous said...

Aushenker here. I couldn't agree more with Jav's assessment of THE MATRIX. I thought the first film was wooden, humorless and shopworn mythology. Never even thought of going to see MATRIX 2 and 3. That said, SPEED RACER looks great, although admittedly, I'll rent it rather than see it on the big screen. It's a second tier priority film. If it plays at my local 3 dollar theater I'll go see it, otherwise I'm waiting for the DVD, I think it'll be an excellent rental in a few months.

I feel the same way Jav does about SPEED RACER about GET SMART. What a great sitcom that was. I'll probably rent that movie as well. Unless the Steve Carrell version gets awful reviews overall, I'll do a total skip. It's tough to see your favorite works get remade into shlocky flicks just out to capitalize on branding recognition and nostalgia.

I'm more interested in seeing the following in the theater: HULK, YOU DON"T MESS WITH THE ZOHAN, and STEPBROTHERS.

INDY 4 will be a total skip (see above about brand recognition and nostalgia). I was wary of this one long before I saw scenes from it, which I now have and they see totally underwhelming. Lucas and Spielberg have lost their touch, they're just playing their greatest hits and not as well.

Jose said...

Hello there Javi! Long time no read!
I loved Speed Racer, I was very skeptical when I first saw the trailer, but I decided to give it a shot.
I loved it, the actors fit perfectly in their roles, the visuals, the action, the SPEED!! Pure awesomeness, event though it might look too kiddie-like I think it has something for everyone.
I was so hyped during the last race and seeing Speed cross the line in the end was awesome!!
METEORO!!! (That's how it was called in spanish, meteor...ha ha ha)

As for the MATRIX remarks...oh, Javi...this could turn into an ugly debate...but basically, don't forget that this movie revolutionized modern filmmaking, not only at a technical level, but how stories are told.
And the lack of human emotion was precisely to show you how the machines ruled everything and almost destroyed humanity.

Man, I miss the El Muerto Forums...any chance of ever bringing them back?