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.