SPEED RACER. Unpopular opinion: this is a great sci-fi movie
The candy-colored visuals, the dizzying editing causing a head spin, and the jokes at the level of a pre-teenager left me skeptical. I couldn’t quite believe that this “vivid little monster” came from the creators of The Matrix.
Speed Racer is a born racing driver: phenomenal intuition, a sense of unity between him and the machine. But it has to be that way since this sport is genetically “contaminated.” His father, Pops (John Goodman), puts his heart into building racing cars by hand. Older brother Rex (Scott Porter), until a tragic accident, participated in races under the Racer banner. He was an unparalleled track champion. He remains a hero and role model for Speed, who now diligently follows in his footsteps. The extraordinary skills of young Racer attract the interest of the biggest fish in the racing world – the owner of Royalton Industries. However, not wanting to break the family tradition, Speed rejects the lucrative offer to represent Royalton. At that moment, feeling the heavy money slipping away, the magnate drops the good uncle mask, revealing his true face – a greed-obsessed lunatic. He assures Speed that he will make sure he doesn’t finish any race he enters. Furthermore, with malicious satisfaction, he declares that all significant races, including the most important – the Grand Prix, are predetermined.
Royalton’s promise comes true with interest. Speed, attacked in an unconventional way by Royalton’s drivers, doesn’t cross the finish line in any race. Moreover, Pops’ bet is publicly discredited, and his reputation is maliciously ruined. The future of the whole family appears in the darkest colors. Desperate and broken, Speed Racer loses faith in what he does. Racing, once a beloved sport, has become a curse. However, when young Racer is overwhelmed by the greatest doubt, a mysterious, masked Racer X (Matthew Fox) appears on his path. He reignites the love for the beloved sport and offers cooperation to stop Royalton’s shameful scheme. But to achieve this, Speed must participate in the ultra-dangerous race that took his brother’s life – The Crucible.
The first minutes of the Speed Racer confirmed my belief that the trailer was only an innocent glimpse of the colorful chaos that would attack the audience throughout the entire screening. And although irritation and a mix of embarrassment and disbelief initially covered my face, I suddenly discovered, with surprise, that I was having a great time! And the chaos turned out to be fully controlled.
First and foremost, it must be emphasized that the idea for Speed Racer was drawn from the popular 1960s comic book, which later inspired an animated series. In my opinion, the Wachowskis focused on this “comic book” aspect. They tried to translate its specific form into the language of film. Hence the screen “cut” into smaller fragments, with each showing a different facet of the action. Similar to the comic book page – each window, each drawing, is another sequence of the story. Additionally, to emphasize the effect, the directors used vibrant, almost glaring colors that perfectly complement and highlight the “pictorial” and “comic book” nature of the film. One might get the impression that the Wachowskis wanted not so much to make a film based on a comic book but to bring that comic book – with all its specific form and atmosphere – to life on screen. In my opinion, they succeeded in doing so completely.
It may seem that by focusing on visual appeal and the plastic aspect of the film, the Wachowskis neglected its narrative side a bit. We are dealing with a significant flattening of characters, their personalities, mutual relationships, and interactions. The division of characters is limited to distinguishing only between white and black. There are few gray characters, those about whom it cannot be definitively said whether they are good or bad. There is no room for pondering the morality of characters or the reasons behind their choices. The complexity of character personalities is minimized.
A similar criticism can be directed towards the somewhat banal humor present in the film. It does not resonate well with adult viewers. Although it cannot be said that it is blatantly tasteless or simply foolish, it is shallow, lacking flair, satisfying only the “early” teenager.
And here we come to another point that cannot be overlooked when approaching Speed Racer. The Wachowskis clearly defined their film as family cinema, primarily aimed at the youngest audience. As a result, the above criticisms are somewhat justified. The construction of characters makes it easier for kids to understand the film, allowing them to focus solely on uninhibited fun. The straightforward conveyance of obvious values (loyalty to ideals, love, and family support) combined with action is designed in a way that highlights the last aspect: spectacular races of incredible machines, a few but quite surprising fight scenes, or even wrestling performed by Goodman, who is clearly having fun with his role.
The same goes for the gags, mostly generated by the youngest member of the Racer family – Spritle (Paulie Litt). They are primarily meant to bring a smile to the faces of his peers and amuse them with the antics of his monkey companion Chim Chim. Nevertheless, there remains a certain sense of dissatisfaction and regret that there is no “wink” directed towards a more mature and demanding audience. In any case, as creators of children’s films, the Wachowskis have fully proven themselves.
But will such an image appeal to viewers? Well, one thing is certain – they will not remain indifferent to “Speed Racer.” Either they will awaken their inner child and love this crazy, uninhibited ride, or they will hate it. There is no room for other feelings with this film.
Author of the text: Aleksandra Tofil