SPEED RACER: And when the odds are against him…

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Wow. I can’t believe the hating being laid on Speed Racer.

I saw it this weekend, and loved it. Loved every minute of it. It was creative, imaginative, innovative. It was made with care and love. The characters all had story arcs. The story was laid out one scene at a time and made sense. Sure, the whole movie was a cartoon where normal rules of space and time did not apply — in one cityscape you could see a Dubai-like skyscraper topped by what looked like Mr. Peanut, for chrissake — but what do you expect from a movie where a chimpanzee is accepted as a normal family member? It’s got pancakes, Shaft, Segways, Black vikings, ninjas, girls piloting pink helicopters, cars covered in snake skin, races in ice caves where doom befell once before, and Christopher Hitchens as the villain. That’s a good time to me.

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The Wachowskis, who both directed and wrote the kid-friendly film, have created a world with its own thrilling, topsy turvy logic. The visual style is like nothing ever seen before, a mash-up of Tron, Blade Runner and Gran Turismo but taken to a new degree of kinetic flair. Backgrounds explode into plastic and chrome speedlines, cars leap and bounce. Deserts are searing orange clouds, fireworks are purple neon. Cars don’t just race, they race through tunnels, not just tunnels, but tunnels animated with racing zebras. Why? Who cares. The internal dynamics require it. The whole movie is shot in bullet time. Yes, it was exhausting — the intensity is too much for a two-hour plus movie. And yeah, if you have motion sickness or are prone to seizures, it will probably kill you.

When it isn’t racing around the track, the story is mostly told through big, big close-ups of the actors. Most everyone complains that the acting is flat, but I think that’s beside the point. The only way to make a successful CGI movie is to keep the actors in the foreground, and keep them likable. If you don’t like Susan Sarandon when she’s making peanut butter sandwiches for an all-night family chassis-welding party, you have no heart.

SPEED RACER captures the rhythms of manga — the sentimentality and emotional overdrive. The characters are always telling each other how they feel in no uncertain terms. It isn’t subtle, but it supplies all the narrative drive the day-glo racing needs.

But the level of opprobrium being laid on this movie is hard to fathom. Over at Nikki Finke, its paltry $20 mil this weekend is rightly seen as a blow to Warners, but the comments are a Newsarama-level beat down. And I just don’t get it. In a world where CGI explosions and digital farting animals are just casually dismissed as the expected mediocrity, here’s a movie that tries to be different and ups the ante significantly. And gets slammed for it. Sure the story is predictable…but so was IRON MAN’s. Anne Thompson rounds up more of the scorn, but is a bit more sympathetic overall.

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I think SPEED RACER will have a long life on DVD, and will in time, like Robert Altman’s Popeye before it, become accepted as something that succeeds on its own terms. In the meantime, I fear the Wachowskis will be left in the Hollywood wilderness. My guess is that they really were trying to make a kid-friendly blockbuster; instead they’ve made something crazy and idiosyncratic that will go down as a big $100 million+ stinker.

Perhaps there is one good side to the perceived failure of SPEED RACER: if more little kids saw it, there would be a high chance of an epidemic of epilepsy. Maybe it’s just my ADD talking, but this movie was like a shot of Adderall…it made me feel peaceful and happy.

Comments

  1. Torsten Adair says:

    Speed Racer is Tron, it’s Star Wars, it’s Superman. It’s the pioneering movie in the genre which will inspire a young generation to dream and achieve great things.
    Box office doesn’t matter, it will make money overseas, in licensing, on BluRay. Fantasia almost bankrupted Walt Disney with its multiplane camera and stereophonic sound, yet it is now the crown jewel of their library.
    The only mistake made was not shooting this in Imax 3D.

  2. Kenny says:

    I saw the movie and I can tell you where the hate comes from. It falls victim to the trapping of all the worst kid movies, the movie is made with the assumption kids are stupid and if you distract them with enough bright colors and cut scenes, they won’t notice their intelligence is being insulted.

    Kids know when someone is talking down to them and that’s why Speed Racer failed so spectacularly. The movie has no plot, no characterization, nothing beyond bright colors.

    Even in cartoons kids love, like Naruto, there’s a basic logic the premise adheres to. Speed Racer has no such logic. It’s much like that dreadful new He-Man cartoon from a few years back. Every time someone is in trouble, their car just flies or spins to gain speed, which defies the common sense kids have established. In order to hook kids, they have to feel like the main character is actually overcoming some sort of David v Goliath odds. If the main character is always the best thing ever, susceptible only to stock manipulation plans, then what’s the point?

    Here’s why Narnia will be loved by kids where they largely are ignoring Speed Racer, Narnia won’t insult them. It won’t talk down to them. It will present a metaphor they can easily grasp and drama they’ll become engaged with.

  3. The other really positive review of “Speed Racer” I read said it was like taking acid (or, actually, exactly what the critic thought taking acid would be like).

    The lack of box office is amazing and all bad marketing. How Fox could sell “Ghost Rider” to Nascar states, but Warner couldn’t? Shameful.

  4. Alan Coil says:

    I think you’re wrong, Kenny. Most kids haven’t seen the movie. Kids have no way of getting to the movie. Parents have to take them, and that is not happening. From all reports that I have seen, the kids that see it enjoy it. You can’t say kids won’t like it if they haven’t seen it.

    As to the cars flipping through the air, kids can accept that kind of stuff better than adults can. Yes, it defies the laws of physics, but kids don’t care about those laws. Their brains aren’t that rigid.

  5. Tom S. says:

    I didn’t see it on any NASCAR telecast, but I do remember seeing lots of Ghost Rider commercials during the 2006 Daytona 500 and Superbowl. That may be a reason why it didn’t do well in Nascar country. This coming from a casual NASCAR fan. I will probably see this on Memorial Day weekend or the weekend after that as a double feature or triple feature day.

  6. Why did SPEED RACER tank? With ticket prices ranging from $8 to $12 depending on when and where you go, who wants to spend that kind of cash on a flick specifically designed to give you seizures and motion sickness? And with a solid movie (IRON MAN) already out and two more big movies (PRINCE CASPIAN and INDIANA JONES AND THE KINGDOM OF THE LONG-WINDED TITLE) on the immediate horizon, SPEED RACER became a movie that people could easily skip.

  7. I liked the film – its a GREAT kids film. It has a nice moral, amazing visuals, fun comedy and it DOESN’T talk down to kids.

    If we’d been lumped with a nice, Disney resolution to Racer X’s story then maybe, but it was a melancholy note in a sea of eye candy.

    No characterisation? Bollocks! It’s characterisation is somewhat over-the-top, in keeping with the tone of the whole film.

    I don’t get the hate either. People seem to the flaming over this film rather than just ignoring it if it isn’t their cup of tea.

    Are they all just bitter Matrix fans?!?

  8. maija says:

    It sounds like the mistake they made was in making a film aimed at an audience without discernible income and a means to get themselves to the theatre.

    They also made a mistake in devoting themselves so slavishly to the original cartoon, or so it sounds. Even fans are not denying that the story and acting are weak. This gets a “well it’s just like the cartoon!” pass from the fans. I’m sorry, but you’re not selling the movie to me by noting all of the things that are excused by the fact that it’s just like the cartoon. I don’t have the benefit of that warm glow of nostalgia to comfort me during the annoying parts.

    What they should have done is worked their Wachowski magic on the look and feel of the movie, but injected maturity into the story and acting. Did it really need to be as weak in that department as the original cartoon? Why couldn’t it have been smart enough for adults… and kids too. Why does “for kids” have to mean “stupid”?

    I’m simply not hearing much—even from fans—that makes me want to rush out and gamble ten of my dollars and three hours of my time on something that sounds like it has a good chance of being another Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow experience.

    I’ll probably see this one in the cheap theatre as it sounds like this deserves the big screen. But at that point my contribution to the box office will be too late for studio execs to care about. I’ll wager that there are thousands of people who feel the same way.

  9. I can’t wait to see it, and neither can my 5-year-old daughter. I’m sure we’ll both love it. Usually when the majority of critics hate, hate, hate a movie but the minority love, love, love it, that’s the kind of movie that ends up being special.

  10. Kenny says:

    Alan,

    I respect your opinion an awful lot, so please take this as me respectfully disagreeing with you in order to engage in discussion and not as anything personal. (Not that I think you would, but I know I’m a very direct speaker and ruffle feathers from time to time.)

    There are two points I disagree with you on. I think kids can form opinions about movies the same as adults. I think kids can watch a trailer and decide if they want to see a movie or not. I also think kids can see a trailer and decide whether or not the movie will be to “kiddie” for them. From the commercials, Speed Racer looked like a brighter, louder version of Telletubbies. If kids had been engaged by what they saw in the trailers, then the box office would have been bigger. I think most kids have either expressed desire to see Iron Man or Narnia.

    The other point I disagree on is kids do have rigid enough brains to accept elementary physics. Kids know cars don’t spin to pick up speed. When my son was 2 and was playing with his cars, he’d only spin cars out when they were about to crash. He learned from observation that a car pushed straight ahead would travel faster than one spun forward. Kids understand elementary physics better than most adults are accustomed to believe, and I think that’s where the key mistake with Speed Racer was made. Once kids saw commercials with flying, flipping cars gaining speed, they became disengaged.

    That’s just my opinion anyway. I could be completely wrong.

  11. maija says:

    Regarding “bitter Matrix fans” should I note that I’m one of the rare few who actually kinda liked the last two? I think people who didn’t like them didn’t realize that the first one was rather silly and self-important also. Was your mind really that blown by the fact that they existed inside a big computer? Really? But it looked damned fine.

  12. POPEYE! A great kids’ movie and a good Robert Altman film, too. (Though I prefer The Long Goodbye, of course.)

    My kids (who are all senior citizens these days) LOVED it when they were growing up, and it wasn’t easy finding a betamx copy either.

    It was a family favorite, in fact. My wife still bursts out in song every once in a while, quoting from that film, “He’s L-A-R-G-G-G-E!”

    Harry Nillson! Van Dyke Parks! Jules Feiffer!! Shelly Duvall! Ray Walston! Paul Dooley!

  13. Alexa D says:

    Personally, Speed Racer was the Hollywood movie I’ve been dying to see ever since I first saw “Yellow Submarine”. It had style, it tried to do something different, and it’s flaws paled in comparison to the sheer ambition. Nobody TRIES to make good kids’ films any more. Most kids’ films these days are watered down rip-offs of the Harry Potter movies (themselves not very good), or plotless 3-D CGI animations that hope to get by on their pop-culture references. But Speed Racer had it all: plot, style, heart, and of course, RAAAAIIN! :D

  14. I saw the trailer ages ago. It made me feel as if I’d been force-fed a kilogram of Skittles. I wanted to wash my brain out with Listerine.

  15. I’m actually kinda glad the movie tanked. This just means that it will be out on DVD and Blu-Ray a lot sooner then expected. I read they spent $100 million just on advertising. Expect a quick home video release to try to recoup some of that money. It would also help sell the plethora of SPEED RACER toys that are chocking the toy isle.

    I grew up loving Speed Racer. I want to see this movie, I just don’t care to go to the theater to see it. Going to the theater to watch a movie is so 1990′s. I’d much rather watch a movie at home on the big screen HD TV with surround sound. I made an exception for IRON MAN, but I can wait for SPEED RACER.

  16. Though I liked both, I’d say I enjoyed “Popeye” more as an 9-year-old than I enjoyed “Speed Racer” as a 29-year-old. ;^)

  17. Battlebot says:

    I haven’t seen the film, so I can’t comment on your review.

    But I do take point in your “Popeye” comment. That is one of the worst, joyless films ever directed toward children.

    Hated it when I was a kid, and oddly enough caught about 10 minutes of it last year. Immediately turned it off. Truly awful.

  18. Alan Coil says:

    Kenny,

    No offense can be taken when an argument is calmly stated.

    And never undermine your statements by saying I might be wrong. We are all wrong, just in different situations. We discuss because we are willing to learn.
    ==========

    Can anyone tell me how Speed Racer was promoted? I knew it was coming out, and saw the trailer several weeks ago, but that is all I knew about it. I don’t watch television very often, and haven’t had cable for over 2 years.

  19. The Beat says:

    I haven’t seen this kind of argument since STARSHIP TROOPERS!

    Todd, I’ll be especially interested in your take on the story.

  20. I broke my tradition of seeing movies like this opening weekend, and started to think I wouldn’t… but if you say it’s this good, Beatster, I’ll go tomorrow night when a theater near my place has $6 movie night. I hope you’re right!

  21. Oh, and also: I watched Superman: The Movie last week, just to refresh my memory. It’s terrible. There are one or two breathtakingly brilliant sequences, but as a whole, it’s dull and ponderous and incoherent. So, Torsten comparing Speed Racer to Superman is not encouraging me to see it.

  22. I took my sons (ages 12 and 17) to see it on Sunday. Always go for the Sunday Mattine. Son the Elder wasn’t keen on going but Mom said she wanted her Mother’s Day gift to be a few hours of having the house all to herself. So we skeedaddled.

    We all enjoyed the movie. I’m the same age as space flight and saw the original cartoon in my early teens — I was never a huge fan of the series but was charmed by its wackiness.

    This film is not “just like the series.” It couldn’t be, 40 years later. But it takes all the elements of what made Speed Racer what it was, and extrudes them into future. The family drama. The cheesy villains. The implausible automotive physics. The even more implausible “international criminal intrigue.” It throws in a bit of corporate-mogul-vs-family-business class awareness, ramps up the faux-tech, covers with over-saturated, whirling colors, and becomes something unique and wonderful.

    It truly is, at least insofar as corporate culture can produce it, a Work of Art, one that will be remembered for the way in which it smashes up against all the conflicting fashions of this era, and comes through brilliantly.

  23. KCRange says:

    I was excited about the movie (mostly because of the cast) until I actually saw the trailer. Way too much. Thirty seconds of it is enough to give me a touch of motion sickness; I can’t imagine sitting through the whole movie. If the trailer had been lighter on the spinning rainbow acid trip racing clips, more adults might have turned up for opening weekend.

  24. I was willing to suspend disbelief and believe the aerial car battles. And I was mightily pleased. I’m sure kids less than half my age could do the same.

    It was a lot of fun, I’m not really sure where the hate comes from.

  25. Scott Neely says:

    I have to say once again that Speed Racer is a SUPERB movie. The trailers sucked for it. It wasn’t enticing me to go see it, but I went since everyone was bashing the thing. Unlike those who sit and bash it without seeing it, I’ll spend the money and time to make up my own mind. It’s nice that Heidi liked it as well once she saw it. All her comments were how I took it a well. I haven’t seen a great trailer in a good decade or so. They are all terrible. TDK isn’t wowing me either, though I’m sure I’ll like it when I see it in it’s full context. Speed must be seen not as a 2 minute trailer on your computer but as a whole film.

    I suggest people actually GO AND SEE IT before they comment on the marketing and such for it. There is a LARGE portion of people who will walk out after the film loving what they just saw. I’m sure of it.

  26. I suggest people actually GO AND SEE IT before they comment on the marketing and such for it.

    At $10 a ticket? Plan on giving me that money? If not, you might want to rephrase your suggestion.

  27. Katherine, I’m curious about which of the “one or two breathtakingly brilliant sequences” you actually liked in Superman. Was it the scene where General Zod, Non and Ursa being sent into the Phantom Zone? The destruction of Krypton? Where Jonathan and Martha find baby Kal-El and discuss how to explain him? Where Clark says goodbye to Martha after Jonathan’s death? Where the Fortress of Solitude rises up from the ice? The crashed Daily Planet helicopter where Superman debuts and rescues Lois? Where Superman rescues Air Force One after it loses an engine? The patio scene where Lois interviews Superman? The various rescues to save people from the earthquakes? Where Superman pulls Lois’ dead body out of the ground?

    You see, I happen to love all those scenes (and others) and I’m guessing I’m probably not the only one, so I’m sort of at a loss as to how you can so easily dismiss this well-regarded film classic as “terrible.” Sure, the film has flaws, but Catwoman and Batman & Robin were terrible films. Superman, however, is not.

  28. Wraith says:

    Let me start off by saying that SPEED RACER was NOT a terrible movie. However, it was NOT a very good movie. I found the movie to be underwhelming with a few good things in it.

    There were 2 major problems with the SR movie and I believe is the MAJOR reason why the movie has flopped.

    1. The played out bright as hell colors. The people behind the SR movie wrongly believed that it was a good idea to use bright colors similar to the original cartoon. They didn’t seem to realize that the reason why the original cartoon used bright colors was because that was pretty much all they had to work with back in those days due to budget and animation technology.

    2. The movie was done as an over the top campy live action version of a cartoon. The people behind the movie should have treated/taken the source material more seriously.

    IMO, the SR movie SHOULD HAVE been done EXACTLY like the SPEED RACER X anime that came out a few years ago. That animated series successfully updated the originally source material and took it seriously.

  29. Wraith, the bright colors, to me, were what made the film work at all. The racing scenes were completely improbable things built on cartoon physics, but to me they work because the world outside of the races is just as improbable, a sort of surreal technicolor real life approximation of a cartoon.

  30. Unpopular says:

    “Why did SPEED RACER tank? With ticket prices ranging from $8 to $12 depending on when and where you go, who wants to spend that kind of cash on a flick specifically designed to give you seizures and motion sickness? And with a solid movie (IRON MAN) already out and two more big movies…on the immediate horizon, SPEED RACER became a movie that people could easily skip. ”

    This pretty much hits the nail on the head as far as Hollywood business-as-usual goes. May is getting VERY VERY crowded every year now, and they’re not even waiting until Memorial Day weekend to put the big films out anymore. It used to be a big film in the first week of May, and a big film on Memorial Day weekend, but this year there’s a big film every week of May EXCEPT for Memorial Day weekend (no, Sex and the bloody City is not a BIG film). They’re all trying to grab up as much money as they can before summer truly begins because a lot of times what just happened to Speed Racer happens during June and July instead. With all of the major releases in May this year, at least ONE of them had to tank. I picked Speed Racer early on, but I was open to being surprised.

    Another major problem with Speed Racer is that its target demographic is so tiny now. Kids grow up too fast these days. Even younger kids would prefer to watch a PG13 film they have to really pay attention to rather than a PG film they totally get. Speed Racer will mostly be ignored by adults due to it’s campy cartoonishness, but that’s more due to the normal adult behavior than a commentary on the film itself. Teens would probably prefer to watch Iron Man (and then Prince Caspian, hence the skip week) due to the violence and comedy of which it provides plenty. Plus, if you’re a teen and admit to seeing a PG rated film, you’ll probably get picked on.

    And finally, it’s possible one of the major reasons of Speed’s low gross is that people just don’t want to spend much money right now, and they certainly don’t want to spend $10 per ticket every week despite the quality of the films. Just by taking a look at May’s releases and my budget, I would think to myself, “which films are the ones I can really do without seeing”, and of May’s releases it boils down to: Made of Honor, Speed Racer, What Happens in Vegas, Sex and the City, and The Strangers. (Plus, I really would prefer to watch Redbelt because you can never go wrong with David Mamet) Most of those I can ignore because they don’t target me specifically, but if I needed skip weeks (especially with Zohan and Kung Fu Panda coming out on the first week of June), Speed Racer would make an easy choice just due to it’s overwhelming cheezyness, and The Strangers looks just plain boring.

    The rest of the summer stacks up the same way as well. Two great films followed by two films I could skip, which is one reason why Hulk will probably tank as it’s on a skip week from my point of view. Although June kinda only has one skip week…. the week with Hulk.

    It’s sad to say, but a lot of times films just die having nothing to do with whether it’s worth watching or not. Most indie films are way better than the major Hollywood releases every week, but most indie films are ignored because they aren’t easily marketable or “cinematic” enough. That’s just the business, and the business of Hollywood is bloody and mean.

  31. 1. Compare a still of the Speed Racer cartoon to a still of the movie. The color palettes are absolutely, utterly different. Speed Racer, like most anime of its vintage, was restrained with color palette and used a lot of very dark linework to help make up for howl limited the animation was. It was striving to look like a manga with limited application of color.

    There is no sane way to argue in favor of the Speed Racer movie palette as being “like the cartoon”. No, it’s not like the cartoon at all– the cartoon used stark, primary color blocks and deep blacks, not glowing nuclear neons. I could perhaps buy the Speed Racer palette as being derived from modern anime, which does like brighter colors, but the glowing neons Speed Racer employs have never had much of a place in anime outside of the gloriously hyperactive sci-fi productions of the 80′s.

    2. Heidi, with all due respect, I have a hard time believing you’ve read a lot of manga at all, let alone the original Speed Racer manga. The Speed Racer manga is surprisingly stark and slow-paced, and honestly a little depressing, but offset by very delicate linework in the art. There is no precedent at all for that delicacy in the way the Speed Racer movie uses comic relief, the use of vehicles in the action scenes, or the way the plot plays out. I could buy the characterizations being the Warshowskis impression of manga writing tropes, but the film is structured rather formulaically as a big-budget kidflick, and has more in look and style in common with the Star Wars prequels than anything kids are reading in manga format now.

    Basically, I’m not trying to call your opinions wrong – they can’t be, of course – but I think you’re making some wildly off-base assumptions about the movie’s inspirations and its relationship to both anime and manga. This movie has more to do with the Warshowskis’ imaginations than anything going on with manga or anime at… really, any point in its development, and precious little to do with the Speed Racer cartoon beyond the interpretations of the characters.

    To me the movie felt like what manga and anime seem to people who know that manga and anime exist, but have never personally experienced much of it beyond Western-oriented fare like Interstella 555. This is nothing to do with the Speed Racer that Tatsunoko created, but a strange emergence of the Western collective unconsciousness, a half-remembered dream of a thing that never existed. I find it sort of troubling to use an “exotic” source as an excuse for untrammeled excess of a sort that is purely Hollywood, and has little to do with any of the many Japanese or previous American comic book interpretations of Speed Racer.

  32. Wraith says:

    Jason, that was one of the major reasons why the film didn’t work for me. Like I said in my previous post, trying to make the life action movie look like a literal real life version of the cartoon was a HUGE mistake and totally misses the point of why the original cartoon was drawn using those bright colors. I could be wrong, but I strongly believe that if the original creators of the SR cartoon were given the chance to make a live action version of the original cartoon, they would not use those over the top bright color. just check out some clips of the SPEED RACER X (which was made by the same people who made the original SR cartoon) cartoon at youtube if you don’t believe me.

  33. I gave Speed Racer Five Bullets. I had a blast when I went to see it.

    Ray

  34. The Beat says:

    Lynxara, I don’t really disagree with your comments. I have read a lot of manga and I enjoy a lot of it, but a lot of it is not aimed at me. I definitely think that SR was going for a kind of manga feeling, but it may have been one that was more attractive to execs than to kids.

    I don’t think this movie was focus grouped to death, and that, for me, is what I liked about it.

  35. Sigh… I dream of the day when a discussion like this will erupt over a comic. On a site about comics.

  36. brett says:

    I loved Superman and believe it still holds up. As a kid, I LOVED Popeye and so did most of the kids in my neighborhood. As an adult, I rewatched Popeye and got a nostalgaic kick out of it but did feel it was a bit long. Still enjoy it though.

    As for Speed Racer, I don’t know about many other people but the economy is hitting many families very, very hard. Gas is so high right now, to drive to the movies alone is becoming an added expense most people didn’t even need to consider before. That said, if its not a MUST SEE movie these days, its just more economically feasble to wait for dvd.

    I wish things were different for the economy but when a person has to scale back, entertainment is the first to go.

    For me, Iron Man was MUST SEE. Speed Racer, I’m interested but waiting for dvd just seems to be the way to go.

  37. Scott Neely says:

    I saw some of the Speed Racer X and thought it was shit. Speed’s helmet looks bad and the Mach 5 was changed a bit to much though they kept the front of it. It looks like the typical manga cartoons that are made now and they all look the same. I’ve seen better car scenes in the first Gunsmith Cats. Plus, what’s up with Racer X??? Looks like a holdover unused design of Zoltar from Battle of the Planets, or Gatchaman for the real Manga people. This is the way they should have gone with?? Yeech!

    I think Speed Racer will be huge on DVD and cable and will then build enough to maybe do a sequel much the same way a lot of movies get a second chance. At least the DVD rentals will have a cheaper price so that the whiners don’t have to bitch about paying $10.

  38. The Beat says:

    I dunno about that, Toby, just Google Brave and the Bold. ;-)

  39. Where is the love? I thought it was awesome, and I can’t say I understand alot of naysaying, especially that it’s dumbed down for kids. I believe there are elements in the film specifically for kids, but I sure enjoyed it as an adult.

    The opening narrative that changes back and forth between Speed’s childhood and his adult racing with Rex’s “ghost” car is not a dumbed down concept. Sure we all take it for granted (Lost has served us well), and it is not an uncommon story device, but with kids in the audience I actually found myself wondering at what age you even begin to understand that kind of thing, because at some point as a kid it’s just going to be interpreted linearly. (That sequence is also a great callout to racing videogames where racing ghost cars is a visual cue to help beat lap times)

    And for me, visually the movie was mindblowing. How jaded do you have to be to not enjoy that kind of eye candy? Comparisons to Tron and Blade Runner seem right to me, as well as Wizard of Oz, How to Succeed in Business, Brazil, Sleeping Beauty, Dick Tracy, Star Wars… personal tastes aside, each of those were milestone visuals in movies. Combined with the fact that I thought Speed Racer was a good movie, too, the feeling I came away with was that I’d just seen something pretty amazing.

  40. Bring Back Zot says:

    Glad you liked it Heidi. I loved it, and I’ll be going again and taking friends. The critics are just flat out WRONG, excpet for Richard Corliss in TIme Magazine. He gets it.

  41. inhumans99 says:

    Ouch…from Box Office Mojo: Iron Man 51m, What Happens In Vegas: 20m, Speed Racer: 18.5m.

    I get the feeling that the only folks who went out to see Speed Racer in theaters this past weekened are the very folks who are on-line talking about how fun Speed Racer was to watch. I think the film will look freaking gorgeous in High-Def, but jinkies, this film did not get asses in seats, and at the end of the day, critics be dammed, that is all Warner’s really cares about. So far the ROI on SR blows, but yeah, with folks like me clamoring to rent-it/buy it when it comes out on DVD, it should have a decent shelf-life.

  42. Wraith says:

    OK, I need to point something out. Just because a movie is rated PG DOES NOT make said movie a “dumb down kids movie”. I would like to remind people that movies like THE INCREDIBLES,5 of the STAR WARS movies,the first 2 SUPERMAN movies,all 3 SHREK movies,and the CHRONICLES OF NARNIA (and it’s upcoming sequel) were all rated PG and were all HUGE box office hits and were seen by people of ALL AGES.

  43. Kenny says:

    Lynxara,

    What you said! Exactly that! I’ve sent a friend a copy of your comment, with a link, of course, because you said it so well!

    I was just writing a friend of mine last night who’s also a big fan of the original Speed Racer, like myself, telling her the movie was nothing like the original manga or anime; the colors were nothing even close to the original anime’s colors; and that the whole car physics was like some execs misunderstanding of how anime fight scenes work. This movie failed artistically because it was someone’s incorrect interpretation of anime based on their Western sensibilities.

    And like I said, I went to see Speed Racer truly hoping to enjoy it. I’ve rarely seen such a painfully empty movie. It’s all bright colors and lights with absolutely nothing to grab on to. There was no drama, no intrigue, no excitement, and no point. It was just an awful movie experience and I’m still kind of upset I wasted $10 and 3 hours because I’m an optimist.

  44. At least the DVD rentals will have a cheaper price so that the whiners don’t have to bitch about paying $10.

    Tell you what, skippy; you do my job for a week, then you can tell me how to spend the money you made for me.

  45. Alan Coil says:

    Charles Skaggs said: “With ticket prices ranging from $8 to $12 depending on when and where you go, who wants to spend that kind of cash on a flick specifically designed to give you seizures and motion sickness?”

    I sometimes suffer from motion sickness, and I had no problem with it during Speed Racer.

    Just out of curiosity, how many reported seizures were there in this weekend’s showings?

  46. Alan Coil says:

    Ray Tate said: “I gave Speed Racer Five Bullets. I had a blast when I went to see it.”

    And I was shocked. Ray is notoriously known for savaging something he doesn’t like. I would have expected Ray to give it either 1 Bullet or 3 Bullets. That he loved it so much gives me hope for the future of this world. ;)

  47. Alan Coil says:

    K-Box said: “At $10 a ticket? Plan on giving me that money? If not, you might want to rephrase your suggestion.”

    and also

    “Tell you what, skippy; you do my job for a week, then you can tell me how to spend the money you made for me.”

    See the movie or don’t, but please realize it’s nothing to burst a blood vessel over.

  48. Tom Spurgeon says:

    Which character was Skippy?

  49. Just to calm things down a bit, I’m willing to spot $10 for a movie ticket to the guy who can’t afford it. I’d much rather people be able to see the movie and form their opinion as opposed to not being able to see it due to financial constraints,

  50. Unpopular says:

    “This movie failed artistically because it was someone’s incorrect interpretation of anime based on their Western sensibilities. ”

    I don’t think it failed artistically. It obviously failed your artistic sensibilities, however. Seems to me they took what they wanted from the anime and shoved it into Tron Vista. Then they put that into a blender on puree, and a movie spilled out. Unfortunately, I’m not sure whether that’s a compliment or a criticism.

    “I’m willing to spot $10 for a movie ticket to the guy who can’t afford it. I’d much rather people be able to see the movie and form their opinion as opposed to not being able to see it due to financial constraints, ”

    Then I suggest you hit the ATM and visit the nearest Rec Center or Boys andd Girls Club of America and offer to take a boatload of kids on a field trip to Speed Racer land…. even though you didn’t seem to like it, but at least you could ask them for their critical analysis afterwards.

    Keep hope alive… There’s still Dragonball yet to come!

  51. Thank you Heidi. Now I can sleep. I saw it too early and no one else I knew was willing to watch it.

    I offered a ticket refund to anyone in the studio who didn’t like it. Everyone has loved it so far.

    The reviews feel like collusion, I’m confused about the world. My reaction borders on revolt…. revolution. Usually I don’t read or care what the critics say but I want the masses to rise up and hang them for this injustice.

    or…post a comment here.

  52. My kids’ mom was in town this weekend, and she took them to the film. They’re nine and eleven, and they loved it completely, and are quite emphatic that I really missed out by not going.

    I kind of did want to see it, but with all the big summer movies my children are looking forward to, I’ll take the break where I can get it. Maybe I can get her to take ‘em to Prince Caspian as well… that one I’m not looking forward to.

  53. Charles Skagg:

    Superman: The Movie…a “well-regarded classic”?

    To me, a classic is “The Third Man” or “The Searchers” or “Lawrence of Arabia”.

    Sorry, I’m with Katherine F. on this one….

  54. Unpopular,

    Gee, thanks for taking a sincere offer and trying to paint me as an asshole with it. You have no idea what I do with local charaties, so how about you take your snark and shove it up your ass? No wonder comic fanboys get such a bad name….

    The offer still stands. If there is anyone here who can’t afford to go to the movies but wants to see Speed Racer with an open mind, hit me up and I’ll pay for your ticket. Even though I didn’t like it, it doesn’t mean someone else won’t.

  55. As an aside, Heidi said:

    “SPEED RACER captures the rhythms of manga — the sentimentality and emotional overdrive. The characters are always telling each other how they feel in no uncertain terms. It isn’t subtle, but it supplies all the narrative drive the day-glo racing needs.”

    Perhaps that’s why MANGA has captured young readers in a way comics haven’t. There’s nothing subtle about Manga … it’s all bells and whistles. Comic books could follow suit, but then they’d be criticized for being unsubtle.

    A co-worker saw SPEED and said he liked it. “It wasn’t great, but it was good.” Between that and the Tron-like screenshots that I’ve seen, I can’t bring myself to run out and see this movie.

  56. Great comparison with Popeye. Both films, Speed Racer and Popeye are extremely faithful to it’s original material From the casting to the characters the creative people involved seem to embrace their material. They respected the original source and it shows on the screen.

    Unlike most adapted comics or cartoons that have been horribly translated to live action.

    http://www.thebaboonbellows.com/?p=1810

  57. Unpopular says:

    “Unpopular,
    Gee, thanks for taking a sincere offer and trying to paint me as an asshole with it. You have no idea what I do with local charaties, so how about you take your snark and shove it up your ass? No wonder comic fanboys get such a bad name….”

    While I am often snarky, I wasn’t being snarky when I made my suggestion. I realize you were basically only offering to buy a ticket for that one guy, but I figured I could suggest a better way to spend your money. Why try to buy some random adult a ticket to a film aimed at kids when buying even one ticket for some random kid would make a much bigger difference. Adults can fend for themselves. A kid telling other kids that Speed Racer was awesome does more for the film than having another blow-hard on the internet spouting off about it. I also realize you didn’t really care for the film, so having kids going around saying they love it doesn’t really help your cause.

    At no point did I try to label you as a person of questionable character. Furthermore, I don’t see where you are getting that comic fanboys have a bad name anymore than other types of folks who often like to talk about their hobbies nor how I was contributing to said supposed viewpoint.

    Anyway, it was an honest suggestion devoid of any malice or snark. Sorry you didn’t see it that way.

  58. RichYan33 says:

    That picture of the family sitting at a table is THE first image from this movie that looks like Speed Racer to me. The rest looks like a seizure inducing nightmare. It looks like everything I hate about the last twenty minutes of every action film spread out over 2 hrs.

  59. Eddie O. says:

    Popeye succeeds on it’s own terms? Does that mean nobody but the director liked it? Even Robin Williams turned his back on that dog. What was his quote? “If you play it backwards it has an ending.”?

  60. RichYan33 says:

    Perhaps that’s why MANGA has captured young readers in a way comics haven’t. There’s nothing subtle about Manga … it’s all bells and whistles. Comic books could follow suit, but then they’d be criticized for being unsubtle.

    um…what comic books are you reading? Nothing is more bells and whistles and unstable than a Marvel Comic.

  61. I’m surprised that neither HR or Variety has used the headline ‘Crash & Burn’ yet.

    ~

    Coat

  62. Alan Coil says:

    Hows about a New Rule—if you haven’t seen the movie, you can’t trash it. You can say you think you won’t like it. You can say those types of films don’t appeal to you. You can say that you can’t afford to see it. But. You can’t trash it unless you’ve seen it.

  63. Scott Neely says:

    There are a lot of nerds still pissed at the Wachowski’s for the Matrix sequels. I think the Wachowski’s were kinda forced into the sequels by the sucess of the first one. But sequels are harder to make and still have the impact of the original without being a complete retread of the original. Such as Highlander 3 being a remake of Highlander 1 and Last Crusade being a veild remake of Raiders…if you try to break new ground the audience sometimes won’t follow you. Which is why Temple of Doom was a much better movie and took it to a different arena.

    I agree with Heidi and say that Speed Racer will be in the Bladerunner status in anouter 10-15 years and hailed as a masterpiece of design and failed because it was too far ahead of it’s time.

  64. Scott Neely says:

    There are a lot of nerds still pissed at the Wachowski’s for the Matrix sequels. I think the Wachowski’s were kinda forced into the sequels by the sucess of the first one. But sequels are harder to make and still have the impact of the original without being a complete retread of the original. Such as Highlander 3 being a remake of Highlander 1 and Last Crusade being a veiled remake of Raiders…if you try to break new ground the audience sometimes won’t follow you. Which is why Temple of Doom was a much better movie and took it to a different arena.

    I agree with Heidi and say that Speed Racer will be in the Bladerunner status in anouter 10-15 years and hailed as a masterpiece of design and failed because it was too far ahead of it’s time.

  65. Scott Neely says:

    There are a lot of nerds still pissed at the Wachowski’s for the Matrix sequels. I think the Wachowski’s were kinda forced into the sequels by the sucess of the first one. But sequels are harder to make and still have the impact of the original without being a complete retread of the original. Such as Highlander 3 being a remake of Highlander 1 and Last Crusade being a veiled remake of Raiders…if you try to break new ground the audience sometimes won’t follow you. Which is why Temple of Doom was a much better movie and took it to a different arena.

    I agree with Heidi and say that Speed Racer will be in the Bladerunner status in anouter 10-15 years and hailed as a masterpiece of design and failed because it was too far ahead of it’s time.

  66. Well, I liked it. No, I LOVED it.

    I’m dying to get hold of a Racer Industries logo patch.

    And I plan to see it again – I’m willing to bet the director’s cut (because EVERYONE gets one these days) will have a lot of great stuff in there.

    I think the bad reviews come from people who don’t understand that camp is… well, camp. They’ll be crazy about the D-Ball Z film, I figure…

    :)

  67. sleeper says:

    It got terrible reviews, looks awful, and then there’s THIS ARTICLE, which, for my money, makes the movie completely unwatchable.

    No thanks.

  68. Those animal rights people can go fuck a duck. I’m sure Chim Chim was catleprodded if he looked the wrong way in a scene. Hey, let’s take all the horses out of any future westerns that are made too. We don’t know how the are treated off set. And no more dog movies either!

  69. Those animal rights people can go fuck a duck. I’m sure Chim Chim was cattleprodded if he looked the wrong way in a scene. Hey, let’s take all the horses out of any future westerns that are made too. We don’t know how the are treated off set. And no more dog movies either!

  70. I loved it loved it loved it! Coming in late but I just saw it in IMAX last night. Of course I’m partial to bright colors, campiness, and giant floating heads. I wish more movies like this would come out…

  71. The one thing I’m wondering, is how many hours of Mario Kart the Wakowski’s have under their belts? I’ve noticed the movie getting a lot of favorable reviews from Mario Kart fans, and having been playing the latest Wii installment a ton lately, whenever I see stills from Speed Racer tracks like the one above, I can’t help but notice the possible influence. If the similarity is a coincidence, its quite an astounding one (they’re totally power-sliding all the turns!).

    I’ll definitely check out the movie once it comes to DVD, but seeing just about anything in the theater anymore is tough with the economy the way it is.

    But now I’m wondering how the movie tie-in videogame is…?

  72. Heidi, I’m so glad to see you loved it too! I have seen it three times in the theater now and it gets me every time. It has turned into a mild obsession. When I blogged about it, it was hard finding good clips to sell this movie. In small chunks it seems overwhelming, but I really had no hard time watching it at all (and I’m one of those types that gets queasy watching Cloverfield).

    Anyway, it’s too bad people already decided to hate it before watching it. They’re missing out on the best movie in theaters right now, in my opinion. :P

  73. Heidi,

    I went to see SR yesterday on your recommendation. What an amazing film! Thought it was only appropriate that I come by and thank you.

    So, thank you!

    RV

  74. narutO is the best anime since dragon ball

  75. I finally finally finally saw this movie after hating myself for failing to see it in the theaters and then buying it for cheap from one of those Amazon download deals and THEN letting it sit on my computer for months and months… but I finally saw it yesteday and – I’m with Heidi. I effing loved it. I hope this becomes a cult classic on day. Maybe they were just ahead of their time, but this movie rocked. It was smokin’ and cool and super duper fun.

    Maybe the problem is that they made it so kid friendly and so many grown-ups went to see it. It also finally made me appreciate why it was such an interesting choice by the creator of this family to put Speed in the foreground even though Racer X seems to be the true badass.

    Loved it. Will watch many times. Glorious. I just don’t think the world was ready.

Trackbacks

  1. [...] What do you guys think? Did anyone besides me, my wife, and Heidi MacDonald enjoy this movie? And what’s with all the sneery grave-dancing over the Wachowskis’ failure here? Is it just standard-issue “my suffocating personal insecurities can only be momentarily alleviated by posting snarky comments about others’ misfortune, preferably the same snarky comment five or six times because it didn’t appear immediately after I clicked the button the first time and god forbid the earth be denied my precious, indispensible brainfarts for even one single second” internet stuff? Or are people still angry about those Matrix sequels and love that these guys have finally imploded? Or- ah, I’ll shut up now. [...]

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