Thursday, September 18, 2008

Speed Racer

My roommate on the base used to come off her night shift at 7 o’clock in the morning, walk in briskly to the shared lounge, turn on the T.V. while simultaneously tossing her jacket to any nearby couch, plop down and start watching Speed Racer cartoons. Every single morning.

I never watched them with her, never understood the allure, because I had to get to my day job. But I did find myself wondering why Speed Racer looked more Caucasian and less Japanese, and why he wore that “M” on his helmet when his initials were “SR?”

The character was originally known as Mach GoGoGo, and the English adaptation was “Speed Racer” and his image Anglicized for western audiences. As Wikipedia tells us, “The series is an early example of an anime becoming a successful franchise in the United States.”

The movie is a day-glo telling of a story where business tries to take over the sport of racing. The sets, especially the racetracks, are gorgeously painted, and the constant motion of subjects within the frame gives the movie movement where the plot does not. So, what you have in Speed Racer is style over substance. And while the style is cool, it doesn’t sustain interest without a good story.

There are some good lines by the villain, Roger Allam, an English actor I’ve never seen before. “That’s what racing is about. It has nothing to do with cars or drivers. All that matters is power. And the unassailable might of money.” This little speech told to Speed in the corporate bosom reminds one of Gordon Gekko from "Wall Street," where greed is good and you’d better get out of the way. We are very intimidated.

Perhaps in order to make up for the lack of story, there are a lot of colorful (literally) characters thrown at you, usually in stupid subplots that don’t go anywhere, and cool stunt cars that defy the borders of reality and animation. They’re all beautifully created red herrings, and don’t add to the story at all.

I expected more from a cast that boasts Emile Hirsch (right after a stunning portrayal in “Into the Wild”), Susan Sarandon, Cristina Ricci. Ricci, I fear, is watching her career go down the animated drain in this one. And the Wachowski Brothers…my God. They’ve done nothing worthy of the fanboy’s attention since The Matrix.

I don’t know where my friend from the Navy base is right now, but I can imagine she’s shaking her head at Speed Racer, mumbling something about, “Boy, it sure isn’t the same.”

Thumb’s down.

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At 1:58 PM, Blogger Brandon Burnett said...

I would leave rumor to guide my thumb as to the fact how movies made from anime are usually never really good due to the lack of length within the "mirrored" storyline of the anime itself and the fact how the crucial information spots are replaced with amazing special effects that steal the glory from the anime it was based off of. I would say the trailer and the teaser wouldnt be enough to convince me to watch it. But on a positive note: I did watch the anime and I enjoy the design of the scenery and the construction of the props; such as the Mach 5 vehicle that "speed" drives. From what I have seen so far, I noticed that the characters have all made an appearance and thier attitudes have mirrored thier anime look-alikes (which is also a good compliment to the design department). But till I grow the patience to watch the movie (which didnt look all that good), I will guide this also with a thumbs down for its lack of anime comparasons and its arena race scenes (boring in appearance).


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