Speed Racer: Go Wachowskis, Go!

I just watched Speed Racer.

Okay, when I saw my first trailer for this movie, about a gazillion years ago, I thought “Holy fuck, that looks amazing. I can’t wait!” Cool effects, some nice stylized stuff, looked like overall beautiful production design.

Then, I saw commercials on TV. Suddenly there’s a fat kid and a monkey. Suddenly it looks like an unbearably stupid kids movie. Screw you, Matrix guys, I think. I’m not seeing that crap.

And that’s pretty much my last thought about it until Sam reminded me of it a few days ago.

And holy! Freakin’! Dang!
Because (leaving out the fat kid and the monkey) this is a freakin’ terrific movie.
It’s too bad the ad campaign killed it dead, because this would have been just glorious to see in a theatre. The visual effects, the lighting, the stylization, and the goddamned movement of the cars were all so beautiful I can’t believe I didn’t get to see it huge. I think I would’ve cried. The light trails in the ice caves! The hand-to-hand combat in the snow! The sand billowing behind the cars! The lighting in the ninja fight! The beautiful bit in the last race where the background billows like exhaust clouds, oh my god, and the part right at the end where Speed pulls in to the red checkered finish! It was like the absolute best of animated shows and comic books crossed with the most beautiful live action production; it was so fucking appropriate and sensitively handled. It blew my mind. If any movie was going to change filmmaking, this one is ‘way more worthy than The Matrix.

Yeah, yeah, you can yell at me about that assertion over email.

Oh fuck, the editing was sooooo good. The argument between Trixie and Speed while they’re racing the Casa Christo is so beautifully edited; you’re never out of the action, and still the argument is perfectly paced, and it heightens the tension by giving you a break from the main business. It’s so note-perfect.  And the use of overlaid screens – like in animation – where you’re watching essentially two scenes at once, passing by each other.  It’s hard to show the real beauty of this movie with stills, as so much of it is about motion – camera movement, movement in editing, animated movement.  Even the incidental stuff is beautifully designed, and the use of colour is lovely.

Issues: They threw my feminist critic brain a bone and had a few chicks racing cars and being something other than a helpless dishrag, but it barely passes muster – whatever the original story was like, you can’t really get away without a protagonist chick in a movie like this anymore (see the new Bond films). Christina Ricci (who should still maybe eat a sandwich) is great, but I could’ve used more from her. When she finally grows a pair about halfway through the movie, I had started really rolling my eyes about the lack of women. In the snow fight scene, she and Horuko are pretty awesome.  Well, everything in that scene is pretty awesome.  Except the kid and the monkey

Similarly, the Asian characters are duplicitous (okay, not Horuko, but I really liked Taejo and wanted him to be a good guy), which felt jerky, the evil guy is German (which seemed silly – Germans?! Not threatening. Nice Commodore 64 reference, though), and there are others that are less important to the plot. It’s honestly ‘way too bigoted for a film released in 2008. For me, anyway. The stereotypes aren’t amusing, add nothing to the plot, and are essentially meaningless except for being mean-spirited and for me, the only place the production design/script feels lazy and phoned-in.

And I can’t, though I wish I could, purge from my memory the lame lameness of that stupid kid and the stupid monkey. I know that they were trying to make a family movie (kiss of goddamn death, blech), but it didn’t work, and if you edit out all those scenes you have a fucking amazing movie, for kids or adults. If, like me, you can ignore even such crappy lameness as Tom Cruise in The Last Samurai, you may be able to work around the stupidity, but if not, it might seriously impair your enjoyment.

But try – try to ignore that crap, and watch those unbelievable race scenes, and if you’re anything like me you’ll have that familiar sense of wonder that you had the first time you watched the Light Cycle sequences in Tron (Fun/What?! Fact:  Sam has never seen Tron.  I know. How is that possible?!). Yessir; you can yell at me about that over email too. I don’t care. Tears welled up in my eyes at one point. Over an effect. It was awesome.

Um, plot? Yeah, there is one, and it’s serviceable. Y’know. There’s villains and love and piranhas, and it does the trick. Since the trick is to deliver awesome and mind-blowingly beautiful visuals, editing and effects.

So, in answer to the oft-asked question “Does Candace like anything?” the answer is “Yes. I like Speed Racer.”
And also
Tron.
And anyone who doesn’t is a total neener-head.

It’s a hard one to rate; I give the kid with the monkey 10 forks, and the rest of the movie 2 forks (those forks are for relying on outmoded stereotypes for weak sight gags that add nothing to an otherwise gorgeous movie).
Rent it and watch it on the biggest screen you can find.  Now!

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