Speed Racer

Posted by DiGiKerot in Random Stuff at May 10, 2008 on 12:19 am

The Wachowski Brothers movie adaptation of Speed Racer opened in the UK and US today, and as such I ventured down to the cinema to check it out. Of course, with the original series being pretty much unknown over here (I don’t think it’s ever even aired over here, though the terrible New Adventures of Speed Racer did for a while), and most of the reviews being fairly dire (one UK radio critic said it was basically a big-budget version of Lazy Town), I was one of the few who did – there were fewer than ten people in the screening I attended, which is pretty dreadful for a movie on it’s opening night. I guess most people are still filing in to see Iron Man, and with Indy hitting in a couple of weeks I can’t imagine many people over here seeing this.

I’m not sure if this is a shame, or if it’s just as well. I thoroughly expect that the vast majority of people who see this movie will really, really hate it. Screw them, though – I loved this crazy flick.

That’s not to say it’s particularly a good movie, at least not if you are looking for something with any kind of depth – there’s pretty much nothing in the way of a story. There’s more ham involved in this movie than you’d be able to exact from a small nations worth of pigs as well, and despite being intentional it’ll probably grate on at least half the audience. It’s really going to come down to the visuals as to whether you’d like this movie or not, ultimately, because it’s very, very odd. I’ve compared the trailers to Hideaki Annos live-action Cutie Honey before, which is pretty fair given that they pull off a lot of the same kind of weird visual techniques here – and then some.

Really, they have just tried to make an anime feature with actual people in place of the characters. The CG stands out about as much as much as it does in most of the CG heavy anime shows, but it’s so obvious, stylised and plasticy it can’t be anything but an intentional choice. What’s really funny, though, is the use of the kind of 2D effects used in anime – cut and pasted crowd scenes, static background characters and cut-outs of people and buildings are slid and zoomed around the screen. There’s even a few places where they’ve used what appear to be matte paintings for the backgrounds. Combined with the bright and over-saturated colours, it’s all rather, well, bonkers. Brilliant, but bonkers.

If you can stomach the visual mix, then the movie really is a whole lot of fun – fun enough that I’ll probably try and catch it again whilst it’s still in theatres, anyway. Even the comedy monkey manages not to be intensely annoying, which really has to go down as a major achievement.

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