Saturday, December 31, 2011

Speed Racer

  This movie is a bit of a mixed bag for me.  In a movie that deals with crime bosses who try and feed people to his pirahnas, stock market cheats, someone faking their own death, the loss of a family member, coming of age, and big corporate sell-outs... things like cute little chimps, and bee-hive catapults welded as a weapon onto a race car, feel slightly out of place. It'd be one thing if the Wachowski's juggled the vastly different tones really well, but they don't. For every moment of seriousness, its either suddenly interrupted or intercut with something silly and juvenille. Does this severely detract from the enjoyment of the movie? No, not really.
You have to accept it and just push forward. Trust me. Its worth it.

  I wanna make a note of the designs. Everything from Speed's helmet, to the engines in the cars, and Racer X's outfit are wonderfully designed and more intricate than you might expect. They're sleek cool and futuristic, and look like they belong in this vibrant and colorful world brought to life.  The world these characters inhabit, seems to be pretty oversaturated.  Every color is cranked up to '10' and the whole damn thing feels at first like maybe your TV is out of whack. Not even the cartoon was THIS colorful.  However, the Wachowski's set their trippy tone very quickly, and its essentially a warning. If you can't handle all this color and oversaturation... get out now.  Its not a realistic movie at all.

  Furthermore, this cast is great. Susan Sarandon, John Goodman, Matthew Fox, Emile Hirsch, Christina Ricci, and more. Every cast member inhabit's their respective role perfectly.  Not much more can be said really.  The do their absolute best with what their given. It shows.  Even when their in ridiculous situations, or delivering hopelessly corny lines, they all play it straight, which is a very good thing.  Even the hammiest line in the movie can be met with at least a chuckle instead of a facepalm. It seems pretty aware of how corny it gets.  Its ideal audience would be one who can embrace that corniness as much as it does too.

  Fortunately for the rest of us, beyond its corny moments, is some damn impressive special effects and some pretty jaw dropping action scenes.  Each action set piece eclipes the last in a big way. The drivers use their cars as weapons pretty much. Or really, as an extention of themselves. And its a massive kung-fu fight with their cars going at insane speeds. Theres all kinds of cool little surprises in store here, and lots of mind blowing eye candy. Its in these races and action scenes where the movie excels from 'good' to 'great' and then kicks into gear 'awesome'.  All this leads up to an extremely well constructed and pretty emotional climax that gets me saying 'wow' every time.  Its impossible to not get impressed by how well this climax was handled. Its purely awesome.

  I was pleasantly surprised at how much of a heart this movie had, even more so than it's source material. There was a strong emotional core to the entire thing and all the actors brought their A-game. Speed's storyline, faithful to the show, certainly tugs at the heartstrings- and for every big action sequence, the Wachowski's set up a parallel emotional conflict to compliment it. The movie is more than your average racing flick, by far. It's a globe-trotting adventure movie with epic scope. You won't find another movie like this one anywhere else. It's visually stunning, and the races are flat-out spellbinding.

  In a day and age where complaints about CGI in movies are 90% of the entire internet, Speed Racer embraces it's effects-heavy nature with confidence and gusto in a way few movies could ever be brave enough to. Though one should expect nothing less from the Wachowskis. They're great at this sort of thing.

  All in all, Speed Racer isn't for those who can't handle a little silliness now and then.  But if you're willing to brave it for the spectacular action scenes, then be my guest. It won't disappoint.  But if you're one of the ones who absolutely love this movie, every line, every scene... then I commend you. I wish I could love it as much as you do. But unfortunately, the in-your-face silliness in some scenes is just a total turn off for me. Otherwise, Speed Racer is thoroughly enjoyable and damn fine eye candy and an amazingly faithful adaptation of the cartoon. In that regard... it's close to sheer perfection.

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