I was actually looking forward to this movie long before any reviews came in. I never seen the show, was never a fan, but I was interested in the aesthetic because it reminded me of MarioKart brought to the big screen, and it reminded me of the poppy futuristic color palette I saw in Tokyo. It looked new and different. I'd be down to support something like that.
Then the reviews came in. 36% in rotten tomatoes! It seemed a unanimous agreement: if you see this movie, you'll walk out with bleeding eyeballs. Zero out of four stars. Go Speed Racer go, as far, far away as possible! *GAG*
Okay, so I wasn't going to watch it. Then, Kazu was kind of interested in seeing it, and Phil. Kazu mentioned Brian Lee O'Maley really digging it. Still, he had to drag me kicking and screaming to see this fireworks display.
So I watched it. And LOVED it! This movie is, in all seriousness, a true work of art. I saw it for a second time just last night, and I'm making plans to see it a third time this Tuesday with Chris, Shadi, Reagan, and Annie. What started as a pleasant surprise, has transformed into a mild obsession. I haven't seen a movie where it felt like the filmmakers were trying to truly express something very personal to them in years. What a breath of fresh air this film was for me!
In a nutshell, the story is about the corrupting power of money, the struggle to remain pure to your art, and that the people who believe in you will always be there in your heart, especially when it matters most. It is, in my opinion, the best film in theaters right now, and deplorably underrated.
One of the best things about this movie is the character relationships (something that, for some reason, isn't touched in the trailers). There is a huge theme of the power of brotherhood, something the Wachowski brothers must know a thing or two about, and the love of family. It is genuinely expressed, without cynicism or doubt of their emotional truth. The clip below is short, but right after it is an amazing sequence that clearly defines all the characters, their backstories, how they relate to one another, and how a family tragedy binds them together in a struggle to overcome the fears that have resulted from it. The best part? It all comes together in the end to deliver a great emotional punch. The storytelling in Speed Racer is complex, layered, remarkably easy to understand, and deceptively cartoonish in its delivery.
It is the movie's cartoonishness that seems to be blocking viewers and critics alike from accepting it. The colors pop like a video game, the characters wear their hearts on their sleeves like they do in most anime, and the action reflects the character's emotions while the announcers describe to us what they just saw, just like in an anime. It is a live action cartoon. But just like in cartoons and comics, the movie is able to deliver on some really complex ideas with exagerrated, simplistic characters.
My advice... if you're an artist or believe in the transformative power of art (replace the word "racing" with the word "art") don't believe the critics. See it in theaters while it's still on the big screen, go in with an open mind. It'll take a leap of the imagination to get there, but once you do, you won't want to leave. And as cartoonists, isn't that all we ask of all our readers, as well?
Script written and directed by the Wachowski brothers (of Matrix fame). Excellent soundtrack by Michael Giacchino (of Ratatouille/Incredibles fame).
First seven minutes:
Music video (just look at those actor's juicy facial expressions! They're so into it!):