By: The Dweeb
The first ‘major’ film release from the summer season of 2008 has made its way onto DVD, quite quickly I might add. True this film is considered a flop for the studio, disappointing when you consider the subject matter has a built in fan base and its been written and directed by none other than the mysterious Wachowski brothers of Matrix fame. I came into this expecting something terrible, and in reality it is not a bad movie per se, actually some of it is fairly entertaining but it does suffer from a few problems which is why this may have soured on audiences. This is certainly a groundbreaking movie in terms of visual effects and overall styling, but even those cannot overcome problems with a fairly weak storyline and some other items I found irritating, more on that in a minute.
I do have to say though, this is one vibrantly colored movie, the visuals are just stunning to watch by themselves and will be one hell of a visual on a large screen TV, especially in hi def. Of course, the action sequences with the race cars are fantastic, I would expect nothing less. After a few of those, its time to break out the Dramamine. Now for the record I must state that I am only slightly familiar with the original cartoon series, and in true Hollywood fashion I’m guessing only the main elements remain from that series. Here’s the main problem, they did not cater to the audience who have no idea who the original Speed Racer is, and we are pretty much thrown right in expected to know what the heck is going on.
Sure its a simple enough story, but the first act is a bit disorienting as I’m trying to figure out who these people are and the story is just wizzing by on us, literally. The plot grows more complex as the cast itself also seemingly seems to grow as the film moves on. Soon, I am confused as to who is working for who, why and what was just said? The rapid fire editing and transitioning get to be a bit much. I feel like I’m playing Mario Kart all of a sudden but I can’t stop the race! It is a compelling enough plot I suppose, but I just don’t understand why they had to bring in this element of anti corporatism into it. Was this a part of the original series? See the irony as well in this? The Wachowski are taking on the industrial titans, yet the film falls under the corporate umbrella of a megacorporation formerly called AOL-Time-Warner.
My other main complaint is the portrayal of the cast itself. It just didn’t seem like they were bringing it all to the table, which may be due in part with a poor dialogue in the script. They do an adequate job I suppose, but with talent like Susan Sarandon, Emile Hirsch, Christina Ricci and John Goodman I would have expected better. Still, could this be any more wooden and two dimensional? A character appears on screen, says whatever is necessary and then promptly disappears. I only wish Spritle (Paulie Litt) and Chim Chim could have done the same. Holy mother of pearl those two were the most irritating things since nails on a chalkboard. Granted, this is how they are on the cartoon, but does it really have to manifest like this in the ‘real’ world? Anytime we see these two, they turn the somewhat serious action film into a comedic disaster. Funny monkey movies went out in the 70’s did they not?
As I stated above, the film is visually a stunner. Vibrant bright colors, computer animation and unique ways to incorporate the green screen style of filmmaking make for a one of a kind movie. Once again, the techniques like in The Matrix are groundbreaking and will be copied ad nauseam for the next ten years. But, this film does look fantastic on screen I will give it that. The DVD package for this film is actually rather lacking in extra features. There are really only two extra features, an annoying on set tour with Paulie Litt and an odd little piece explaining all the race cars in the movie. Somebody really needs to punch that kid, get over yourself! At least they include a digital copy of the movie so it can be taken on the road if you so desire.