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Angela May 10, 2008 (edited Jul 25, 2008)

I went into Speed Racer with the lowest expectations imaginable - and I came out bursting with extreme satisfaction.  f--- the critics, this movie is AWESOME.

I grabbed these (spoiler-free) impressions from AICN forum-goer max314, as he nails almost everything I wanted to say about the film that there's nary anything left for me to do but bold the parts I agree particularly strongly about:

---

I went to an afternoon matinée showing to fit around my schedule, and while there were only a few people there, we were all laughing along and people were cheering and whooping.  And I left the cinema with a grin the size of a crescent moon plastered on my face. The Brothers seem to have delivered a real crowd-pleasing extravaganza of a film.

The racing scenes were bleeding spectacular. I mean "spectacular" in a way that has never even been imagined. Honestly, it deserves an Oscar nod just for art design. What's so ingenious about the opening sequence is that it not only sets up all the characters with entertaining and emotional efficiency, but it also establishes how the cars work in this fantasy world. So despite the races being faster than anything you're ever likely to see, the main action beats are always delivered with a clarity and a style that will keep you thrilled beyond belief. Each race is perfectly crafted with the stakes and the challenges rising further and further with each successive scene...until we reach a final showdown that leaves you utterly breathless.  And the "visual vocabulary" of the film is truly innovative. It's like the camera is no object. As an audience member, you've never felt freer. Unlike the stylistic approach of the recent 'Star Wars' prequels, which generally used locked off cameras and relatively tame tracking shots, 'Speed Racer' ducks into, under and around the action in a way that opens up the medium like no other film before it. Compared to other film in its greenscreen sub-genre, this leaves movies like 'Sin City' and '300' looking rather timid by comparison.

But at the heart of it, this is really a film about fathers and their sons. A coming of age story about hope, expectation, and the pain of loss. I found myself with a lump in my throat while watching the movie. Wait, let me rephrase. I found myself with a lump in my throat within ten minutes of the film starting. Emile Hirsch, John Goodman, Susan Sarandon, Matthew Fox and Scott Porter as the young Rex Racer all provide intimate and genuinely moving performances. Make no mistake about it, this film is the definition of joviality on celluloid. But the story is basically driven by the shadow of a lost family member from the very first scene in the film, and that's what really makes the film worth watching. As well as being immersed in a fantasy world of drop dead gorgeous visuals, of course.

In the same way that 'Sin City' was an exaggerated, impressionistic noir, and just as '300' was an exaggerated, impressionistic war movie, 'Speed Racer' plays as an exaggerated, impressionistic 1960s kid's show. Which is exactly what it is. It's campy. It's fun, And it's full of humour and heart. Of course, brooding characters and over-the-top gore is easier to sell than camp, colourful fun, but allowing oneself to become absorbed in the film's style makes for a rewarding experience. I've heard complaints about the film's exposition, but the only scene where I could perhaps understand that criticism was about half way through when Taejo's family troubles were being told. But even that zipped by very quickly and the audience still understands exactly what was at stake in the upcoming race. So if it is a flaw, it's a minor one at best.

The characters are warm and lovable, the villains are wonderfully hissable, the actors' performances are all suitably camp, and the morality tale at the centre of it - the battle of family versus corporatism - gives the story a real spirit. And makes the races all that more enthralling to watch. It's infectiously charming, and even at 129 minutes the film glides like a T-180 on ice. I was convinced I was only in there for about thirty minutes, and when it finished I was left gagging for more.

So what's the verdict? Well, it's a tricky decision between 4 and 5 stars. While the story wasn't exactly the peak of literary greatness, it was very well told. Despite its two hour plus running time, the narrative was sharp, the emotionality was touching, and the plot turns were genuinely exciting. If the film wasn't such a special effects extravaganza, it would probably have been given a 4 star rating. But the film DOES have incredible special effects. And it DOES offer an absolutely sublime spectacle. Not only that, but the Wachowskis seem to have yet again set another industry standard - one that will likely be copied and mimicked for years to come. Until the Brothers reinvent the wheel for a fourth time, that is. And as such, the rating for this film is for something that could easily end up becoming a highly influential classic.

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I definitely plan on seeing the film again, hopefully in IMAX next time.  A few more notes of interest: Lots of great nods to the show.  Spritle and Chim-Chim's antics are hilarious.  I loved the real-time intercutting of past and present events, as well as the way they handled the Racer X story thread.  The Casa Cristo race sequence is EPIC.  And the music score is, of course, incredible; it's just too bad Ali Dee and The Deekompressors' remix track "Go Speed Racer Go" - featured during the initial credit roll, preceded by Giacchino's arrangement - didn't make it onto the CD soundtrack release.  In context, it's the perfect feel-good track to leave the theater with. :) I'm just glad they made it available separately online.

Idolores May 10, 2008 (edited May 10, 2008)

Haven't seen it yet, but all the reviews I've read seem to expect the movie to be nothing less than high art with the cultural impact of the f---ing Mona Lisa, or something. This is one of those movies you have to take both in and out of context, it seems.

Thanks for the write-up, Angela. smile

Qui-Gon Joe May 10, 2008

I want to see this movie SO BADLY.  The visuals alone make me want to see just what they've done... it looks like nothing I've ever seen before.  Plus I quite like Emile Hirsch.  I'm tempted to see it in IMAX, but do you think it might be too much to follow on that big a screen?

Angela May 11, 2008

Qui-Gon Joe wrote:

I'm tempted to see it in IMAX, but do you think it might be too much to follow on that big a screen?

I wonder.   As with every movie I see in theaters, I watched Speed Racer in a stadium seating, as much to the center as I could possibly get, but high enough in the rafters so I can comfortably see the screen in its entirety.  The action in the film does get pretty ridiculous, and again, it's amazing that the beats are laid out and executed with such precision that you'll always know exactly what's going on.  But, I believe Speed Racer is a movie that best benefits an audience that has the entire screen's viewing area in check.

So with that said, yeah, I do wonder how effective the experience will translate to IMAX.  I'll let you know, lest you beat me to it. ;)

Personally, I would love to see this badboy again in digital cinema.  It just seems made for it.

James O May 13, 2008

I just got back from seeing this in IMAX and wow, this is a visual treat.  I wonder what this movie would do to someone watching who's high as a kite... haha.  I didn't really have much expectations going into it and it was a pretty satisfying movie.  I thought Emile Hirsch did a decent job and the sequence where everyone in the Racer family is pitching in heart touching but like Angela said the rally race chapter is indeed epic.  I'll definitely pick this up when it's out on blu-ray.

Angela May 18, 2008 (edited Jul 25, 2008)

Glad I'm not the only one who's enjoying Speed Racer.  I haven't had this much fun with a film since Dead Man's Chest and Enchanted. :)

I went ahead and uploaded an edited version of Ali Dee & The Deekompressors' Go Speed Racer Go; this one features the French lyric section from the Film Version (the one comprised of integrated sound bytes), but I spliced it into the regular CD single track.

Ali Dee and The Deekompressors - Go Speed Racer Go (New Edit):
http://briefcase.yahoo.com/bc/angie_liu … c.&.view=l

Angela May 26, 2008

Got to see Speed Racer in IMAX today, and it was SMOKING hot.  To answer Joe's inquiry, I had no trouble watching it at all; the visuals come through crystal clear, and it's absolutely worth the price of admission alone to experience the sound mix in the digital surround format.  I'm looking forward to seeing The Dark Knight and Half-Blood Prince in IMAX later this year.

I can't believe I'm saying this, but Speed Racer has been the best movie I've seen in 2008 so far, even beating out stiff competition like Iron Man and Indy 4.  I love that the film is just as much about the blazing spectacle as it is the emotional human core.  When you're finished cheering your heart away at the adrenaline-rockin' races, they hand it back to you, and what's left inside are overwhelming feelings of both triumph and sadness.  This time, my face was soaked from tears by the ending.  I mean it, SOAKED.  Which completely surprised me, because aside from a few choice moments in LOTR - and even then, they were just tiny leaks - I never, EVER cry in a movie.

God, this movie is great.  ^_^;

Idolores May 31, 2008

Man, I still haven't seen this. But everyone's comments have me sooo hyped. I really need to get into cinema. sad

Shoe Jun 3, 2008

Idolores wrote:

Haven't seen it yet, but all the reviews I've read seem to expect the movie to be nothing less than high art with the cultural impact of the f---ing Mona Lisa, or something.

No, not the Mona Lisa, but SOME kind of substance and/or original plotline.

i could moan and groan here about how this movie is mostly just a special-effects extravaganza and colorful lightshow, but i see i'm clearly in the minority so i won't bother.
i did like the music though, reminded me a lot of Space Channel 5.
But once again (like with Indiana Jones 4), all the high-resolution visuals and 7.1 SDDS surround-sound do not make up for such a contrived, cookie-cutter story and characters.

This movie is of the Bubble-Gum variety, good for one chew and then.. well, y'know..

Angela Sep 16, 2008

So I just did a back-to-back viewing of Speed Racer, which was released on DVD and Blu-ray today.  The DVD transfer looks excellent, but it's the Blu-ray that's a total knock-out.  Despite my initial concerns with the BR release, the image looks positively stunning; it's apparent they used as much of the BD-25's space as they could on the video.  It's still a shame they didn't go BD-50 and included lossless TrueHD for the audio, but the Dolby 5.1 score still sounds excellent for what it is.

This is probably as close as I'm going to get to that digital cinema viewing.  It's reference quality releases like this that makes me glad I got on-board the HD/Blu-ray train.

James O Sep 16, 2008

Damn, I forgot to pick this up today, I was too busy at work.  I'll be sure to pick it up tomorrow.  Everyone at work criticizes me for actually liking this movie.  hmm  It'll look great on my Bravia TV.

Angela Sep 17, 2008 (edited Sep 17, 2008)

McCall wrote:
James O wrote:

Everyone *snip* criticizes me for actually liking this movie.  :/

That's us. Loved it! I didn't know it was out! :D

That's because "everyone" are butt-munches. 

That said, we're not totally alone.  These guys are my personal heroes for the month:

http://www.thedigitalbits.com/reviews3/ … 8.html#spe
http://www.thedigitalbits.com/reviewshd … e.html#spe
http://www.blu-ray.com/movies/movies.ph … how=review
http://www.collider.com/dvd/reviews/art … 123/tcid/3

As for your point about the plot, I gotta disagree.  Yes, quite a few crazy stuff happens along the way, but it's still a strong-hearted story at its core - and it's told extremely well.  For me, it was just as much about the story as it was the visuals - and that, in my book, is what makes the movie so special.

Idolores Sep 17, 2008

Movie looks great, and the theme's been playing over and over in my mp3 thing. Really wanna see it. big_smile

Angela Sep 17, 2008

Idolores wrote:

Movie looks great, and the theme's been playing over and over in my mp3 thing. Really wanna see it. :D

Do, as I'm dying to know what your opinion is.  You too, Wanderer. ;)

I've uploaded the film's version of the end credits, which includes a couple more integrated sound bite samples from the original show - plus an awesome tire screech before the French lyric section kicks in. ;)

Speed Racer - End Credits (2008)
http://www.mediafire.com/?sharekey=8380 … bfa4109862

Idolores Sep 17, 2008

Okay, wow. John Goodman's in here? Last good flick I saw him in was The Big Lebowski.

allyourbaseare Sep 17, 2008

Idolores wrote:

Okay, wow. John Goodman's in here? Last good flick I saw him in was The Big Lebowski.

Ah, but you forget "O Brother Where Art Thou?"

Idolores Sep 17, 2008

allyourbaseare wrote:
Idolores wrote:

Okay, wow. John Goodman's in here? Last good flick I saw him in was The Big Lebowski.

Ah, but you forget "O Brother Where Art Thou?"

No, sir. I never watched that one.

Wanderer Sep 17, 2008

Do, as I'm dying to know what your opinion is.  You too, Wanderer. wink

Alright, I've added it to the top of my Netflix queue. My time will come! tongue

Qui-Gon Joe Sep 17, 2008

Idolores wrote:

Okay, wow. John Goodman's in here? Last good flick I saw him in was The Big Lebowski.

The last time I saw him was on Inside the Actor's Studio and he looked about 30 seconds from death.  When you can't even sit and have a conversation without gasping for breath, it's worrying... :\

Angela Sep 18, 2008

Whatever the case, Goodman as Pops Racer was an awesome choice.  As Harry Knowles put it in his review:

".... but everyone in the entire film is overshadowed by the great John Goodman as Pops Racer. He booms – and when he fights – he’s a God. A flat out God. Forget NEO or MORPHEUS or TRINITY… POPS RACER is the Action God of the Wachowskis."

What about you, Joe?  I quote: "I want to see this movie SO BADLY."  Did you ever see it?

Qui-Gon Joe Sep 18, 2008

Angela wrote:

What about you, Joe?  I quote: "I want to see this movie SO BADLY."  Did you ever see it?

No, sadly I never managed to see it in the theater.  I'm hoping to find some way of watching it on a Blu Ray instead of watching it on a regular TV to get SOME of the eye-popping effects, though.

Idolores Sep 25, 2008

My word, it's like G Gundam raped Initial D and gave birth to this movie. Seeing John Goodman beat the hell out of a ninja is just about the greatest thing I've seen. Like, ever.

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