Thanks for checking out our Speed Racer review. I must admit that I never understood some people’s fascination with Speed Racer when it was first announced that they were going to be making a film version. Quite frankly I was confused how anyone thought that there would be enough interest in the franchise to justify the type of massive budget they were talking about giving it. Even after they announced that Matrix helmers the Wachowski brothers were going to be at the wheel (pardon the pun), i still didn’t see how even making a Speed Racer movie was a good idea.
Off I went the other day to check it out. Was it worth the hype and massive investment? In a word, NO.
THE GENERAL IDEA
The synopsis (if you can call it that) of Speed Racer looks like this: “Hurtling down the track, careening around, over and through the competition, Speed Racer is a natural behind the wheel. Born to race cars, Speed is aggressive, instinctive and, most of all, fearless. His only real competition is the memory of the brother he idolized-the legendary Rex Racer - whose death in a race has left behind a legacy that Speed is driven to fulfill. Speed is loyal to the family racing business, led by his father, Pops Racer, the designer of Speed’s thundering Mach 5. When Speed turns down a lucrative and tempting offer from Royalton Industries, he not only infuriates the company’s maniacal owner but uncovers a terrible secret-some of the biggest races are being fixed by a handful of ruthless moguls who manipulate the top drivers to boost profits. If Speed won’t drive for Royalton, Royalton will see to it that the Mach 5 never crosses another finish line. The only way for Speed to save his family’s business and the sport he loves is to beat Royalton at his own game. With the support of his family and his loyal girlfriend, Trixie, Speed teams with his one-time rival-the mysterious Racer X - to win the race that had taken his brother’s life: the death-defying, cross-country rally known as The Crucible.”
The visual style of the film is a two edged sword (I’ll get to the second side of that sword in the “The Bad” section of the review). As visual art, the film is breath taking to look at. The artists behind this film did nothing short of a fantastic job. The look was consistent and near perfect throughout the entire film. The amount of VFX magic it took to pull this film off is staggering.
The final race of the movie was absolutely thrilling to watch. I found myself on the edge of my seat as Speed Racer blasted around the track in the climax of the movie. For a film that advertised itself as an action / exciting type of film, it was a great way to end it.
Sadly, the good stuff ends there.
Dear sweet heavens the acting in this film was horrible. Yes yes yes, I understand that the film wasn’t supposed to be Shakespearian in nature and was supposed to be acted in a certain, lighthearted, half tongue in cheek way… but even on that level it failed. It’s not an easy job to act without an environment, to be in front of nothing but some set pieces and a green screen (even the decent actors in the Star Wars sequels ended up struggling with that), but that doesn’t change the fact that it came off terrible.
I mentioned above that the visual style of the film was a two edged sword. On the one hand it was done perfectly, HOWEVER… the choice of style they chose to use was the wrong choice in my opinion. The entire time I felt like I was watching a video game cut scene instead of a movie. And please don’t say “but that’s what they were TRYING to do”. Yes, I understand that’s what they were trying to do… my point is that they were trying the wrong thing because it didn’t work. At least not for me.
The story of the film was so wafer thin that wasn’t any refuge to be found in it. **SPOILER** If you didn’t know that Racer X was actually Speed Racer’s supposedly dead brother almost immediately, then you’ve never watch a movie before **END OF SPOILER** The characters are all completely 1 dimensional (either totally 100% pure as snow or 100% pure evil) with nothing driving the story at any point.
The humor in the film was terrible. Not once did it ever make me even momentarily grin in amusement. It all fell flat. And dear heavens don’t get me started on the monkey.
Speed Racer is a film that got a lot of people very hopeful, but ultimately ends up running on completely flat tires. Wrong choice for visual style, poor acting from an otherwise impressive cast, weak story, poor humor and a lack of thrills up until the final race of the movie all leaves you wishing you went to see Iron Man again instead of wasting your money on this one. Overall I give Speed Racer a 3.5 out of 10