Friday, May 9, 2008

Speed Racer (5.9.2008)

Director: The Wachowski Bros.
Emile Hirsch, John Goodman, Matthew Fox
Roger Allam, Susan Sarandon, Christina Ricci, Paulie Lit
Watch for: Benno Furman
Editor(s): Roger Barton, Zach Staenburg
Would I buy it: Discount Bin.

I just saw on that there is in fact such a thing as "Speed Racer: The IMAX Experience". I didn't really think about it before, but now that I have seen both this and the film as of tonight, I have to say... someone will die watching this movie.

Speed Racer is kind of like that really long song you like, but only for the chorus, because the parts in between are just too convoluted.

I definitely felt the Wachowski's hand in this, and I mean that in both good and bad ways.
Let's start with the fun stuff first:

The action:
They really outdid themselves here. Yes, just about everything but the people seemed to be CGI for many of these scenes. Regardless of whether or not the cars were done in a computer, coming up with some of this stuff takes a mind of action. This is why I went. I wanted to see how this unique, live-action Anime presentation would translate. The races are dizzying at best. I had to take some time to orient myself to the primary colors of the cars so I could keep track of who was who.
I still said "Wow" or reacted in other surprised ways during it, so definitely, the action was cool.
I'm trying to decide if Speed 'racing his brother's ghost' was just something for us, the audience, to see, or if the racetrack was projecting a hologram of his brother's car onto the track for their audience. Regardless, that was sweet.
Very video game of them.

The story:
Considering how fast this film felt overall, there were moments of drag resistance during some of the early scenes. The film opens strong, simultaneously showing a big win for Speed whilst splicing back to not just Speed's flashbacks, but also Pop and Mom's memories of these events as well.
Then, after all that, the film slows down. It starts with a silly scene with Spritle and Chim Chim watching/living out an old cartoon, then Royalton shows up, and how you hate him from the very first scene, and not even because he's mean. He's too freakin' nice. He gets mean later.
Anyway, we see his scenes and then some bits with Speed trying to decide if he's going to join up or not, then when he shows up to refuse, the Wachowskis took over.
Royalton telling Speed about 'the dark side' of racing essentially is the same thing as the Architect telling Neo that he's not living in the first Zion. The only problem we face here is that this revelation comes way too early in the movie. For a payoff such as this to work, you have to first establish that it isn't this way in the common belief. Speed's very upset by it, but I was just sitting there (trying to keep my head on pace w/ so much information so fast) thinking "Wait, didn't we know this?"

So there goes that twist.
Then there's the second revelation: Who is Racer X?
This one I'm very upset about. It was very obvious early on that Racer X = Rex. As soon as Speed starts talking about the coincidences, I started thinking "Oh, maybe they'll go for the original road and it won't be him". However, before the 'big action closer', we find out it's not.
Which, essentially means that it is simply because there's room in the story for one last spin. I swear, the cars spun less than this storyline.
Anyway. So he is his brother. And as soon as he says it, I'm thinking "facial reconstructive surgery. No, don't go there". But they did. That's exactly how they did it.

I mean, this is the best they could do? A double-reversal with a cheap cop-out? I've even used the surgery thing, but then I decided that script sucked and I rewrote it to turn it into something practical. Sheesh.
What they should've done is drop about 10 minutes out of the film, stop having Speed and X leave so many obvious clues about it, and then just have the one big surprise at the end. That's all it needed. Tricking and re-tricking just beats the horse to death.

Too much story way too fast.
Beyond the big revelations and fancy character-wipes, the story is a little simple, but I honestly think people will have a hard time following it due to the complexity of everything else. It allows for lengthy wonderful action scenes in the second half, but you can't just cram a whole movie's worth of exposition into the first half after an opening that is already playing two scenes at once.
My girlfriend kept asking me what was going on during that, she was incredibly lost.

I suppose this is what the remarkably old-fashioned humor surrounding Spritle and Chim-Chim was for. Admittedly, I laughed at some of it... but I'd say their purpose was to water down the intensity.

The movie was racing itself.
Lucky for me, I didn't at all feel dizzy watching it. I hadn't even had much to eat, and I was doing okay throughout it nausea-wise.
What finally gave me a little headache was sitting through the credits. And I mean the second half, not the flashy first half. There was a gaussian-blurred race taking place in the lettering that made the whole thing difficult to read, let alone look at.
Ugh, whose idea was that?

I don't know who came up with the visual style for this film, but that's what made it for me. I enjoyed looking at it immensely. As someone I know who recently commented on the Wachowski's earlier work said
No, the problem was, is, and will always be the scripts."
He was talking about the Matrix sequels, but I believe that applies here also. I liked the first scene, with the two scenes playing at once. Even when they did it later with Speed losing a race while Royalton tells him this is exactly what will happen was okay, but somewhere in-between that, I was just having trouble focusing on everything they were trying to make me understand so quickly.

***I know I said I was going to be doing all the Marvel films first, but I just saw it and had to get it out while it was still fresh in mind. I'll still be doing Daredevil next, and Netflix says Blade should arrive tomorrow.


Adam said...

- I interpreted the hologram as something Speed's car projected for his eyes. Only based on the emotional circumstances, not on the facts of the film, necessarily (who can tell?)

- Racer X: No, what they should have done is kept all the clues and coincidences and stuff, but _not_ had him be the brother.
Anyone who has ever seen a movie in their lives could figure out without Speed telling us that X was his brother (fact: brother is dead, fact: otherwise unaccounted-for character shows up wearing a mask). When the film made a big show of Speed raising the questions, and then Racer WASN'T his brother, it paid off wonderfully. And then, like you, I started worrying about facial reconstructive surgery, and then, well.

Iman said...

Heh. When I saw it, I saw it in IMAX. And let me tell you, the credits are even more intense than you could imagine. ;-)

I also liked the sliding-multiple-storyline sequences; the Wachowskis were trying out a different way of storytelling, and I think it worked. It was non-traditional (which is why it may have been harder for some people to wrap their heads around), but that's what made it revolutionary.