Friday, May 09, 2008

Speed Racer (Review)

Here he comes, here comes Speed Racer. He’s a demon on wheels.

The all to familiar lines reinterpreted 5 or so times during this film and running during the closing credits had a dozen or so hipster kids dancing in the IMAX isles and singing along as their nostalgia trip was aided by a little Wachowski LSD. Of course like most trips you start out with awe and anticipation and close with rapture as the destination finally comes into view 2.25 hrs later but there sure are some stretches in the middle when you’re about to fall asleep.

But let’s gush for just a bit. I spent the first 20 minutes of this film totally slack-jawed by the candy colored eye feast that sat before me. A solitary Speed sits in the locker room then cut to the track and real life in cartoon motion begins. The film flits between several differing timepoints in an ADD firestorm of editing techniques that would leave Michael Bay speechless. Collage, CG, 2-D, rotoscoping, wipes, slo-mo, ect. The Wachowski’s throw a kitchen sink of fun at you in all colors of the rainbow. Oh and the sound, much like a race track wipes from side to side along with the edits. Finally things settle down and we start to follow a single plot line. Unfortunately this is where the film get’s mired in its own story. The whole thing deflates to the kind of long windedness that had so many pissed at the Matrix sequels and it lasts for a good hour until we finally se a second race. For some reason the Ws like their baddie’s talkative which kinda kills their menacing powers. Roger Allam hams it up the way the villain in a summertime kid’s flick should but they have him saying too much and the main crux of the story he tells Speed which partially motivates him the rest of the film rings hollow especially as it feels like it is not justifiably paid off with comeuppance for all involved. I think the film would’ve moved along much better if this thread was totally abandoned. To add some action in this wasteland they dream up an imaginary fight that Spritle and Chim-Chim have with a couple villains on TV which really feels out of place but does show their effort in bringing Manga style animation to an unanimated feature. One of the most interesting things is how they incorporate Manga backgrounds and video game concepts. At one point while Speed is flying through a track he is remembering a record his brother previously set – they show this via a shadow car that can be seen in many racing games that shows where you are in comparison to a previous time and it’s a fantastic lift.

(Watch the first 7 minutes of the film)

Of course you gotta have a big finale – and we get 2!!! There is a penultimate multi-day rally race with a big ninja fight in the middle that really gets things going again and then the final race begins. Just when you don’t think there are any visual tricks left that could impress you Speed flies down the track at colors mix, characters collage and action blends into an orgasmic explosion that just has to be seen… then Speed drinks milk.

For their part the cast is decent in their intentionally over the top roles. Sarandon is completely wasted and Hirsch starts off pretty good but eventually falls as I feared he would in to uber-earnest territory which mirrors the tone of the film which starts out a family flick but then has some cursing (actual and bleeped) in the last 30 minutes or so which slightly hit the wrong note. Despite that dragging middle and unevenness of the whole thing this is really something that has to be seen on the big screen – preferably the biggest one available… IMAX!


1 comment:

Jim said...

Good stuff!