Wow. There’s no other film quite like Speed Racer. It’s safe to say that the Wachowskis have pushed the boundaries of big budget filmmaking once more… But it’s just a pity that the overall experience is inconsistent and overlong.
The visuals really are stunning. It probably won’t be for everyone, but at the very least one can appreciate how far they have moved from the ever-so-black Matrix trilogy. Speed Racer is garish in the extreme, but the vivid colour palette manages to work. Being a predominantly greenscreen film, it’s kind of like someone splashed Sin City with more than just one colour at a time. The racing scenes are actually pretty good – this isn’t full of Matrix bullet time, nor is it the handheld, visceral style so popular at the moment. It’s something else entirely. The camera stays with the cars, as the impossible tracks wind and curve behind them. By the time we get to the (admittedly powerful) climax, Speed Racer has hit psychedelic and come out the other side.
It is, however, kind of long. Waaay too long. They don’t even have an excuse – this isn’t one of the score of films being made based on fantasy epics. It simply does not need to be two hours and fifteen minutes. The acting is actually pretty affecting, even if the sets and costumes look corny as anything. Emile Hirsch, Matthew Fox and Scott Porter manage to be convincing behind the wheel – no mean feat considering the way these scenes were made. Christina Ricci is woefully under-utilised, and John Goodman is at the top of his game in a particularly uninteresting role.
The story is nothing special. It’s a case of greedy corporations and evil millionaires squabbling over the ownership of the racers, who of course just want to do what they do best (for the good of humanity, or something…). At least The Matrix had a decent story amongst all the overblown pretension. Speed Racer has a fairly dull kids’ movie narrative at heart, though I wonder if many kids would be able to survive the running time.
Oh, and it has an annoying little kid and his pet monkey. Sigh. All the same, film buffs may appreciate the jaw dropping explosions of colour for the cinematic genius that they are. Plus there are a couple of awesome fights scenes, complete with go lines and comedic sound effects.Rating: