Speed Racer – Movie Review
Speed Racer is a cinematic cocktail of Science Fiction, Action Adventure and Fantasy…so despite the fact that neither Racing nor Cars do much for me, the movie struck a chord. Not only because I love those genres, or because the movie is a visual treat and one of the most entertaining movies I have seen in recent times, but also because it made me feel something. Not many Hollywood movies do that for me but two things in this movie get you all emotional. One is the underlying theme of filial love and family values and even more important – the passion that one needs to have for what one does…in this case Racing.
Sure, I agree with most reviewers when they say the plot isn’t worth talking about but inspite of that one is not disappointed…now how many movies can keep you glued to your seat without a credible plot and that too for two hours fifteen minutes? The focus isn’t on the plot at all. The story is simply used as a tool to showcase the beautiful colourful glitzy fantasy world of racing cars that is so alive that the cars can double up as ninja fighters and the racing tracks blaze and daze, taking you on a lunatic roller coaster ride. Half an hour into the movie I felt a little dizzy.
The movie is not all animation…all characters are real actors. It’s the background (including the cars) which is completely animated. That not just adds a fantasy like atmosphere to the movie, it makes everything believable because right from the start we are sucked into a fantasy world where anything is possible. Suspension from disbelief works at its best. We are drawn into a vortex of a world where racing cars zip through the air, performing unimaginable stunts. Everything is more than a trifle exaggerated, including the way the characters are presented. They have been photofinished to look almost like cartoon characters and even the way they behave is slightly extreme.
The story opens with our hero Speed (Emile Hirsch) as a kid in school. He has a passion for only one thing in life – racing. He fails at everything else but despite that has the complete support of this family. Speed’s dad (John Goodman) is an idealistic car designer and maker and elder brother Rex a racing car driver who Speed idolizes. Everything turns topsy turvy when a tragedy befalls Rex and a villain in the form of the head of an evil corporation (which makes racing cars) pops up and offers to “buy” Speed. After that it’s all up to our young hero. He has to do his stuff and prove that racing isn’t about money, it’s about the passion and talent for driving, and he proves it in heroic style.
I was a little surprised that the New York Times trashed this movie because usually I agree with their reviews. They didn’t like the movie because it didn’t have a credible story and was far too melodramatic. I think the movie is too melodramatic for western tastes…but at no point in the movie was I looking for any kind of realism. Heck, it’s pure fantasy taking place in a futuristic world. The directors make no pretense at realism.
The movie is a technological extravaganza (cost 120 million to make), and the unusually bright colours that literally explode in your face alongwith the clever editing and amazing stunts that never leave you with a dull moment. There’s a touch of humour too in the form of Speed’s younger brother and his pet monkey whose antics which are sprinkled liberally throughout the movie.
The movie is a remake of a Japanese cartoon (anime) series and written and directed by Andy and Larry Wachowski, the Matrix people. That itself meant something to me as The Matrix is one of my favourite movies of all time.
It’s a movie that adolescents and kids will enjoy and some adults too, if they are like me. If you want to see a movie because its realistic, then forget about it! And oh yes, this movie isn’t worth seeing on video. You need a big screen.