Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Speed Racer is Good

I missed Speed Racer in theaters, and I wasn't in much of a hurry to see it anyway based on the reviews I read which called it "rock candy LSD without a soul" and "bright and shiny and as directionless as the recent career of Mike Myers."

But last night, I popped in the dvd and I found myself absolutely loving the heck out of Speed Racer. It probably helped that I was watching it with my seven-year old son, and his glee was apparent. Near the climax of the movie, I turned to him and said, "I think this movie is awesome," and his response was, "this movie is SO awesome." So I recommend abducting a seven-year old when you watch this thing [note: I do not recommend abducting a seven-year old]. But "awesome" is the right word. It's like a movie from the future sent back in a time bubble for our enjoyment today.

True, the plot is overly simplistic and the stock characters are exactly what you'd expect, but who cares? It's all about the visual energy and that stuff is magnificent. This is the best-looking film of the year, without a doubt.

I'm not a huge fan of CGI in general, and I loved how relatively smoothly it was incorporated into Iron Man and The Dark Knight, but Speed Racer embraces the artifice of CGI to such an enthusiastic degree that it doesn't matter what looks fake and what doesn't. The whole thing is an imaginary world where vikings drive badass racecars and sneaky bad guys launch cobras from their car-catapults. Those are actually plot points from the movie, and if you think that stuff sounds ridiculously stupid, then you won't like Speed Racer at all. If you think they sound ridiculously glorious, especially in 8-gigawatt Technicolor, then you will have as much fun watching it as I did.

Critics who have knocked Speed Racer have compared it to a video game. Well, I can understand that feeling, because that's exactly how Clone Wars felt, but Speed Racer isn't like a video game. It's a moving digital painting, vibrant and alive and full of joy. It's not one endlessly repetitive scene after another, with blinding colors for no reason. No, there's a deeply wonderful aesthetic at play here, and while it might be ADD-addled and frenetic, it's also thrilling.



James said...

I saw it in Imax (followed by an all-night Matrix trilogy marathon - apparently I am the Wachowskis' biggest fan). Here's what sums up the greatness of Speed Racer for me... you've got all the CG in the world making things whizz and bang, and they went and used a real chimp. And he's hilarious.

ALSO: Matthew Fox should totally play Daredevil.

p0w said...

Took the wife and my 12 and 9 year olds to see it in the theater. My kids have been watching the episodes on dvd and are really into SR anyway. A Mach 5 cake for the oldest's 6th birthday etc... Anyway, we LOVED this flick and had an absolute blast. Everyone at the theater with kids really enjoyed themselves. Just bought the special edition DVD last night and watched that again. Still a lot of fun. It's the anti-DARK KNIGHT.

Dean Trippe said...

oh man, i'm glad to hear you dug it. i saw it with my kid sister and then took (read: PAID FOR) my wife and another couple to see it on the IMAX the next week. what a flipping BLAST of a movie.

"Maybe not, but it's the only thing I know how to do, and I've gotta do something."

Jeez, I can relate. I hope this does well on DVD. I was disappointed more folks didn't give it a shot in the theater. I think the early critics killed this one, and dang it, I'd have liked some sequels.

Malpractice said...

totally loved this movie when i saw it in the theaters, and was generally shocked how badly it bombed.

I am not big on CGI films because i usually find them to be pretty hollow experiences (cough*Sin City*cough) but with Speed Racer it never even occured to me that i was watching a CG movie since i bought into the world pretty quickly, and i just was excited to see what happened next. It also wasn't just completly stupid either, there was definetly some film industry/business commentary going on in there.

Hopefully Speed Racer will be one of those movies that finds a cult audience years down the line.