Monday 26 May 2008

Review: Speed Racer

Year: 2008
Director: The Wachowski Brothers
Screenplay: The Wachowski Brothers
Starring: Emile Hirsch, Christina Ricci, John Goodman, Susan Sarandon, Matthew Fox

If Micheal Bay ate nothing but sugar coated cartridges of Super Mario Kart (SNES) while watching Anime non-stop for five years, this is what would be puked up. Dazzling yet ridiculous, Stunning but stupid. Speed Racer is a beautiful mess, constantly innovate and yet surprisingly derivative. The Wachowski brothers have created something that has taken digital film making to the extreme but at a loss of good storytelling which in turn takes away much of the thrill of the movie.

The basic tone of the movie is inconsistent and the story unimportant and stale. Pretty colours are fine but at certain times the movie makes a shift that would feel more at home in a 12a movie as opposed to squeezing it into a movie such as this one for the sake of it.

To add to this as this movie tries to make out it's a family film but it's lack of a strong lead character and odd moral scope make the film stand out unattractively. Every Harry Potter (a series of movies I dislike) try to help encourage children more than this film can. Potter is a dull lead character but his story encourages, growth, wisdom and creativity (even when most of the time it's not from him). Speed in Speed Racer almost appears to have similar traits but it's so thinly spread and smothered between the visuals (and anti-capitalism stance) that it gets lost.
It doesn't help that everything about Speed Racer is an oddity. It's crammed with characters, loopy visuals and set pieces but it doesn't seem to be saying anything. Stephen King said of Kubrick's the Shining "A big beautiful car, with no engine" and the same goes for Speed Racer. This is a living, breathing video game that could suit the world of Halo or otherwise if done right. However while many modern video games have been doing what they can to incorporate pathos and depth into aspects of their storylines (see GTA4), Speed Racer is nothing but visual distraction.

Maybe I'm expecting to much from what is ultimately a kids movie but I don't think so. Pixar manage to bring about emotional impact, humor and unique characters to their stories. Why can't the Wachowski brothers? To say I didn't gawp in awe at the digial achievement on display would be wrong. however the film is completely shallow.

I wouldn't have a problem with the movie if the characters inside the (dull) story were engaging but not so. The directing duo do nothing to make me give a shit about Speed and his family and the performances from the actors are extremely one note. Their "emotional" scenes are pointless and I spent most of the film waiting for the next race to start as they are the only reason to watch the movie. However due to the lack of any true danger that might effect the character, the actions sequences have a nasty pre-ordained feeling. Making any sense of excitement come across as false. Flat characters in a film like this are almost forgivable but flat action as well? Bad Times. As awesome as the film looks the film doesn't actually generate any genuine feeling of excitement. I remember how I felt when I first saw the matrix...I don't get the feeling here at all.

The acting is piss poor and the directors look like they did nothing to get any true response out of the performances on show. John Goodman does his worst audition for a Super Mario Bros remake, while Susan Sarandon sleepwalks through her performance (although her thankless role is strongest). After four season of Lost, Matthew Fox decides to take a break with a tediously terminator-esque role as the emotionless Racer X. Christina Ricci is underused as the main love interest Trixie but the real disappointment is Emile Hirsch. His performance reminds one of a rabbit in the headlights, dazzled, sunned and unsure. I find this a shame as I feel that Hirsch is a great young actor. Quite simply, the movies background are more animated than the actors.

I'm pleased with what the Wachowski Brothers tried to do but I don't believe for a second that it works. the grand visuals are a great distraction from the bad acting, risible dialogue and thinly spread plot. The Wachowski's have produced a film which will inspire film makers for the future and thats a great thing. But for fuck sake guys can you just hurry up and make Carnivore already?