Thursday, May 29, 2008
Go Speed Racer! (. . . and keep going)
A couple of days ago, a Funkyman reader wrote in that I should give Speed Racer a try despite my instincts and what critics say. I told her that I accept the challenge, and I saw the film yesterday.
Remember that girl in school who looked really good, but when she opened her mouth - Duh?
Remember that president who talked about restoring dignity to the White House and then - Duh?
Remember that movie that looked impressive on screen, but in between the effects - nothing?
So goes the tale of Speed Racer.
You know, I knew that with a $100 million dollar budget and with the creative genius of the Wachowski Brothers that Speed Racer would be different and a sight to behold - however, I learned a long time ago that great special effects doth not a great movie make. And even the effects themselves can take away from the experience.
Here's an example: Try watching Terminator 2 without the liquid metal effects scenes. It's one of the worst movies of all time. The dialogue is ridiculous and the storyline is filled with holes. It's painful. But if you remember seeing it that summer of '91, everyone was raving about "how cool!" - including me. Forgive me, I was a younger man and cool effects can make for a great movie experience, but after it wears off, you're left with trying appreciating the whole package, and it just ain't there.
If I were to judge Speed Racer on its technical feats and computer wizardry, I would say I'm impressed. But I want more. As I wrote last year, I'm looking for both the fantasy and the substance, and if you cut out the driving sequences, Speed Racer is beyond painful, but I will say it is a successful translation from the equally ridiculous cartoon that inspired it. Don't get me wrong - I've been the fan of many a ridiculous cartoon, but that doesn't make them not ridiculous. That just makes me a fanboy. However, while I hold on to some of that childish wonder (Iron Man ROCKED), another part of me grew up and I look back on things I loved as a kid with embarrassment and shame, and a lot of them are Animé or Japanese monster movies- Voltron, Galaxy Express, Starblazers, Ultraman, Godzilla, and yes Speed Racer. The most recent examples of this embarrasment are the Power Rangers craze and Pokemon to name a couple, but throw in Dragonball Z if you must. Fun while you're a kid and then you grow up and look back - WOW!
Coolness IS a factor. And Speed Racer would have been cooler had the animation not been so over the top. Things were so outrageously impossible and so fast that it was hard to appreciate. In the end, it just looked like a lot of stuff going really fast, and the eye couldn't really focus on the drama that should be created by a race.
Now, I saw Speed Racer in IMAX, so it was larger than life, and that made it worthwhile. But it was 2 hours and 15 minutes, way too long for what it accomplished, and that's a shame because the actors weren't bad. I actually enjoyed Matthew Fox's performance as Racer X.
Speed Racer is hardly the worst movie I've ever seen. But my instincts were correct. And for the record, I don't decide what movies to see based on what a movie critic says. However, I do peruse RottenTomatoes.com where they compile the reviews of every movie, and only 35% of the reviewers thought it was good. That's over a 100 critics who described the movie as I have. So, do I listen to a 100 critics? Yeah, when it's going to cost me $11 to figure it out on my own.
Sorry, but unless you're an effects junkie (and after the barrage of color and speed I saw yesterday, I OD'd on effects) don't even rent the video because the effects will be underwhelming on a small screen.
Hey, I kept my word and gave it a shot. I should get points for that.