Sure, you can look at the trailers and commerical clips for this film, and think it looks over the top or corny or “kid friendly” or whatever you want to say. Heck, I even said some of that myself after the first trailer came out. But let me tell you, SPEED RACER is a great, genuine, and surprisingly profound heartfelt family film. And if you’re remotely cynical walking in, you will most likely reject it completely. I can’t stess how much you’d miss out on. This is a fun film, and a film with sincere emotion and something meaningful to say beyond the spectacular visuals and action.
Think of it as THE MATRIX lite. It’s the Wachowski brothers pushing the envelope in special effects again, and doing it in a unique way. It is very artistic, the approach and specific way they shot this film. It make a statement and it helps drive the narrative, as does the action scenes and races. They never occur as interruptions to the story or as filler material or just for the sake of another visual effects scene. Each race, each sequence is important to the narrative of the story. And the way they shot this film is so extraordinary. It seems like a cartoon while watching it. It’s basically a pop art film.
The film focuses on the RACER family, and in the opening sequence we see SPEED in a race on the same course that his older brother REX set a record on years before when SPEED was younger. We see the backstory unfold expertly in the characters minds as the race unfolds. Basically the first 10-12 minutes of the film is both a race and the exposistion. We learn about the tragedy that happens to REX, and we see the backstory that SPEED idealized him and that his death nearly tore the whole family apart. I knew I was in for a special film, when 10 minutes into it I have tears rolling down my eyes as the backstory narrative shows REX’s fatal crash and the families reaction and SPEED crying in his mother’s arms. It cuts to the cockpit of SPEED’s Mach-5 racer and he has tears in his eyes as he literally races the ghost of his brother, trying to break his course record. At the last moment however, SPEED pulls up and finishes 1 second behind the record, almost as if he can’t allow himself to tarnish the memory of his brother.
It’s tender moments like this that make this film special. The races are amazing, and the Wachowski’s use all sorts of visual tricks which marvel the senses, but the heart of this film is the family story. Watching this young kid entering manhood, and chasing the memory of his brother. His family standing by him and admiring what there son is becoming and watching him succeed at something he loves to do, and chooses to do his own way. He doesn’t sell out to the large multi-billion dollar sponser corportation in the beginning of the film. No, he does it the right way, the honest way and he pays some prices for this, but at the end of the day he grows into a man who can stand on his own two feet and be proud of what he’s done and know he earned it the old fashioned way.
What person doesn’t want that for there child? It is the family element of this film that makes it so good, and so deeply touching. I must’ve let go of some tears about half a dozen times in this movie, and the final ten minutes I was filled with goosebumps and being so happy for this fictional character on the big screen, based off a campy, silly cartoon. But that is exactly how engrossed I was in this film. How attached I was to the characters. I wanted to stand up in the theater and cheer!
I loved all 134 minutes of it, and can’t wait to see it again. And I challenge anyone not to be humming the theme song with a big smile on there face as they leave the theater.