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Speed Racer (live action movie)
Speed Racer was the show I most adored as a kid back in the '70s, and I suppose might be described as my introduction to anime (though I had no idea there would ever be more than one Japanese animated series at the time). As such, I was highly anxious to see this live-action adaptation--both anxious because I could not wait to watch it, and also because I prayed it would remain fairly faithful to the original, english dubbed version which I watched as a kid. The Wachowski brothers were on record as fans of the animated version as well, which was encouraging. After the movie premiered I'd heard that reviews were not altogether favorable, which made me reluctant to go; if it really was bad, it might be better not to see it at all, since that might tarnish my nostalgia for the original.|
Fortunately, I found that my built-in enthusiasm was sufficient to overcome the not particularly serious problems with the film. As usual, Speed has a goal beyond being first across the finish line, in this case defeating blatant corruption and race fixing. The plot also deals with the mysterious "Racer X", which was the most beloved subplot of the TV series. I would say the movie didn't try to imitate the old series too closely (even though at times I wished it would) and for all potential viewers probably struck the best possible balance between being a homage to the old show and something new and original. It quickly becomes obvious that technology has been modernized from the 'sixties to the not-too-distant future. As I watched the first CG laden race I feared I might suffer a seizure and, even worse, that the movie might be caught in a netherworld halfway between animation and live action. Fortunately, for all the rip-roaring race scenes the bulk of the story is clearly live action so there was nothing to worry about. Even between races special effects are remarkable and fun, such as the visit to the future auto plant.
One of my worries had been that live action actors and actresses might be incapable of replacing their animated predecessors in a satisfying manner, but after a few misgivings I suspended my disbelief and accepted them completely. Sparky did seem around ten years too old to me. If you watch carefully you'll catch cameos by Peter Fernandez (the original series' director plus voice of Speed/Racer X) and Corinne Orr (original VA of Trixie). Speaking of Trixie, I thought the romance angle went a bit farther than it ever got in the old days (I used to think that Trixie must be Speed's sister) though a newcomer would say it was not racy in the least.
I thought the movie was virtually over after the cross country rally, which, given the variety of terrain encompassed, reminds one of the 'round the world race in the final episodes of the TV series. But in fact there was yet another major race; the movie has a surprisingly long runtime of 2:15. I won't complain too much, but I suspect the average person can only handle a certain amount of psychadelic special effects before becoming temporarily burnt out. An expert in drama would definitely say that yet another major race was overkill.
The music of the ED sequence was fun, being a collage of the modernized theme song, the original one (including part of the Japanese version, which I found particularly thrilling), and amusing one-liners from the old TV series ("World peace is in your hands, Speed"). The movie left me smiling and satisfied. I'm sure any critic who didn't watch the show as a kid would find plenty of faults with it and consider it unexceptional. But anybody who did will be delighted. The film truly captures the spirit of the old days; not perfectly (that may well be impossible after 40-odd years) but probably comes as close as possible. I'm tempted to dust off my old VHS tapes.
Last updated Friday, June 06 2008. Created Saturday, December 29 2007.
|Wikipedia - Speed Racer||http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Speed_Racer|