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Happy 10th Anniversary to The Wachowski's Speed Racer

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Speed Racer, the much-maligned 2008 Wachowski Sisters movie, turned 10 this week, and I just wanted to shout out the movie because I think it's great. I think it's The Wachowski's best film (yes, including the Matrix), and one of the best action films of the 21st century.

It's also available on Netlfix right now so if you haven't seen it or it's been a while now would be a great time to give it a chance. I think if you watch it with an open mind you'll find a much better film than its reputation and critical reception suggest. It's an incredible film.

I love this movie so I'd be excited to talk about it with all of you regardless of your opinion on it, and with how varied people's opinions are on it, I think it'll make for an interesting discussion.



Bright light. Bright light. Uh oh.
I wrote this on MoFo almost 10 years ago, edited to take out use of the word "Bros.".
Speed Racer (Wachowskis, 2008)



First off, I want to say that I watched "Speed Racer" on TV in the '60s. I'll confess that I did it because my younger brother was a Superfan and he was only six years old! I had no problem watching it because it was fast-paced, most of the dubbed dialogue was screamed out rat-a-tat style, and it could sometimes make you laugh out loud*. It probably had less facial expression than almost anything I'd ever seen (except maybe "Clutch Cargo"), but heck, it was the first anime I was ever exposed to. Speed Racer always held the relationships of the family and team in high regard, but what I'm truly impressed about the Wachowskis' adaptation is that for all the visual spectacle on display, it's the relationships and the principles of the characters which make this Speed Racer worth watching.

I've read the reviews for Speed Racer at this site, and without referring to any names, I'll try to address some of the concerns expressed in them. However, one thing which isn't addressed in any of them I find to be interesting. When I first heard that Speed Racer was 135 minutes long, I asked myself why it would have to be any more than 95. Well, after watching the film, I know why. Speed Racer is presented as a "Super Hero" and thus, we're watching his origin tale. The Wachowskis must have believed that they were starting a franchise here, and although it tanked at the box office, I think the film is far better than its critical and popular reaction reflects. The Wachowskis' main influence, at least in all the non-racing scenes, seems to be Warren Beatty's Dick Tracy. The bright, primary color scheme is accented in all the interior shots. The racing scenes also use bright colors, but they seem to have many more hues and be more neon-like. In this way, the Wachowskis seem to emphasize something more closely related to comic books in the domestic scenes (as in something you'd see in a super hero comic), while promoting the kinetic surrealism of anime.


The Wachowskis do use a different editing technique for this film which has been commented upon in an earlier review. They pan across the screen, and whenever something comes across the foreground, you're in the next scene. The film which this seems to have been "inspired" by is Pan's Labyrinth; however, it's used much more often in this film. I'll admit that the editing of the opening scenes, while in no way that awkward or confusing, does get to be a bit repetitive. It does seem to improve as the film progresses and settles down into a calmer rhythm where the characters and their themes of personal responsibilty, abillity and morality seem to be much more-thoroughly explored. You see, although I was cheering for the good guys in this movie, it took the added length of the film for me to fully get behind them. The film seems to fly by its 135 minutes, and that's probably because even if it flowed smoothly during its first half (albeit coasting on spectacle and action), it went by twice as fast once you actually understood that you were watching a family who truly cared about each other and was going to go out of its way to correct any wrongs it had somehow enabled in the past.


OK, I'll admit that this may sound like I'm some kind of fan boy and/or fool, but Speed Racer is actually a really solid summer popcorn flick. It's not as deep or inspired as Iron Man, but it's not really that much less deep or inspired. It got shafted and deserves a reexamination or at least, a first chance. It certainly has flaws. It's actually a tad too serious, but the weakest parts are the silliest ones. It was almost as if the Wachowskis wanted to make Speed Racer more poignant, but they were worried that if they didn't include a few buffoonish scenes (the ninjas and some of the chimp scenes), that the kids wouldn't laugh and find the thing all too boring. The way the summer marketplace is stacked now, movies don't really have much of a chance to establish an audience before being unceremoniously booted away. I don't really believe that Speed Racer had much of a chance to find an audience, so it mostly failed on "pre-word of mouth" rather than the actual opinions of the paying public who saw it. It was just seen as a failure in advance.
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This is Arin "Egoraptor" Hansons favorite movie. Dude gets a lotta flak for it. Ive never seen it or ive seen parts of it a long time ago so I cant judge. I wasnt the biggest fan of The Matrix but i didnt hate it.



I love this movie. The funny thing is that if I had watched the movie on a wicked combination of alcohol, meth, peyote and LSD, it probably would have looked exactly the same.



Welcome to the human race...
I watched it after it originally came out on DVD and thought it was alright-to-meh, but I've always had half a mind to revisit it and finally did last night, at which point I definitely understood the people who called it under-appreciated. I'd have to re-watch all of them to be certain, but I'd be okay with calling this my second-favourite Wachowski film.



28 days...6 hours...42 minutes...12 seconds
My original review asked "Can A Film Be Too Close To Its Source Material???"

I rated it a
at the time and have since re-visited it. I would definitely bump that up to at least a
maybe even a
.

I had a lot more fun the second time around.
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I didn't love it, and found the first three-fourths to be dull enough that whatever meta-thing it was trying to do wasn't enough to redeem it, but I was somewhat won over by the sheer spectacle of the big finale. It wasn't enough to salvage the movie as a whole for me, but the technical expertise on display was certainly something to behold.



I watched it after it originally came out on DVD and thought it was alright-to-meh, but I've always had half a mind to revisit it and finally did last night, at which point I definitely understood the people who called it under-appreciated. I'd have to re-watch all of them to be certain, but I'd be okay with calling this my second-favourite Wachowski film.
My original review asked "Can A Film Be Too Close To Its Source Material???"

I rated it a
at the time and have since re-visited it. I would definitely bump that up to at least a
maybe even a
.

I had a lot more fun the second time around.
Glad a couple of people have come around on the film upon revisit. I think it's a movie that people simply weren't expecting at that time, with blockbusters taking a turn toward more realistic presentation, and this movie eschewing that entirely and going for an outright cartoonish formalism. In hindsight, when engaging with the film on its own terms, I think that the stylistic choices not only work but are the only choices that would have worked for the source material. I don't think making a movie about a guy who drives cars fast literally named 'Speed' would work if it was under the guise of realism, because the content is inherently unrealistic.

I think even more than just the visuals, the editing of the film I find really impressive (I think editing is where most of the Wachowski's work really shines, Sense8 also has some really interesting editing in the context of TV for example), especially in the opening sequence. We're getting an opening in-media-res action sequence of Speed, a flashback to his backstory as a kid, a flashback to his family history and the falling out of his brother, and the record-breaking race his brother did on the same track all melded together into one sequence that manages to be entirely coherent (at least to me) and work seamlessly. Its one of those sequences that, as someone who edits, completely melts my brain every time I watch it. The shot of the mach 4 where the camera matrix-pans around to the front as the lighting around it changes and it becomes more ghostly in appearance and then the mach 6 jumps through it gives me chills every time (I've seen this film probably 5 or 6 times and most of the film is kinda burned into my memory).



That elusive hide-and-seek cow is at it again
I swear I wrote something on this movie in the last 6 months or so, but I can't find it. Oh well!

I watched this in the theater because I'm a CGI SFX nut. I never cared for the series as I thought it was just too silly and, unfortunately, I felt the same when viewing this on the big screen ...initially. I hated the kid and Chim Chim. I also hated John Goodman's wrestling stunts and Christinna Ricci's "Cool beans" line. HATE HATE HATE(d). Eventually though, I found it on disc and added it to my collection. If for no other reason, than because I thought it was a landmark in movie FX use.

Fast-forward to last year when I stumbled upon it again and decided to give it another go. This time, without the judgmental biases I wedging into the theater back in 2008, I honestly enjoyed it! Actually, I loved it. Perhaps it was the intimacy of watching this in my home, on my television, that took the pressure off when sitting among immovable spectators that can collectively create an atmosphere of frustration or joy depending on their RNG access. I don't know, but I really enjoyed myself this time.

The racing took me right back to my childhood running Hotwheels across the kitchen floor hoping I wouldn't lose one under the stove. We didn't have money for a proper branded race track, but I learned quickly that I could pull and re-purpose this plastic landscaping material dad used to border our lawn trees. It was a black plastic, roughly 5" wide and came in a roll in various lengths. There were 3 ribs that ran the length of the strip for rigidity, but I noticed that these gaps were perfectly spaced to be used as racing tracks! Anyway, this movie brought all that back up front from the deepest recesses of my mind. Not even Chim Chim could ruin that.

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Thursday Next's Avatar
I never could get the hang of Thursdays.
I like the Wachowskis a lot so I really wanted to love this but it gave me a blinding headache and I'm not sure I even finished it. Since it's been 10 years, maybe I should give it another shot.



Just saw this again the other day when it came to Netflix. I still dig it and I still give it a
.
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Hellloooo Cindy - Scary Movie (2000)
Interesting. After I heard it was digibro (a youtuber whose anime reviews I like) said it was his favorite movie I got curious. I never watched it but perhaps I might now.
Yea same...on my list now cos of this threAd.