Fiscally and critically the world has chosen to turn their eyes away from The Wachowski Brother’s gorgeously loving adaption of Speed Racer in favor of the infinitely more earthbound and pedestrian summer blockbuster that is Iron Man. No one says that you need to choose, but my money is where it always has been in the front seat of the incredible Mach 5.
I’m guessing that the critical drubbing of Speed is mostly due to a backlash against the film’s complete embrace and domination by CGI special effects, but tools are tools and it’s all about how you use them. The unrealistic highway effects of the Wachowski’s first Matrix sequel left me cold and unimpressed, it just seemed showy and fake, but here we’re talking about the reimagining of a cartoon and the kaleidoscope colored fantasy world of Speed Racer is nothing less than the creation of a whole new universe. The original Speed had everything but a budget. A race care, an almost too white bread wholesome hero, and best of all a mysteriously lost brother in a leather mask.
Every great detail from the original is somewhere to be found in the big budget realization of that cheap but endlessly stylish nutty cartoon series. Sprydle and Chim Chim are in the trunk and dreaming of candy, Trixie is endlessly cute and always in trouble, Pops is ornery and an expert Greco Roman wrestler, racers in odd vehicles show up uninvited to battle at the last second, and Racer X is always watching like Speed’s own James Dean guardian angel. Anyone with taste and a memory will thrill to see the inevitable Speed and Rex practice course showdown.
The Wachowski’s have completely reimagined auto racing as a sort of three dimensional form of speed karate, and just like in the original series practically the fate of the entire world rests on who comes out ahead from the last curve and takes the checkered flag.
If nothing else laud the brother’s repect for the original in this simple fact. If George Lucas had made this film Rex Racer and Speed would have hugged and celebrated the fact that he’s still alive. Here as in the original, X tells and even shows Speed that he’s Rex, and yet somehow the younger brother senses the real truth.
I’m not sure why Sparky had an Enlish accent, but ten years from now all the cool kids will be claiming they loved it, please remember where you read it first.