Technically Speed Racer is an anime adaptation, but people do often forget about that. Something else that people forget is that Speed Racer is that this was directed by The Wachowski siblings who’s previous success with The Matrix put them in the best possible position in their film careers, but even they knew they couldn’t ride this train for too long. They needed a project that would not only be a triumphant return, but also establish themselves as directorial powerhouses that wouldn’t be known for just one thing. It just bamboozling that the duo behind some of the most creative science fictions most ingenious sequences and concepts, could direct one of the most eye aching films I’ve ever seen.
Speed Racer follows the young racing driver (Emile Hirsch) and his family as he seeks to become a world champion. He is lured into the world of corporate racing by E.P. Arnold Royalton (Roger Allam) and Royalton Industries but decides to stay with his family’s motor racing company. When hard times hit the family because of Royalton, Speed Racer is given an opportunity to expose Royalton whilst also continuing his goal of becoming the best racing driver.
Now when I say Speed Racer is eye aching, I mean full scale assault on your retinas eye aching. The way this film looks is one of the most infamous and most criticised points about it, everything about the style is excruciatingly painful to look at in the literal sense. Aside from terrible CGI that didn’t seem to age well after one day of its release, the colours are kaleidoscopic and overpowering. The world’s vibrancy would give Dr Seuss migraines. The colours themselves could possibly be appreciated if it weren’t for everything in this film going at 1000mph. In the racer there are so many cars, so many objects flying into frame that you can’t even tell what’s going on, I always have to rewind the film just to check if someone of importance crashed or how they crashed, it’s so on edge all the time.
Also, what is it with this film and sideswipes? I would love for there to be a YouTube video counting them all because there are so many of them, and it’s just adding to the film’s nausea. However, I understand why The Wachowskis choose to do this, it’s pretty clear that they want the film to look at close as possible to that of the original anime., some of the settings are straight out of something you’d expect in a cartoon. I see Speed Racer in the same way I see something like Wacky Races, the style suits the outlandishness, and when you drag a style from one art form to another, the result isn’t always going to be what you imagined because the laws of reality put a halt to it.
I haven’t even mentioned the story yet because there is so much going on in a short space of time, and some of it not even appropriate for kids. There is a scene in which Royalton gives a speech to speed about how corporate interests fix racing for their own needs. While I have to give credit to The Wachowskis for fleshing out this world as well as Roger Allam’s delivery, how do they expect kids to follow a speech about corporate takeovers and stock markets? It’s just not necessary for the target audience.
You have this whole sub story regarding the mysterious driver Racer X (Matthew Fox) which is a little spoilery but it is resolved in the laziest of fashions possible that raises so many questions about his character. There’s another story with the race fixer Cruncher Block (John Benfield) that is straight out of a cheese bond knock off filled with all sorts of crazy characters, and don’t get me started on the adventures of Speed’s younger brother Spritle (Paulie Litt) and his pet chimpanzee Chim Chim. So, when you have so many sub plots going on at once, the film can feel like an eternity to watch.
In preparation for this, I was surprised to see so many articles about how Speed Racer should be given a second chance and that it’s actually a good film, and I listened to the points and there were some good point being made. But, there’s just something inside me as someone who respects film style that can’t grow to at least credit this film. I’m sure down the line I may look back and say I was too harsh on some elements of the film, but that point has not been reached yet. The fact still remains that this film is still nauseating to me, I need a sick back from everything moving at hyper speed. Definitely a film off the cards for headache sufferers.