Thursday, February 05, 2009

Speed Racer (movie)

There are NO spoilers in this review. Read with confidence.

What can I say about this film… In three letters: WOW.

A rich and vibrant color scheme and gripping fast-paced story line only start to explain what’s in store for you with this movie. It was exciting, heart-pumping, and featured strange, yet fantastic, cinematography and use of innovative CGI integration.

Watching Speed Racer excited the kid in me without making me feel like I was watching a kid movie. Most ideas portrayed here may have been brought off as cheesy in any other movie, but the Wachowski Brothers, creaters of the Matrix and this film, somehow made it all work in the world they were portraying.

This is not just a racing movie. The story runs deep at every scene, nothing shallow or one-dimensional at all. And the characters are all very well written, intricate, original and developed thoroughly. I felt like they were real people, not just someone on the page of a script. Though based in a fantastical reality with almost other-worldly dialogue and pace, it works. It seems real. It’s believable somehow, in spite of its obviously outrageous stunts.

I felt that the visual aspect of Speed Racer was far more creative than in the Wachowski Brothers previous works. It was superb to the point that I spent half the movie wondering what the next scene or perspective would look like rather than what would happen next. This film wins the Visually Creative award in my book—it simply takes CGI to the next level. There was never a dull scene in which the camera would just rest on someone talking. Instead, the camera would spin as he talked, or the background would change colors or turn into a flashback. In three words, the special effects and cinematography were FAN-TAS-TIC.

There was even some good old fashion kung fu in this movie. I love kung fu (when done well) in movies. Too many films these days try to implement crazy new fighting styles, but I love to see the straight stuff. I especially liked the fight scene done in the snow. Very cool stuff, and fun use of snowfall special FX while fighting. Well played, guys.

There was also an interesting mixture of technologies and decorative styles that left it ambiguous as to when it was taking place. The cars, buildings, and a lot of the technology seemed to be from the future but men in 50s clothing used Tommy Guns and some homes had 70s print wallpaper. But don’t get me wrong, I actually liked this about the movie. Somehow it all fit into the style of the film and helped me fall into the world they had created.

I loved the race courses. They were over-the-top and something out of an unrealistic video game. But as I’ve said before, it somehow worked in the context of the film. Usually I am a fanatic for wanting realism in my movies. I always seem to find things that make me say “yeah right.” But even though some things, like the race courses, were out of this world unrealistic, the thought never crossed my mind while watching it. On the contrary, as I saw the new courses throughout the movie, I smiled at how awesome they were.

If I had to complain about one thing it would be Spritle, the kid brother of the kid brother, that has a pet monkey. The monkey was cute, and the boy wasn’t SO terribly annoying that it ruined the movie for me (usually), but some of the boy’s lines and scenes were in fact cheesy. Leave it to a kid to take a genuinely great movie and ruin a few scenes. As a matter of fact, the only time I felt that I wanted the movie to hurry along were the times that he was on the screen.

Another fantastic and unexpected thing about this movie is that the themes were very adult. Much of the story line had to do with corporations, big business, sneaky takeovers, monopolies and stock market conspiracies. I would have expected from the previews that this was only a racing movie. Far from it. The stories went much further.

When I watch my favorite TV shows (Heroes, Lost), I find myself wishing it would never end. I felt similar watching this movie. When I was only 40 minutes into the film I was sad that so much had already passed. I wanted it to go on and on.

Ever seen someone do a jump kick, round-house 360…. with a car? It’s pretty dang cool. There was some pretty awesome Car-Kung-Fu in this movie and it was super creative and original.

Now, to be fair, I have never seen the original tv show (cartoon?) that this movie was based on. But I’m thinking that this is a good thing. I had nothing to compare the movie to, no pre-judged bias for the film. It was all fresh, new, and original for me. Having said that, I am now excited to go watch a couple episodes of the original series just to learn more about what the movie was trying to accomplish.

In the end, I can’t say enough about the visual aspect of the film. The vibrant colors and fantastically creative cinematography put this movie right at the top of my list. The Wachowski Brothers are in fact, geniuses.

This movie kept me riveted to the end. A nail-biting, heart-stopping, gripping, final climax, coupled with stunning visuals and creative scene work, completed this more-than-well-made film.

My Rating: 5/5 (or 6/5 if that’s possible)

My Recommendation: GET. THIS. MOVIE. It’s MORE than amazing. See it, watch it, rinse and repeat.