Tuesday, May 20, 2008

A Day at the Movies, Part II (Holy motion sickness, Batman!)

You know, for a movie called Speed Racer, it was actually fairly slow, with not as much racing as you would expect from a movie with "racer" in the title. Strong start, strong finish, but the movie sorta falls apart in the middle. But hey, at least the Brothers Wachowski were kind enough to leave out the painfully obvious Christ metaphors this trip.

Now, don't get me wrong; the racing that is there is incredible. The massive rally race that opens the final third of the movie is a great feat; Phantom Menace's podrace has nothing on Speed Racer. However, in this entire film, there are only four races. The first, we catch only the final lap of, and it's chock full of exposition as well as a ton of over-used transitions that, sadly, don't disappear from the movie ever. (If you enjoy seeing peoples' heads used as fucking wipes to a flashback, sure, you'll love this effect. I, however, am not a retard, so I got frustrated really quick.) The second race, we only see a minute or two of, and that's entirely to illustrate how the evil villain, Royalton, is an evil villain. As if his disgustingly stained teeth and threatening demeanor weren't enough, right? (Yes, we get it, he's bad. Did we really need to have the fat kid and his goddamn monkey figure it out in their own scene? Christ.)

The third race, the cross-country rally, goes on and on, and is wholly worth the price of admission, hilarious plot holes and all. When Korean popstar Rain, playing Japanese racer Togokhan, gets poisoned after the first day by ninja clad in iridescent sneaking suits, Speed and Rex Racer Racer X devise a sneaky, sneaky plot, wherein Speed's longtime girlfriend will pretend to be Togokhan for the next day of racing. Togokhan, as it turns out, isn't badly poisoned, he's just in bad shape enough to not be able to drive in the morning. Or something. It isn't explained well, if at all.

Anyway. Trixie dresses like Togokhan. Togokhan's sister takes Trixie's place in the spotterchopper, and Togokhan dresses up like his sister and leaves on another helicopter-thing. Trixie isn't that bad a driver, frankly, and she kicks a ton of ass on the road, while Speed sits there bitching about how you can't trust something that bleeds for four days every month and doesn't die. I guess? I mean, I can't figure out exactly what Speed was complaining about. I guess they spun the wheel of "Who Will Speed Dislike This Scene?" and it landed on Trixie.

After a bunch of driving, wherein Team Togokhan presumably kills a dozen other drivers by blowing their cars up, they enter a valley to swap everyone back to their places. What follows is an exercise in terrible editing and overreliance on special effects, with mobsters randomly appearing, armed to the teeth, and getting their asses kicked by a morbidly obese John Goodman, a boy and his monkey, a popstar who's allegedly recovering from poisoning, and a handful of girls led by Emily Emeril Emile Hirsch. Racer X was somewhere in there, too, but he's an incredibly deadly man, and thus not worth showing much, apparently. After beating up and arresting all the mobsters, the racers get going again, having to regain their positions after spending not only a ton of time beating up criminals, but also a ton of time just standing around jerking off before and after the fight. Seriously, just fucking GO. This movie is called Speed Racer, not Painfully Tedious Dialogue Racer, after all. And again, Speed murders a man at the climax of the race. Team Togokhan wins, and everybody's happy!

Well, until the soulless Korean sensation doublecrosses not just Speed, but apparently Interpol as well. Then nobody's happy. Speed is mad, so he goes driving. An understandable reaction. Togokhan used Speed purely to drive up his company's stock, and Speed angry! So he goes driving. Racer X shows up in the Xmobile, and the "Who Does Speed Hate?" spinner lands on Racer X, who is promptly run off the road by our noble hero. They talk, Speed accuses X of being his long-thought-dead elder brother, Rex Racer. X reveals himself, in a pleasant plot twist, to be someone else incredibly boring. Yes, it's Jack from Lost! Proving himself incapable of having any charisma at all, Matthew Fox forces out a grating speech, designed to inspire Speed and torture us. (After all this, however, we find out that X actually is Rex, but with plastic surgery, the miracle medical procedure that can make you look like an entirely different person with different bone structure, eye color, voice, and everything! So much for a cool plot twist.) But, it could have been worse. Apparently the part of Racer X originally went to Keanu Reeves, proving the Wachowskis have no idea that real actors are people, not cardboard cutouts.

After this, Togokhan's Japanese sister, played by Chinese actress Yu Nan, gives Speed a way into the Grand Prix, the most fixedest race that was ever decided ahead of time. I'm sure you know what happens here. Every single racer is out to kill Speed, and in the end, Speed duels with a character briefly introduced much earlier in the movie and never seen again until now. (This is what's called an emotional climax by bad writers.) Speed wins, setting new records, winning a ton of money, and showing that If You Have Enough Heart, You Can Change The World or some impossibly naive bullshit like that. Royalton goes to jail, Speed's family troubles are miraculously solved, and we get to watch the credits while our stomachs settle from the nauseating final sequence of the race.

Despite the above bashing, I liked this movie. Not enough, I think to ever own it or watch it again, but it was decent. Sure, it exists entirely in a fucking greenscreen stage, which drove me absolutely batty because it was poorly composited, but the graphics were incredible. The races were top notch, and since I was there to see sweet races, I was happy. I would have been happier with tighter editing, better writing, and more interesting acting, but whatever. It's a Wachowski film. If you expect it to be anything other than a graphically-superior, poorly acted, overly verbose psuedo-art house melange, you entered the wrong cinema, my friend.

So, I suppose all this is to say... if you're going to see Speed Racer, see it now. Don't wait, just go. It'll probably suck on video, anyway.

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