For whatever reason, I have never connected with what anime has to offer, therefore I don't really have any history of watching it, be it a movie or a TV series. So, no surprise that I've also never seen the Speed Racer cartoon from the 1960s, yet last night I saw the Wachowski brothers' 2008 film (primarily thanks to consistent praise from io9ers) and I loved it.
Every so often io9 has an open channel variant of "What critically panned movie or book did you love anyway?" and invariably the Speed Racer movie is mentioned in the comments and in those comments I would see either clips or screenshots that triggered the Shiny Things Syndrome with me. See image below.
- Shiny race cars with weapons? Check.
- Video game aesthetics? Check.
- Likable characters? Check.
- Thrilling, original plot? The movie indeed has thrills, but plot is not what you press 'play' for on this one.
So despite having very little familiarity with the original Speed Racer series, the comments about the movie and clips or stills I had seen brought to mind some of my early console gaming experiences, particularly with games like Wipeout all the way back on the Playstation 1. Seeing those video game aesthetics and action elements definitely played a big part in giving this movie a chance, even though I expected very little else beyond slick eye candy.
But there was a bit more than the dazzling visuals that the move delivered. While most of the characters — be they heroes, villains, or supporting characters — are fairly cookie cutter, they are high quality cookie cutter and appear fresh in this highly stylized film. I particularly liked John Goodman's role as Speed's dad, Matthew Fox as Racer X, and Christina Ricci as Speed's girlfriend and helicopter spotter. The tomfoolery and comic relief from Speed's younger brother Spritle and his chimpanzee partner-in-crime Chim Chim were great fun, too. Roger Allam, as the evil CEO of Royalton Industries, also has sniveling villain thing down (see also: V for Vendetta) as he played that role perfectly in this movie.
As for the overall plot, I don't have a lot to say. It works; it's solid enough, and maybe most importantly, it doesn't get in the way with what's fun about this movie. I also thought that the soundtrack from Michael Giacchino blended perfectly with the style of the movie and appropriately helped set the tone for the different moods, primarily for the action scenes, of course.
Now, although I stated that I loved this movie, there is a certain criteria I tend to judge movies by and that's whether or not I think I'll be interested in multiple viewings. Despite my praise, I actually can't see wanting to watch this movie again anytime soon. Maybe part of the reason is it runs a bit long at just over 2 hours, but more likely it's because there really isn't a strong, memorable plot to forget and re-experience, as is a factor with other movies that I really like. So, I don't know if I've successfully argued the title of this post for you, but if you have been on the fence about watching this movie, either due to the anime connection or the negative reviews, it's worth giving a chance as it may appeal to you in ways that maybe weren't initially obvious.