Speed Racer (2008)

As a kid, I was totally obsessed with Japanese culture. In the late 1970’s, we had Godzilla, Gamera, Johnny Sokko, Ultraman, Battle of the Planets, Starblazers and Speed Racer all on TV at the same time. The thing is, I was the older brother who always felt like the screw-up, so Racer X was my hero. I avoided this movie when it was released. How could it live up to my memories? I’m pleased t admit I was wrong. This movie is crazy in all the best ways.

After years of this movie never getting made, The Wachowskis were able to bring it to the screen. Just from the beginning — where time overlaps and we get both the backstory of Speed, his brother Rex and the race that they’ve both won — this movie grabs you. Yes, it’s way too CGI intense but at some point, all the blurring and spins and overlaps just win you over.

Speed Racer (Emile Hirsch) loves racing and loves his family — Pops (John Goodman), Mom (Susan Sarandon), brother Spritle, chimp Chim Chim, his mechanic Sparky and his girlfriend Trixie (Christina Ricci) — even more. He once had a brother named Rex who left the family for racing and became one of the dirtiest racers in the sport before dying in the Casa Cristo 5000 cross country rally. Seriously, the flashback scene that tells you all of this will either thrill or exhaust you.

Everything from the show is here, from how Speed leaps from the Mach 5 and the screen turns to pose in the original animation to characters like race fixer Cruncher Block, Inspector Detector, Snake Oiler and Prince Kabalah as well as the Mach 5, the Shooting Star, the GRX race car and the Mammoth Car.

In a better world, the fact that this movie exists in a candy-colored neon world would have been seen as a welcome escape from the grim and gritty world that we live in. Sadly, it was not to be, although the film made up from its box office losses via merchandising and video sales.

At one point, Julien Temple was to direct, Johnny Depp was to play Speed and Henry Rollins was going to be Racer X. I kinda wanna see that movie now.

One thought on “Speed Racer (2008)

  1. Johnny Depp could have rebounded from Speed Racer and moved on; it’s a shame how badly SR damaged Emile Hirsch’s career. A doppelganger to Speed Racer: the Rollerball remake. That really killed Chris Klein’s career. As if the film’s failures were their faults.

    It’s a gamble: If Speed and Rollerball “hit,” both would be the toast of Hollywood and be offered everything and having to turn away work. Instead, they now scramble for work and arne’t even on the mind of casting directors.


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