Review: Speed Racer (IMAX)

Published 7 years ago by

Short version: Speed Racer is strictly for kids, big time nostalgia-feeling fans of the original series and perhaps video game addicts.

speed racer dec1 Review: Speed Racer (IMAX)

Considering all I’d heard about and seen via trailers and clips about Speed Racer, I was almost concerned about what it would be like to watch it on a gigantic IMAX screen. I thought perhaps it would give me a huge headache or perhaps induce some psychotic state in me, or worse – my daughter.

Ah, but 11 year olds brains are hardwired for this kind of stuff, so not to worry – she’s fine. icon smile Review: Speed Racer (IMAX)

the film starts with a tribute to the opening of the original series which if you’re a fan I think you’ll find very cool. It then goes right into showing us a young Speed Racer (yes, for the uninitiated, that is his name) and in a funny opening sequence shows us that he was apparently born to be a race car driver, much to the detriment of his school work.

We meet his brother Rex, who picks him up from school in the iconic Mach 5 car and a few seconds later you get your first clue of the visual look of the movie. I expected as they pulled back to show them pulling away that other cars would look like regular old automobiles, but they all have a futuristic look to them – so much so that the Mach 5 looks like just another car.

Rex indulges Speed by taking him to the race track for a practice run, and we see the bond between them as Speed sits in Rex’s lap, steering the car at what we would call wildly insane speeds. In one rather silly moment, Rex tells Speed to close his eyes so he can hear what the car is telling him – while rocketing down a curve-laden track at speeds over 100mph.

Soon thereafter Rex leaves home on bad terms with his father, “Pops” Racer who tells Rex if he leaves he can never come back. From there Rex seems to “go to the dark side” becoming one of the most notorious drivers on the race circuit., causing crashes and all sorts of mayhem. Eventually it seems that he himself is claimed as a casualty in a fatal car wreck of his own in an ice cave.

Cut to Speed as a young man (21?) and he’s on the rise as one of the hottest race car drivers out there. The “Racer” family are independent racers, with no corporate sponsers (who Pops considers “the devil”). So I guess they only earn income from race winnings?

Anyway, they are approached by the owner of Royalton Industries, a snake-charmer of a guy who wants to bring the Racer family on board in order to “give them a better life.” Of course there’s a catch and it’s eventually revealed to Speed who declines and is then a target on the track of every other driver in any race.

While I really think Speed Racer is a “love it or hate it” kind of movie, I managed to fall somewhere in the middle. Again, remember this is a review of the IMAX version of the film, so that influences my reaction to it. The visuals, on that enormous screen were for lack of a better word: crazy. It truly is an eyeball-shattering intense CGI-carnival assault on the senses. I’m actually not sure if watching this in IMAX may have been a bad idea – this movie may be similar to Cloverfield in that it may be better viewed on a TV screen.

It wasn’t just the psychedelic visuals that bothered me – it was the placing of live action characters into that canvas. Except for the obviously monsterous budget of the movie, it struck me that if it had been only 10 minutes long it could have been considered some indie experimental film. I blame George Lucas for introducing the idea of sticking live actors into 99% CGI environments. I just don’t like it. It seems weird and my mind battles to figure out whether it’s looking at a CGI animated movie or a live action film.

Having said that, I actually think this would have worked much, much better if they had just gone all the way and made it a completely CGI animated film. Having the anchor of real actors in a sea of such extreme, colorful, physics-bending environments just doesn’t work for me. I think they should have either toned down the look of the film for a live action version or just replaced the actors with stylized CGI characters.

What was good about it? The fact that the further you get into the film the better it seems to get. The races get better, the story improves and overall there’s a good, positive message delivered to kids in the audience about family, standing up for what you believe in and courage in the face of adversity.

The final race in particular was pretty action packed, although to me it suffered some of the same issues as similar scenes in Transformers: too much going on, making it difficult to even focus on what you’re looking at.

In particular I thought Emil Hirsche as Speed did an admirable job and I have to admit that I thoroughly enjoyed Lost‘s Matthew Fox as Racer X just because he seemed to be enjoying himself so much in the role.

One of the highlights was also young Paulie Litt as Spritle, who provided pretty much any of the laughs in the film.

On the other hand, it’s bizarre seeing humans in a pretty much cartoon environment and if I’m going to nitpick, it seemed like the much used word “ass” in the film was stuck in there just to avoid a dreaded G rating.

On a final note, walking out to the parking lot I almost felt like I had stepped into a sensory deprivation tank after that all over-stimulation.

So there you have it. If you have kids but aren’t a fan of the original, I suggest you drop them, off head to the theater next door… and watch Iron Man again. icon smile Review: Speed Racer (IMAX)

Our Rating:

3 out of 5

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  1. I know what you mean about the Transformers-like blurry action, BUT in this movie most of the action is along a trajectory by objects that didn’t bend, extend, twist, or change inside out. Yes there were some tools and weapons and defenses, but at least the “blur” was in one direction.

    I don’t know if I mentioned this in the 7 minute preview thread, but I did notice the similarity…but I was far less “lost” in this movie with what was going on.

    Surprised you didn’t mention the fight scenes. Both were intriguing, amusing, and both times I detached a little from the scene saying to myself, this is choreographed by the SAME guys who did the Matrix!

  2. You know, I’m a big fan of videogames and cartoons, and love a good bit of anime/manga, but I have absolutely no desire to see this. I’m not sure who thought it was a good idea to greenlight this, but I hope they reap what they’ve sown. There’s much better stuff out there to bring to the big screen.

  3. I’d give it a 2/5.

    Aside from the corniness and cheasy…Everything, and the bad acting at many parts, even the little things were annoying. The cars spinning around everwhere was one. I dunno I just couldn’t enjoy this much at all.

  4. Have to disagree with you on this one Vic

    Seeing this in IMAX is too much, even for me.
    (And see it Sober people).

    Personally I friggen hate IMAX. No movie should be THAT BIG IN YOUR FACE unless your 500 ft away. My gawd if a tv monitor was that big the radiation would kill you before the movie ended.
    (IMAX fans (not ALL mind you) but some have reminded me of people that like Monster Cars). Like real life is 100 x 200 ft wide.
    Its funny the same people I notice that like IMAX also like dvd’s in (full screen) go figure?

    Vic I’m kinda surprised that you would distract yourself with live-action vs the CGI factor in this film.
    (This film just begs you to get lost and enjoy the ride).

    If I had gone into Iron Man dwelling on where the live action started and stopped I wouldn’t have liked the film as much. (The scenes where Iron Man landed with a blurry thud were clearly where some of the live action and CGI met) not to mention the final battle with Iron Monger but I overlooked those.

    Also (IMO) pure CGI characters would have defeated the purpose of even trying something NEW like this.
    the Wachowskis did something grand and succeeded (IMO).

    I will agree that the racing action is seriously frantic in some scenes and there are some (Transformer moments).
    However I think that was done for the re-watchablity factor.
    Say what you will this film was everything I expected and more!! 10 out of 5 Stars!!

    (I’m really confused on the negative feedback some have for this?) Its allmost like there’s a hate for the Wachowskis.
    Since a lot of people couldn’t or didn’t want to understand the last 2 Matrix films and again dwelled on the CGI and the Zion rave. Too bad…..

    Remember Speed Racer Fans, the Matrix didn’t do big numbers its first weekend ether…

    This film will only gain more fans once people stop reading negative reviews and check it out on there own on a regular size screen. (I would also recomend sitting way in the last row)… ;-)

  5. I sure loved the car chase with Racer X and the mammoth car. !! (That scene reminded me??, What happend to the Spy Hunter film with Dwayne Johnson? It must have really sucked because they finished filming it like years ago)

    One performance that I think was lost on Non-fans of the cartoon was Royaltons.
    His delivery was dead on perfect for a Speed Racer villian.
    If you remember the villians all spoke in long paragraphs with hardly any breaks and allways had a nice first impression to go with there wicked smile.
    (Its was part of what made that show unique).

    They did screw with Racer X’s uniform a little but I think it looked better overall in black.
    He was later reffered to as “Agent 9″ in the cartoon series and was Speed shadow on all his missions. Allmost like a reverse Batman & Robin deal.
    The original cartoon was far ahead of is time in terms of themes and stories. Some stories were very much like James Bond and Doctor Who.
    Not too mention that Speed kills enemies in a lot of episodes. (I’m talking with machine guns). So it had an impact on me when I was young.
    Seriously the show only got away with its voilence because I don’t think the parents were paying attention to the stories.
    Some of Speeds villians looked as original as some of the Marvel or DC cast of characters.
    The nomadic fur collector drivers really cracked me up in the film.

    Anyway………ยป o^o-

  6. its easier to dwell on the blending of CGI And reality in Speed Racer because CGI is a much bigger part of the film .
    Iron Man is a character piece, more dependent on performance then visual effects.

  7. speed racer!
    eye candy!

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  9. oops
    exceeded recommended velocity

  10. I think you liked it better than I did. The visuals were pretty good, but everything else was horrible.

    It seemed to want to gear towards kids but then had people flipping people off and random cuss words such that it wasn’t as kid friendly as it should have been.

    It had no audience. I wrote a longer review on my blog (and one of Iron Man that I failed to comment on here).

    Iron Man is definitely the cat’s pajamas. Just keep watching it every weekend until Indiana Jones comes out I say. Support Marvel Studios!

  11. Yeah, I agree. Considering it was obviously aimed at kids it was odd having the overuse of (granted, mild) cuss words. Although even my daughter laughed at the scene with the “flip off.”

    It was just a very odd film. I was really 2 – 2.5 through most of it but like I said I thought it pulled itself together a bit towards the end and that tilted my rating up some.


  12. 790, I wanted this movie to succeed, I really did. I, for one, liked the races, the psychodelic colors, the futuristic look of the cars, the flipping, crashes, and the offensive and defensive weappons. I just had a problem between the races. Most of the actors were fine (I especially like the boy who played Spridel and Matthew Fox) but others just hurt the film (I actually fell asleep between 2 races). I thought the scene with the ninjas was not choreographed well and an overweight Pops (John Goodman) overpowering a ninja? I know this is from a cartoon but that was just too over-the-top for me.

    You compared the Matrix movies to this one; IMO, the Matrix movies were far superior (especially the first). I had a few problems with the sequels but overall, I like them all. If they did the same choreography in SR that they did in the Matrix, maybe it would have been better.

    Nonetheless, I have to agree with Vic’s 3 out of 5, mainly for the racing.

  13. Well the studio estimates are in for North American boxoffice sales.

    Iron man 50.5 mill
    Speedracer 20.2 mill

    That means in Ironman’s SECOND weekend, it still earned 2.5 times as much money as this overhyped awfulness. Speedracer only earned 0.2 more than What happens in Vegas which had NO marketing and no media attention. That’s sad, but I’m happy I was right a month ago.

  14. Eh too Kahless? Arrg.
    (I know Klingons love the classics).

    Well Pops Racer did have a spare tire going on. However John Goodman I thought looked like he lost some weight for the role. He was perfect for the part. (Imo)
    All I can say about the nonja action is that in the Matrix films it was intense fight or die action.
    Speed Racers fight scenes were done more for comical laughs. In the cartoon Pops used to allways spin the baddies around (like everytime). If you re-watch Trixi’s fight scenes there just halariously bad. That fight scene at the ice ridge reminded me of the Power Rangers. But that was the look they were going for.
    It was supposed to look comical. Spridle was just halarious The enitre film is a live action anime fest.

    (Weekend armchairing) about Speed with some of my friends this weekend I really feel the film was mis-understood by most critics and years ahead of its time.
    (Imo) This film will go on to be profitable, however its just going to take a bit longer to catch on.

    I’m really happy that Iron Man is still kicking ars. If Speed had to be beat I’m glad it was Iron Man that beat it.
    I sure hope Iron Man can kick Prince Narnia’s behind up til Indiana Jones time. ;-)

  15. “watch Iron man every weekend until Indiana Jones is here”

    If I had to watch a movie again, it would be Speed Racer. I don’t know, I’m in a mood for joyful colors and happy go lucky blurs of fun. I want to preserve my memory of Iron Man so it’s a flick I can watch once in a while and enjoy it without knowing every line.

    Speed Racer though–I’ve gotta see it on the big screen, or IMAX now that I’ve found one in my area.

  16. I sure hope Iron Man can kick Prince Narnia’s behind up til Indiana Jones time

    There’s a big following for Narnia, books and movies. I think Iron Man will need his Hulkbuster armor if he’s going to defeat Prince Caspian. Of course, Indy will reign supreme the week after. What a month! :o)

  17. The Wachowski bros certainly put a lot of effort into making Speed Racer… the movie overall looked and felt like a cross between anime, a kaleidoscope, that Flintstones movie, a video game and the Dukes of Hazard

  18. I’m still in the middle of finally watching the movie.

    It’s Tron meets Slot Car Racing meets Drifting!

    I want my PPV money back!!!! Wah…

    Go speed race, go speed racer, go away speed racer!

  19. Oh, I forgot this part: It was WWE on wheels!

    OK, I’m done.