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Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Reel Madness super special extra deluxe bonus round: Speed Racer

Alright guys, I'll cop to it: this isn't what I was originally going to post today. Time got ahead of me this weekend with all the hoopla over Thor and the nightmare that the midnight shows presented to me. You may or may not hear about it in the episode we record tonight, but I'm sure it's a story you'll get at some point. Anyway, the other day, I was looking for a new little notebook and happened upon an old one where I used to record my hours at my old theater where we had a crooked manager that would adjust everyone's clock-ins and outs so she could make labor without sacrificing manpower. A folded up page with what follows fell out, written in the bright green ink from the pen I always used at podium there; I spent LOT of time on podium there since all the ushers I was in charge of hated it. What I was going for with this, I'm not sure. I was probably trying to convince people that the movie isn't the anti-capitalism conspiracy theory brought to life that some reviews claimed it was; either way, you've heard us talk about it before but some of the stuff here hugely amused me where I was looking back over it. It's not as casual as I normally sound when writing for here so it may sound a little high falutin'. I hope you enjoy, because if I'm going to get overwhelmed by work, I'd prefer my dodging responsibility turn out like this more often.

I gave all of our Speed Racer posters away; I still feel like a schmuck all this time later
Speed Racer presents us a world so visually vibrant that it becomes almost overwhelming during the course of the initial viewing. Speed’s world is literally a cartoon brought to life, with garish electric colors and surreal decorations, the visual onslaught helping the audience step into the world of its characters. Almost every scene has an intense visual aspect from the scenes of Speed in kindergarten, imagining himself as a race car driver all the way to the ‘ghost’ of the Mach 4 our hero sees when trying to break his brother’s race record. Not everything is totally realistic looking but that’s appropriate for a movie that conveys such a distinctly heightened reality. Everything in this world is hyperbole, an idea sold by practically everything in the movie; the intense camerawork in racing the Mach 5, the broad color pallette,the performances, all of them sell us on a world so incredibly apart from our own reality we can't help but be entranced by it. When Pops Racer is revealed to have been a Greco-Roman wrestling Champ just in time to mete out punishment on a group of attacking ninjas, we don’t feel cheated for the coincidence; we’re delighted that the foil to the villains is such a great punch line, revealed by the close-up of Pops’ championship ring. 

The characters are embodied as archetypes by the actors from the distilled sweetness of Speed’s girlfriend Trixie, to the stoic resourcefulness of his father Pops. Speed is purely heroic and good, a shining counterpart to the mysterious Racer X, who is secretly his lost brother Rex. The accident that Rex faked in order to join an international spy agency tore the Racer family apart, a choice he made after the corrupt Royalton targeted his family for their clean adherence to sportsmanship. As Racer X, he gets a second chance to bond with his lost brother as well as protect him from the vile plots of Royalton. Their trials in defying the evil conglomerate show them to be not just champions of their sport but champions of the goodness the movie’s villains so deeply despise. By the time of the final race, rigged with traps by the evil Royalton, the films visual signatures have been locked into place for over an hour and a half. Yet, the Wachowski Bros. have more cards to deal with a breathtaking finish that threatens sheer visual overload, symbolic of how Speed himself must go beyond all limits he has known in the past to claim a victory not just for himself, his family or his sport, but for all the good known to humanity.

So there you go guys. Mostly unchanged from when it was originally written 3 years ago, which seems like an eternity now I hate to say. I did italicize the end where it had not been before, just to emphasize the tone of the article. Bein' all fancy while still trying to embody a goofy thematic concept is a double edged sword to be sure. Yeah it's short but that may be to it's advantage; Speed Racer really is a bizarre juxtaposition of ADD imagery spread out over a pretty big run time, a pair of conflicting elements that can make it a tough sell. I wasn't expecting to convert anyone that hated the movie (in fact, I still hesitate to recommend it to people) but was hoping to push anyone forward that had been on the fence about it.

Anyway, I'll be back with something more substantial in the near future. In the meantime, check out the Dominion: Dinosaurs Vs. Aliens bit Jaysun did yesterday. It's longer and filled with what's likely an equal amount of hyperbolic intensity.

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