Thursday, May 15, 2008

Speed Racer, or The Death of Fun

There isn't much to say about this two hour and fifteen minute snoozefest, much like the Wachowski's last two Matrix sequels, except that they're way too long and cannot hold your interest despite their attempt at nonstop visual stimulation.

The films of the Wachowskis are better analyzed as simulations of films, as though state-of-the-art computer programs were designed to "make a movie for humans" and reached the following mathematical conclusions:

1) More run time = more value
2) Humans either cannot tell the difference between CGI and reality, or they don't care.

That said, the casting is actually really good. It makes me wish the film had been made by human beings and not tech geeks with Rage Against the Machine posters in the filthy workspaces of the mansions they bought by capturing the filthy tech geek zeitgest in 1999. They haven't exactly had to undergo emotional growth since then.

One of the most annoying arguments I continue to have with film fans is what constitutes "mindless fun." I posit that truly "mindless fun" is actually a misnomer since anything that's actually fun takes a combination of intelligence and skill which transcends simple material into something universally appealing and timeless. Things like Looney Tunes and Star Wars are not intellectually challenging but couldn't have been great without a lot of thought put into them.

By the same token, mindless fun and fun of any kind cannot be fun without some innate humanity that transcends culture and time and connects with the hearts and minds of young and old.

That's why Speed Racer convinced me the Wachowskis have no souls and no love for humanity and not a single shred of joy in their hearts. They are hollow shells.

There are about twenty two minutes in Speed Racer when the Wachowskis actually deliver on the promise of uninterrupted sugar rush thrills...a blissful stream of cartoon consciousness...a euphoric ADD high. There are moments, miraculously, which are finally framed in the animation storyboard / comic strip panel style:


Hey, they got it right for one shot! Whoops, there it goes!

And they're about two in the entire movie. I had given the Wachowskis waaaaay more benefit of the doubt than they deserved as to what kind of visual tricks they'd have up their sleeves. Again, the lack of invention wouldn't be so hard to ignore if it didn't go on for so damn long.

The rest of the now-common gratuitously mammoth running time is wasted on ponderous, ponderous "plot" which is all standard hypocritical suburban faux-Marxism.

Why did they cast a professional Christopher Hitchens impersonator as the world's most effeminate purple-clad evil Mr Burns capitalist villain? Seemingly half the dialogue is the film's ponderous and condescending attempt at Raging™ Against The Corporate Machine.


Imagine this guy dressed like the Joker, and sliding his hand across Speed's lithe muscular shoulders.

He's barely even featured in any of the advertising. They just spring him on you and give him as much screen time as anyone else to speechify your ears off about his diabolical conglomerate.

It says so much about the self-hating capitalist mentality of Hollywood that charged with the task of plotting a Speed Racer feature, the Wachowskis thought it was most appropriate to reinvent the Racer family as an independent company who somehow afford to make their own cars and are somehow allowed to compete in various races without belonging to any leagues.

That's their idea of getting you to care about these characters hopes and dreams. Apparently they don't even care about winning races (!!!) We also have no idea why Speed and Trixie are into each other. Their romance could've made a fine emotional center if the Wachowskis were actual human beings with human wants and needs.


There were no shots in the film like this, because that would have been sexist.

So the capitalist who actually produces things is of course the scum of the Earth who secretly rigs all the races, and Racer X's mysteriously faked death and secret identity were created in order that he could "fight the system." Meantime, Speed tells Mr Burns that sponsors are "the devil" in his household and Pops Racer monotonously bemoans that Speed's victories are ignored because the big conglomerates "control the media."

OHHHH! Kind of like how Time Warner AOL, the conglomerate who owns Speed Racer™, is able to advertise incessantly in every channel of media on behalf of the Wachowskis, while smaller independent films don't even have a chance?


These two idiots want you to WAKE UP!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

If they believed in practicing a word of what they preached, the Wachowskis would be independent filmmakers who raised their own funds and presumably made their own film equipment without all that evil big business sponsorship, just like the Racer family.

This is why the heart of Western Faux-Marxism is hypocrisy, and the pinnacle of it's design is the Che Guevera t-shirt for $19.99.

Why do we expose children to this kind of drivel? Why should they be sermonized to about corporate greed when their parents have just shelled out money for them to enjoy corporate entertainment? It's no coincidence that corporate entertainment which fails miserably at entertainment also has no confidence in it's own raison d'ĂȘtre.

By the same turn, how the hell can so many Marxist "Film Studies" professors claim that Hollywood movies exist solely to promote capitalism and the military-industrial complex these days when capitalists are the only villains left in mainstream Hollywood movies? Even fucking IRON MAN denounces the military industrial complex!

About the lack of humor: if Batman suffers from ennobling the insanity behind the psychodrama, please try to imagine how badly a kitsch cartoon suffers from being "dramatized" when the Wachowski-bots best approximation of real human drama was all the aforementioned posturing.

The promised sensory feast didn't just fail due to lack of visual invention. It failed by taking itself too seriously. By staunchly refusing to acknowledge the pop culture gravitas of the material.



Even the couple leaving were riffing on Speed Racer's iconic fast dubbing - not their own riff, mind you, but Family Guy's - even these normals had an inkling of what could've been. Like, for instance, speeding up the dialogue soundtrack in post. That would be a start. It might have saved some fucking time.

The Wachowskis' M.O. is all too indicative of the larger trend in Hollywood: no one knows how to be purely entertaining, or they don't want to try. Instead we must WAIT through filler and "moral" lessons to get to what little good stuff there hopefully is, and we're not allowed to question such priorities.

And the cast, the cast! Christina Ricci has naturally big anime eyes, the guy who plays Speed has a perfectly comic book jawline and permanent hair coif, Racer X looked and sounded perfect, John Goodman made a great Pops Racer and the little kid who plays Sprittle defies all laws of child actor probability to emerge as a genuinely funny spastic little comic relief foil.

Such a waste. The casting was actually so good, I don't think the villain's resemblance to Chris Hitchens was an accident anymore.

In final rebuttal to this piece of shit, here is a brilliant Dexter's Laboratory cartoon that is 10 years old but paid extreme attention to detail in the joys of Speed Racer's hyper stylized cheesy fun. They also do a legitimate imitation of the weird dubbing cadences, unlike Family Guy.

What might a perfect live action recreation of these techniques have been? T'would have been astonishing. For all the CGI bells and whistles of Speed Racer the movie, it astonishes no one.

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