Howdy all you Supercultists out there on the interwebz! I’m Bad Movie Professor Cameron Coker (BS in “The Wachowskis” with a minor in “Animal Cruelty”) and I’ll be posting my hype-tacular speeches every week along with some long lost speeches from past Supercult Shows!
This week Supercult installs incredibly illegal hydraulics in his car in the hopes of one day becoming just like Speed Racer!
Speed Racer’s life and love has always been automobile racing, but when the corrupt Arnold Royalton threatens the Racer family and the sanctity of racing itself, Speed takes to the tracks in his late brother’s car, the Mach 5 for some high-octane justice! Can Speed, his girlfriend Trixie, and his family defeat Royalton and his army of ninjas, Vikings, and ninja Viking racers? And who is the mysterious Masked Racer, Racer X?? From the creators of ‘The Matrix’ trilogy comes a world built for speed…Speed Racer!
Released in 2008 and directed by the Wachowskis, Speed Racer is a live-action adaptation of the incredibly popular Japanese anime and manga series Speed Racer that began in 1966. Starring Emile Hirsch as Speed, Christina Ricci as Trixie, Mathew Fox as Racer X, John Goodman as Pops Racer, Susan Sarandon as Mom Racer, Kick Gurry as Sparky, and Roger Allam as E.P. Arnold Royalton, the film retains many of the qualities and tropes of the original series…even the fact that the parents are literally named Mom and Pop Racer.
The idea for a live action Speed Racer is as old as 1992 with Johnny Depp originally slated for the role of Speed, but overly high budget concerns, scheduling conflicts, and director drop outs kept the project in development hell. At several points major names left the project simply because they were tired of waiting for something to happen. It wasn’t until 2006 when the Wachowskis, along with Visual effects designer John Gaeta, who had previously won an Academy Award for Best Visual Effects for the Matrix, took the helm that things got rolling.
Speed Racer was far from in the clear though. The entire film was shot against a green screen in just 60 days. The Wachowskis filmed in HD for the first time. With the camera, the Wachowskis used a layering approach that would put both the foreground and the background in focus to give it the appearance of real-life anime. The film has a “retro future” look, according to Silver. A working drivable Mach 5 automobile was constructed for the film, but it was never driven for the film. It was hung from a crane for its driving sequences and the rest of the racecar automobiles were completely computer-generated, with the actors sitting in a gimbal, a racecar cockpit with a computer-programmed hydraulic system.
On top of the unorthodox approach from the directors, the production was plagued by Animal Cruelty allegations from PETA for the treatment of the trained chimpanzees used to portray Spritle’s pet Chim Chim. The American Humane Association rated Speed Racer as “Unacceptable” and referred to several incidents as “completely inexcusable and unacceptable behavior in the use of any animal.”
Producer Joel Silver, known for films like Lethal Weapon, Die Hard, and for working with the Wachowskis on the Matrix trilogy and V for Vindetta, hoped to reach a broader audience with Speed Racer and described the Speed Racer as a family film. However, this ideal seems to have backfired somewhat because one of the chief critical complaints was that Speed Racer doesn’t seem to know who it’s audience should be. It bounces back and forth between surprisingly complicated corruption intrigues and embarrassingly cartoonish slapstick, not to mention the special effects and look of Speed Racer which on a good day “proudly denies entry into its ultra-bright world to all but gamers, fanboys and anime enthusiasts“ (Kirk Honeycutt of the Hollywood Reporter) and on a bad day resemble “a kindergartner’s art class collage” (Todd McCarthy of Variety).
Speed Racer was nominated for several awards but didn’t win anything. Awards it was nominated for include: a Visual Effects Society Award for “Outstanding Matte Paintings in a Feature”, a 2008 Teen Choice Award for best “Action Adventure Movie”, an MTV Movie Award for “Best Summer Movie So Far”, and a Golden Raspberry Award for “Worst Prequel, Remake, Rip-Off or Sequel”. Glenn Kenny of Premier said that Speed Racer “yields heretofore undreamed of levels of narrative incoherence” but perhaps critics were equally put off by the film’s marketing and commercialization which included several video games and product tie-ins with Hot Wheels, Lego, McDonalds, General Mills, Target, Topps, Esurance, Mattel, and even a retrofitted NASCAR vehicle for the 2008 Sprint Cup season.
Despite all of that Speed Racer had the potential of doing fairly well at the box office…if it weren’t sandwiched between box office heavy hitters like the first Iron Man film, The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian, and Indiana Jones 4. With an IMDB rating of 6.1 and a 39% Rotten Tomatoes, Speed Racer made just $93.9 million from a budget of over $120 million and was considered a box office bomb at the time of release.
But ignore all the money and the critics and the chimpanzee punching for a minute…
Speed Racer is a live action cartoon in the most literal sense. It’s a kaleidoscopic mindscape of color and sound that is equal parts exhilarating, epileptic, and surprisingly coherent. This is a kid’s movie where the main plot centers not around a bastardly dastard trying to take over the world with an army of robot goblins, but around a complex corporate corruption scandal. It’s also an adult movie where ninjas sneak into the Racer family’s apartment get kicked in the nuts, pantsed, and then thrown out of the window Super Mario 64 style. The Wichowskis pretty much channeled their inner 9-year-old to create a cult classic with more WTF moments than the average pre-screening Supercult playlist!
IGN’s Todd Gilchrist called Speed Racer “a masterpiece of its kind” and said that the film “is not merely the best film that it could be, it’s pretty much exactly what it should be: full of exciting, brilliantly-conceived races, primary-color characterizations and an irresistible sense of fun.”
We prefer to put it in simpler terms: This movie is bonkers and you’re going to f*#@-ing love it!
Go Speed Go!
The Supercult show is proud to present Speed Racer!