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I guess we can’t call them the Wachowski Brothers anymore, since technically they’re not both brothers anymore. Allow me to illuminate your confusion with an explanation, one of the few times where one of my more obscure references can actually be explained in a sane way that might make sense to another human being.
When they made Bound and the Matrix trilogy, two chaps sharing the name Wachowski were responsible as the directors. Now, as in as of a year or two ago, one of them is still a Brother Wachowski, and the other, thanks to the type of surgery that in Australia is still colloquially referred to as the “cruellest cut of all”, one of them has undergone gender reassignment surgery to become a Sister Wachowski.
Strange, I know, but don’t for a moment feel that I’m impugning the lifestyle choices of people who I believe have every right to do whatever the hell they want as long as they’re not hurting other people. He / She can do whatever the heck they want with their pink bits, surgery-wise or otherwise as long as it doesn’t involve my pink bits.
What they can’t seem to do anymore is make films that connect with mass audiences the way the Matrix flicks did. As producers they might have put together the masterful adaptation of V for Vendetta, which I very much enjoyed, but, let’s face it, the protagonist was a terrorist seeking to bring down the wholly corrupt government of Britain. You don’t make a billion dollars that way unless you’re a Saudi aristocrat.
So what did the clever clogs brother/sister Wachowski decide to do with the billions of dollars they made from the Matrix trilogy? A live-action/CGI abundant adaptation of the ‘classic’ Japanese cartoon Speed Racer.
Weren’t you just aching, aching for a Speed Racer movie? You were, you strumpet, dressed the way you are. The thought of a demented, multi-coloured and manic eye-fucking two hour plus monstrosity had you dribbling into your sipper cup, didn’t it?
The truth is I can’t imagine who the intended audience was supposed to be. The movie, if in fact we can call it a movie, goes so far out of its way to irritate the viewer that the only people I can imagine were really intended to see it are blind people.
Blind and deaf people perhaps. Maybe even Helen Keller. Helen Keller was the imagined audience for this film, since she could neither see nor hear it, and could then not complain about it since she was mute.
Maybe the Wachowskis have enough money to genetically engineer an army of Helen Keller’s to go and see their films, because, since Speed Racer is now the official biggest bomb of all time, and clearly no-one else wanted to see it, who else could?
This flick cost over $200 million to make, and made a very small fraction of that back at the box office. No-one wanted to see it, and with good reason. Few films are as visually aggressive or profoundly misguided as this one, which makes you feel like you’re watching a movie through both a blender and an acid trip mixed with Draino.
My eyes don’t work so good no more after having watched this, this, this amazing movie. The only scenes that don’t get edited in spastic half second flashes are the dramatic dialogue scenes, which are almost more inexplicable than the insane action on display. And let me tell you, the action doesn’t make a whole lot of sense either.
And what a display it is. If you can still remember the pod race scene from The Phantom Menace, imagine two hours of it interspersed with quiet scenes of Susan Sarandon pretending to be a Jetsons era mom, with John fucking Goodman as her hubby. Eternally, in these scenes that seem like they were directed by a chimpanzee (there’s a chimpanzee in the film as well, as if it wasn’t bad enough), you wonder at the expressions on the adult’s faces, as if there are glimmers of them thinking about anything apart from the cash they were promised. Maybe they were all promised their own monkeys for when the film’s production wrapped up, and they were thinking what they’d do with their monkeys. John Goodman of course would just eat the poor hairy thing, but the others might have been thinking about where in their homes the monkey would live. Could they adapt one of the rooms in their palatial mansions themselves, or would they need to have contractors come and construct some stuff... it's all so complicated.
What about the backyard: would a tire swing suffice, or do they need to build an entire goddamn habitat for the thing? These are the questions that cross your mind when you’re spouting gibberish dialogue in front of multiple greenscreens, safe in the knowledge that whatever’s lacking in the scene or in the director’s ability to direct humans will be digitally added in post-production. Lucky, aye.
Does Sarandon have expensive habits? Is she into that hideously expensive lingerie from La Perla, or into, I dunno, Playstation 3 games? They’re pretty pricey. How desperate is she for the money that her life partner Tim Robbin’s clearly isn’t able to provide? Because nothing but money and lots of it could salve the soullessness of taking part in this enterprise. Even multiple monkeys aren’t going to cut it.
John Goodman I’m sure needs all the money he can get, because being morbidly obese doesn’t pay for itself. It takes a lot of money to stay that big, and being in the Coen Brother’s films doesn’t pay anywhere near enough for all the starchy and sugary treats you need on a minute-to-minute basis.
Emile Hirsch plays their son Speed, as in, Speed Racer. That’s his goddamn name. The irritating main family whose exploits and adventures we are supposed to applaud and be thrilled by are called the Racer family. The fucking Racer family! Emile Hirsch, who has previously done decent work in films as disparate as Alpha Dog and Into the Wild, goes through the film looking like a teen Elvis impersonator, and generally exhibits less personality than Ikea furniture does.
Flatter even than he, in more ways than one, is his girlfriend? Sister? Trixie, played ably by Audrey Hepburn. Yes, Audrey Hepburn. You thought she was dead, but she’s either clawed her way out of the grave in search of crackers and brains (she’s not going to find any delicious grey matter in this film, alas), or else Christina Ricci has had a younger, more pixie-ish version of herself constructed from bits surgically excised and liposuctioned from Christina Ricci, in an attempt to look like – well, guess who. I cannot even begin to describe how disappointed I was by seeing her in this. And I don’t mean her acting, which in this is similar to what you experience from the people that dress up as Disney characters at theme parks. Seeing what she’s done to herself through starvation and surgery is just depressing.
Large stretches of the film are taken up with these completely computer generated car races that are bound by no concept of physics, believability or emotional involvement on the part of the viewer. I don’t think I’m being unfair, because despite the rough manner in which I’ve conducted this autopsy would seem to indicate that I hated it as much as everyone seemed to hate it, I don’t actually think it’s as bad as all that. It’s not an enjoyable film to watch, since mostly I watched it in a state of technological shock, and crippling disbelief at what passes for a story.
But on some levels, I don’t think the film is completely without merit. It is an adaptation of what it is: a 60s Japanese cartoon which is pretty camp in and of itself. At the very least it doesn’t make a hell of a lot of sense except as a post-modern exercise in filmmaking. These people, these Wachowskis apparently had more money than sense, and a deep love of the original cartoon, and wanted to blow it up big for the big screen. They spend so much money on making it look amazing that of course it looks like kaleidoscopic sewerage, but there’s still something interesting within that for me. The Wachowskis were trying to raise cinema to a new level, and of course they failed, because the other people involved in making the film wanted to make, god hate them for it, a mass market entertainment for the masses aimed mostly at kids. Kids too young by at least 30 years to even know or care about Speed Racer the cartoon. What the fuck were they thinking…?
So we get incredibly lurid colour over-amplified so far out of the human spectrum of vision that viewing was optimally anticipated for some future species of alien/robot hybrid, and the editing is over edited to such a degree that it makes those Jason Bourne espionage thrillers look like a Merchant Ivory stately period piece in comparison.
And we have a story so mindlessly stupid that only small children and chimpanzees could really appreciate it. Lucky we have those on hand, in the shape of the movies most irritating/believable characters.
The car races are so cheesy, and deliriously inspired by crystal meth, that they look cheap. It’s strange that spending too much money on generating digital effects can actually undo the work they’re trying to do. That’s the balancing act in movie making, of course, making the unbelievable believable and vice versa. But much of this just looks like the last trippy demented section of 2001: A Space Odyssey sped up a thousand times and projected onto the hyperactive insides of an angry pinball machine.
I got what I expected, and as such I’m not really in a position to complain. It’s not like
I paid to see it. Having paid to see it I might have wanted to attack the theatre staff with violent, bloody fistfuls of popcorn. Having not paid to see it, I can sit back, chill out, and marvel at what is for at least the next six months going to be the biggest turkey in cinematic history.
And what a turkey. You’ll never use your eyeballs in the same way ever again.
4 times I was wondering why there were so many Germans in this flick until I realised that, like the flick, it just doesn’t matter out of 10
“You don’t drive because you’re a driver, you drive because you’re driven” – Speed Racer.