Posted by: travishawkins | May 9, 2008

GO, SPEED RACER, GO!

As anybody who’s anybody knows, the Wachowski Brothers’ Speed Racer movie comes out soon. Growing up, I was obsessed with the Speed Racer cartoon, on which the movie is based.

For the uninitiated, the show was about a hip young racecar driver named (oddly enough) Speed Racer and his rad car the Mach 5. The Mach 5 could do all sorts of cool tricks like drive underwater, cut down trees, and blast into the air on hydraulic jacks. One of the coolest characters was the mysterious Racer X, who was secretly Speed’s older brother (Rex), who ran away from home many years ago.

Speed Racer was a Japanese homage to American culture. It was a strange cocktail of ingredients: striking imagery, laughable animation, dialogue performed without taking a breath, a near-surrealistic sense of pacing, zany comedy (intended and otherwise), and excessive violence. In the title sequence, Speed waves at the camera just before running another car off the road. The ensuing explosion fills the screen.

Speed Racer featured some wonderful villains with even better dialogue. At their sinister midnight meeting, the leader of the evil Car Acrobatic Team encourages his drivers to “gather [their] strength from the violence of the elements!” In another episode, crime boss Cruncher Block laughs as he demands another sandwich, explaining: “I always get hungry when I’m up to skullduggery!”

I’m sure that’s more than you wanted to know about Speed Racer. I think my childhood obsession was fueled by when the show came on during the day: I would run home just in time to hear “tune in tomorrow to see if Speed survives his showdown with the monster car!” And let’s not forget that awesome theme song. Here are both the American title sequence and the original Japanese title sequence, which benefits from additional gunplay and a stampede of giraffes.

EDIT: Just saw the movie.  A LOT better than I had dared to hope; I give it four stars.  Maybe four and a half.  But I’d be interested in what someone who never watched the show thought.

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Responses

  1. NPR did a couple of stories about Speed Racer yesterday that I was planning on sending you. But I’ll just post them here.

    Unfortunately the reviews for the new movie are not glowing. Please let us know your thoughts after you see the film.

    http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=90268450

    Make sure you listen to the audio too – it’s different than the written story. It’s got some very cool stuff.

  2. I didn’t know anything about Speed Racer, but was interested to see where X fit into everything. Also, I wanted to tell you that in The Sixth Sense, it turns out that Bruce Willis is been dead the whole time.

    Also, more importantly (kinda), I’m beginning to rediscover David Wilcox and enjoyed your post about him.

  3. haven’t seen the movie. heard it was terrible. i want to see indiana jones.

  4. Write something new.

  5. where have you been? the maelstrom that is the internet misses your words.

  6. do you realize how bad you suck at blogging?

  7. Wow. It’s been a long time since you wrote this. But what the heck, I guess I’ll put my two cents in:

    I never watched the cartoon but I loved the movie. It made me seriously wish I could race like that, and made me feel that my car is less than adequate because it can’t flip and jump like Speed Racer’s car. But I have to admit that for the first 15 minutes of the movie I was wondering what I had just paid to see. Once you get into the style it’s fantastic though.

    After reading this it makes me want to see the movie again.


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