Speed Racer (2008)

Speed Racer is the Wachowski siblings’ perhaps underrated, largely unsuccessful adaptation of an anime/manga story about a boy named Speed Racer who dreams of being a professional race car driver like his disgraced, deceased older brother Rex. The racing world eats dreamers for breakfast, though, so Speed’s success requires every ounce of determination he has, as well as help from his mom, his dad, his girlfriend Trixie, his best friend Sparky, his little brother Spritle, a chimpanzee—and a mysterious ally known as Racer X.

For me, this movie is a fantastic dramatization of the passion of the expert and the pursuit and achievement of justice in the face of staggering odds. I love it. I love it for reasons that are more like feelings than they are like reasons. I don’t think I can properly explain.


Beware spoilers below.

Certainly I think Speed Racer has flaws.

I think the fat little brother and his chimp are too silly, and I think the chimp could have been dispensed with entirely, but I think the little brother needed to exist to preserve a certain symmetry.

The villain is a greedy, manipulative rich guy who runs a huge company. I do not like the idea that big business, or money itself, is inherently bad, which is one conclusion one could draw from watching Speed Racer.

Still. I like the bizarre style. I like the screaming, shiny, sparkling explosions of color in the sets, the costumes, the props, and the CGI. I like the horizontal scrolling heads technique. I like the integration of foreign-language racing commentators. I like the extended opening sequence that incorporates flashbacks from various characters and points in time.

Most of all, I like the fact that the good guy wins and the cheater loses. Some of the people complicit in the rampant cheating were cheering for Speed in the end because they shared his convictions, if not his courage. They were victims of a system they didn’t know how to change. They needed a hero, and they got one.

“This could change everything.”
“It already has.”