Ultimate Gay Fanboy

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  • May 15, 2008
Hey guys, I started another blog: Ultimate Gay Fanboy. I was tempted to write a review of Speed Racer because I didn’t agree with all the specious negative reviews it’s been getting. But I didn’t know where to post it. So, I decided to create a new blog to post my reviews of things of interest to us gay fanboys out there. Please visit the new blog, and feel free to give your opinions of the material I choose to review! Thanks for your support, guys!

UPDATE: That blog is no more. Read the review below:

The recently released Speed Racer movie has proven to be one of the most accurate adaptations cartoon to film I’ve ever seen.
The cartoon is from the late 60’s and is originally Japanese and then ported over to United States where it enjoyed quite a bit of popularity. It’s basically about a teen race-car driver, his family, and their adventures unraveling sinister plots to eliminate him from races and/or steal his amazing car, the Mach 5. As a child of the 80’s, I had seen Speed Racer in reruns and remember thinking it was a little difficult to watch just because it felt dated. The stories seemed corny and the animation was sub-par compared to what I was used to. It wasn’t until much later, when I became a student of animation, that I began to appreciate Speed Racer. In the 90’s the cartoon resurfaced all over cable and grew a large cult following because of it’s “kitsch” or “camp” value. It’s chock-full of unintentional innuendo.

The Wachowski Brothers‘ film adaptation translates the original cartoon almost exactly. The plot feels totally lifted from an episode; from the outlandish villains and their ridiculous schemes, to the side plot of the annoying little brother and his pet chimp. The actors all look like character designs from the cartoon. The wardrobe is exactly the same, if not very similar. There is a scene where Emilie Hirsh is wearing Speed’s outfit right down to the red scarf. Even the show’s signature “suggestive gasps” made it into the movie. The only thing that is changed is the high-tech set design, which looks like BladeRunner dipped in a LisaFrank color palette.

That aspect, however, the color palette, is one that must not be ignored when talking about this film. To say that it’s over-the-top is almost an understatement. Bright, vibrant colors, lights and animation dominate the movie from start to finish. This look felt most appropriate during the action scenes but in carrying it throughout the film, they really succeed in creating an entirely different world. It’s stylized to the point where one might even call it experimental. Absolutely nothing about the look of this film is realistic. Ever.

This is precisely what I enjoyed about Speed Racer. They took a cartoon, and made the film version as “cartoony” as possible without animating the entire thing. More films that take their source material from a cartoon, comic book, or video game need to take this approach. Not everything has to be applicable to real life. I believe filmmakers do a great disservice to these original works when they’re modified to be “believable.”

I found Speed Racer to be visually engaging for the entire 2 hours I was there. There are times when it drags (the non-action scenes) but overall, I had a really good time. For the first time in quite a while, I felt like someone with an imagination was behind the scenes. I don’t doubt that these guys painstakingly watched every single episode of that cheesy cartoon (cringe-inducing as that sounds.) I feel like it’s important for the filmmaker to know his source material– and know it well. I respect and applaud the Wachowski Brothers for taking the time to really study the original.

My recommendation is that anyone who is a fan of the original series should definitely see it. Also, artists (particularly animators and illustrators) should give it a try because it’s a great exercise in visual art. If you do not like the original cartoon, do not like cartoons in general, and are more a fan of realism in movies, this film is not for you.

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