Cover Art and Menus: 3/10
The movie is colorful and lovely. This cover is just busy and strangely boring. They had SOOOO much to work with in the world of Speed Racer. Why would they chose this overly and yet poorly designed look for the box? I just don’t like it. The menu is a static image from the movie with the pop up navigation at the bottom. Fair to slightly better than fair as a presentation.
- Spritle In The Big Leagues – Tour The Movie Set With Paulie Litt – The youngest member of the cast gives us a cute little run around behind the scenes. We meet the creative crew, Joel Silver (briefly), and the kid’s pretty funny to watch. It’s not in depth or anything, it’s more like something that we would see on TV to promote the movie.
- Speed Racer Supercharged – Meet The Drivers Of The WRL – If you like fantasy tech in cars, this is the extra for you. It’s not for me. This is a close look at the cars featured in the movie races. A presenter announces as if it’s a real set of vehicles. It’s kind of boring and didn’t hold my attention for more than about two minutes.
- Speed Racer Car Fu Cinema – Behind The Scenes – Innovations in filming CGI car racing is the subject of this extra. We are all getting used to the talking heads and behind the camera look at how the special effects are made. I like it, it’s pretty substantial and really does show how new inventions in movie making are never ending.
- A look At The Revolutionary Movie Making Process – This is a full blow behind the scenes, minus the directors. It has interviews with cast and crew, lots of special effects details, stunts, and more. I like the movie so this was a welcome extra to get to know more about the background and creative process behind it.
- Speed Racer Crucible Challenge (Bonus Disc) – Oh GOD, this game is such a dud. It’s a racing challenge played on your DVD player. It’s not fun, or modern, or worth the time it takes to put in the disc. They could have done a whole lot more with the idea of a Speed Racer game, even a DVD game.
- Digital Copy (Bonus Disc) – If you want Speed Racer on your laptop, here ya go. If you want it on your Ipod, well, you can put it in Itunes, but then you have to do some paperwork to get it to work on your little white box.
The Movie: 7/10
Speed Racer, the movie…hmmm. I’ve never watched the original animated series. I’ve never known anyone who was into the original animated series. This will be me, a newcomer to the whole Speed Racer world, giving my opinion of the movie as a stand alone event. Ok, I got that off my chest, now on to the review.
This wasn’t a movie I was looking forward to watching. There are very few that come along that give me that kind of “ho hum” initial response. I have no explanation or reason. Sitting down to watch it I was open to anything, just not excited about it. The first few minutes didn’t do much to turn my crank, but then, at some mysterious moment I can’t pinpoint, something got my engine going. (you like my automobile style analogy?)
The set up for the story is that a young boy, Speed Racer, is in awe of his older brother’s race car driving (Rex Racer). The visual style of the movie is gun ho from the start. With loads of color, retro mixed with futuristic world elements, and enough CGI to choke a horse. (Disclaimer: Here at Ascully.com we would never choke a horse with high definition movie images, or anything else for that matter.) It’s all loud eye candy and sensory overload at frist with the screaming comic book, animation, and graphic novel look translated into live action. All of it’s fine with me. With a bit of time switching, to present and past the foundation of the story is laid. Speed Racer wants to be a legend driver like his brother.
The Racer family is solid, with John Goodman as Pops and Susan Surranden as Mom it came together like a charm. The younger brother was a bit on the theatrical side with his vaudvillian ways, but the chimp was a kind of kicker for weirdness up against the rest of the fairly well grounded characters who make up the true heart of the movie. Oh, I can’t forget Sparky, the Australian mechanic who seems to be an honorary part of the family.
The family is the center of Speed’s determination to be a winner. He is offered a chance to be taken under the wing of a large company and it’s smarmy owner. All with promises of fame, fortune, and a chance for his family to have more than they could ever wish for. There’s always a catch though, thanks to those dang movie writers who never want anyone to just have an easy time of things. A dark side of the business comes to the surface. Speed is quckly thrown into the world of fixed racing, big cash, and dirty dealings between teams, racers, and possibly even his brother in years past.
The brother, Rex, left the family at a young age for reasons we don’t fully understand through the movie. A mysterious Racer X appears who is a dirty driver and works for the big corporations. In steps an agency who have been tracking the racing goings on for years and want to bring the corruption to an end. Speed is in the middle of it all along with his family and Trixie. I forgot to mention Trixie before because she’s not that important to me. I’m not a huge Ricci fan, so that combined with the fact that she felt kind of tacked on didn’t make her a vital part of the whole thing. She also had some of the worse lines of the movie.
With the good solid family story, the cool look, the crazy editing style, and those amazing races (didn’t I mention the races???) it’s a seriously fun movie. I didn’t want to watch it and didn’t really want to like it and I ended up loving it. It has flaws, of course, too many goofball moments with the kid and Chimp, Trixie, a few dodgey CGI moments here and there, but overall it is a treat. And those races, they are incredible to watch. I was confused often by the fast action, but it was so viceral and exciting, unlike any racing in movies you have seen, dare I say.
It all comes together to make Speed Racer a good flick. It has enough sentimentality to make ya smile, but enough action to keep you from feeling like the sap factor is too high. I really enjoyed it. It taught me a lesson, never to NOT want to watch a movie because ya never know what you might be missing!!
Audio & Video: 8/10
Speed Racer is the most colorful movie I have ever seen. This is a perfect movie to see in high definition. One of the extras explains how they used ultra experimental HD cameras, which is obvious all the way from the opening shots of the race around the closed track to the cool cross country race around the world. Somewhat controversially Warner opted to put Speed Racer onto a single layer 25 GB disc. When I read about this a few weeks ago I thought “Oh no, a movie like this should be on a full 50GB disc. This is going to suck.” My fears were alleviated because the disc looks incredible start to finish. There is not a hint of pixelation even during the thrilling race scenes.
Warner also chose not to include lossless audio which is now the norm for Blu-Ray. I assume this was to give more bitrate to the picture, seeing as they chose to cut costs and use the single layer disc. I don’t know if this is because the movie was unprofitable in theaters and they didn’t want to spend much on the home release, but it sure is a shame. I am not saying the audio is bad, but it is the exact same track you get on the DVD version which isn’t what we expect when we pay a little extra for Blu-Ray. Come on Warner, we expect lossless audio on all releases from now, on especially for these types of action movies.
I enjoyed the movie a lot, however, this Blu-Ray is a rental for me. As a new release you can find Speed Racer on Blu-ray is around $28.00. Standard DVD is about five bucks less. If you have a Blu-Ray player, go for the shiny glossy version. It’s not a reasonable price for the few tid bits of extras they dribbled in the set.
Overall Score 7/10