“Harry... I've noticed a lot of negative reactions flying around regarding the Wachowski brother's new Speed Racer film. While everyone is entitled to their own opinion, and I never expected there to be a general consensus that Speed Racer was a staggering work of cinematic genius, I feel that many of the reviewers are missing the point entirely. I am forty-eight years old, and I literally grew up watching Speed Racer, and loving every poorly-animated minute of it. Speed was like marijuana...a "gateway" drug that led me to seek out and devour any and all Japanese anime series I could find on television, and there were plenty back in the day: Astro Boy, Marine Boy, Kimba the White Lion, The Amazing Three, The Eighth Man...I loved them all, but Speed was a particular favorite. Why? Perhaps it was my love of race cars that got me hooked. Or perhaps it was the intensity of the action, which was far different than anything any American animation studio was producing at the time. Maybe it was because the gadgetry in the Mach 5 was just way too cool for my sensitive young brain to wrap itself around. Whatever the reason, I was definitely one of Speed's biggest fans. That is why I feel so strongly about Speed Racer the film, and why I think my opinion has value. So without further ado, here are the 'points' I'd like to make to those who didn't like the film. I'm not necessarily trying to change anyone's mind about it, but rather to help them understand why Speed Racer is better and far more important than they are making it out to be: 1) This film is aimed at two primary targets: A) Those (like me) who grew up watching Speed Racer on television and loving it, and B) Kids. Everyone else just isn't all that important. Now I realize that the previous sentence isn't one that a studio exec would utter even under duress, but I don't think the Wachowski's would disagree with it. They are obviously fans of the show, and wanted to do exactly what they wound up doing...bringing the world of Speed Racer to life, and doing it with a love and respect for the source material. Which brings me to point #2: 2) It's a CARTOON, people! Which means that (and I know this is hard to believe) it has to LOOK and FEEL like the cartoon! One of the things that pisses me off the most about Hollywood is that they find a popular book or TV show or whatever that is beloved by millions of people, and, instead of saying "Well, gosh darn it! All of these folks absolutely LOVED this thing because it's just perfect the way it is, so let's just film it exactly that way so we don't disappoint anyone and make a kazillion dollars!" they instead go ahead and say "Well, we could make it even better!" and it tanks at the box office and they don't know why. This is why Speed Racer the film is so groundbreaking: they filmed it to look, sound and feel EXACTLY like the cartoon! Brilliant! Complain all you want about how strange the visuals seem, or how chaotic the race choreography is (though I found it quite easy to follow) or how over-the-top some of the acting is, but that's what made Speed Racer so much fun to watch as a kid. Kids don't care about production values or how mind-blowing the acting is, they just wanna be entertained! 3) Never underestimate the intelligence of your audience, no matter how young they are. Some people (like Capone, who I love with all my Hometown Chicago little heart) complain that the non-action scenes slow the film down too much. What? This is one of the reasons I love this film so much! If you want to fully appreciate Speed's victories, you gotta fully appreciate what he's up against.Yes, Royalton (the villain) does go into quite a lot of detailed information about the nature of the corporation's insatiable desire for money and power and all that, but this ups the stakes for the audience. Speed isn't just racing against a few other drivers, he's racing against entire corporations...corporations who place little or no value on human life and are willing to kill to get what they want. Given the situation in today's world where corporations seem to own and control the very heart of our democracy, this thought is frightening enough. To a kid, it's even more so, and I know because two kids in the audience I saw the movie with came out of the showing mentioning how scary Royalton was. This is another example of what the Wachowski's did right: they didn't talk down to their audience, and I think the film works better for it. 4) Finally, the sense of family that permeates every frame of the film. The Racer family places honor, honesty and fair play above all else, but it's interesting to me that the film never approaches these themes in a preachy manner. It's just there and it feels good that it's there. Once again, these are qualities that seem to be vanishing in our world today, and the fact that they play such an important part in the overall scope of Speed Racer is to me a brave and wonderful thing. Perhaps they won't notice it, but the young kids who will see this film are being given a worthwhile message that I hope will take root somewhere deep inside of themselves and someday bear good fruit. But then again, it's just a movie. right? Well Harry, I could go on, but you get the idea. There is more to Speed Racer than meets the eye, and I hope that eventually it will be seen for what it really is...a film as groundbreaking as The Matrix, but with a heart of gold. Go Speed Racer Go, indeed! If you decide to print this, call me Quasimike!”So obviously it’s affecting some viewers. I’m also getting plenty of e-mails that read like this, though, to be fair:
“Harry? Are you fucking insane? "...SPEED RACER represents the single greatest “TRIP” on screen since Kubrick’s stargate sequence at the end of 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY.." That's like comparing a shit sandwhich to an expertly prepared Prime Ribwhich lightly toasted on a Sourdough ("mmm Sourdough!") with just the right about of melty Provolone cheese, thinly sliced tomatoes, red onions and Chipotle Mayonnaise! Have you really, seriously, completely gone out of your fucking gourd man?!“Any movie that inspires passions this strongly is worth discussion in my book, and I hope if I keep prodding, some of you who are resistant will decide to see if I’m right after all. I’ll have another interview tomorrow, with Speed Racer hisself, so I’m not done talking about this one yet. Thanks to Warner Bros and Anne for putting me together with Joel for some one on one time, and to my new intern Saffy for the first of what I hope are many transcriptions. Considering how fast Joel Silver and I both talk, she deserves some sort of combat pay for wading through that recording.