Sat 10 May 2008
A few months ago, I saw the trailer for the Wachowski Brother’s latest Live Action CGI-overload film Speed Racer, based on the anime of the same name. I had never seen the Speed Racer anime, so a fanboy response was not elicited from me. Instead, I felt an urge to laugh at what I was seeing; the hairstyles, the CGI, the colors, everything felt like it was trying to be live action anime, something that I felt would never work well.
So I was anticipating the film to be a major trainwreck, and I wanted to see it for the humor value. One of my friends, for whom Speed Racer was part of his childhood when it was on network television, was expecting something entirely different: he was expecting a good film.
Flash forward to its opening night last night. I’d seen some extremely mixed reviews, but still wanted to see it anyway. The reviews pointing to it being good and the reviews pointing to it being bad said the exact same thing that made me think it would be a trainwreck: it was a live action cartoon, and felt like it.
So I went with a small group of friends, including the aforementioned friend who was expecting it to be good.
At the end of the film, I turned to said friend and said this.
“That was film had some of the cheesiest dialogue and plot I have ever seen. And I LOVED EVERY MINUTE OF IT.”
I think what scared me about Speed Racer was less the fact that it was trying to be live action anime and more that it was the Wachowski Brothers behind it. Now, I enjoyed The Matrix trilogy and V for Vendetta, but there’s no denying that those two otaku have a history of making some incredibly pretentious films. The fact they were making a live action version of a genre they love so much seemed to me to be frightening. I feared they’d turn it into an overblown spectacle of pretentiousness.
Instead, the film was, well, cheesy 60s anime turned into a CGI spectacle that explodes on the screen in kaleidoscopic color with all its cheesy dialouge and plot untouched. And through it all, it actually turns out to be incredibly fun.
No matter how laughable the dialog, the color of the scenery and the LACK of pretentiousness while it is said really carries this film. It’s live action anime… but it’s done RIGHT. In fact, everything about this film is exactly the kind of child friendly humor that also can reach out to adults that got me into cartoons in the first place.
I flat out loved the use of color and CGI in the film. Speed lines, color-coded character outfits, CAR-FU, everything reeked of playful anime emulation that just worked for me. While others mileage may vary, I walked out of the theater with my mind absolutely blown. The fact that through all the action I was cheering for the characters with the same vigor as I had in watching GaoGaiGar and Gurren Lagann just further drives home my reception of it.
In fact, I now feel that if they could keep the same feel that the anime had, the only directors I would trust with a Gurren Lagann live action film would be the Wachowski brothers. Sure, they might be tempted to drown themselves in the themes of the show, but they at least understand anime action better than most as evident through the cartoony-ish CGI action sequences. Certainly much better than the Transformers movie. The only thing Michael Bay would do well in a Gurren Lagann film would be the explosions.
So my final thoughts on the film? If you’re able to enjoy the lighter side of anime and animation, you might be able to have the same amount of fun watching it as I did. It’s not meant to be taken seriously, but that’s why it’s such a blast.
“Animation” (CGI): A+ (Seriously, I can’t rant enough about how f***ing awesome the CGI is. It’s all designed to have the feel of anime rather than be realistic. F***ING. AWESOME.)
Plot: B (Cheesy, corny dialog and a silly pace don’t give it any big points, but it all fits together nicely)
Music: A (Excellent for every scene. Especially the remixes of the original iconic theme.)
Overall: A (Fun, epilepsy-inducing brilliance)