To be honest, it’s all gone a bit wrong for the Wachowski Brothers’ adaptation of the 60s animation. I’ve been doing the reading catching the buzz, and managed to watch the vast majority of the film, albeit in little bits. Now it’s time for a post-mortem.
It started with some very ropy marketing – here was a film that didn’t seem to be heavily plugged on the TV or in print. Which was a bad start, and the problems were compunded by the fact that it wasn’t really clear who the film was aimed at, adult fanboys or little kids, until it was a little too late.
Then came the bad reviews. A woeful 34% score on Rotten Tomatoes wasn’t going to get anybody interested, especially given that Speed hit the streets in the wake of Iron Man, the best-reviewed film of the year so far. Given the choice of ‘Badly-reviewed anime-adaptation that I only heard of a week ago’ or ‘that superhero film that everyone loved and I just saw the 79th advert for’, you can guess the winner.
This all led to a somewhat shambolic opening at the box office. The film cost 120 million bucks, but only made 20 million in its first week. Compare that with Iron Man’s $100 million in a weekend, and you can see the problem. Tony Stark and co. kicked Speed into 3rd place at the box office in America, and a pathetic 4th here in the UK, behind a comedy that came out 3 weeks before.
Just when you think it couldn’t get any worse, a lightbulb goes off, and you’re reminded that reports leaked from the set of chimps biting actors, and the trainers lashing out. Which is always a bad sign for a production, in my eyes. The American Humane Association hammered producer Joel Silver, and asked the pertinent question ‘Why even have real-life chimps on set when you have such a huge budget?’
If you’re wondering why simians are even involved in this semi-animated racing movie, then you’re reading too much into it. Imagine if a child, high on sugar, and armed with a full set of crayons, went to work at a film studio, and started drawing on the prints and throwing paint around. That is what Speed Racer is all about.
It’s a bonanza of colour, noise, and truly ridiculous CGI. The youngest of the racer clan has a pet chimp, for no real reason, the races are like a hyperactive form of Scalextric, and the mad computer generated backdrops will give you a heart attack or busted retinas, one or the other.
And the dialogue, Jeez-louise! The Wachowskis have come over all Matrix Revolutions in terms of the script, which is full of nonsensical chit-chat and over-enthusiastic bad-guy banter. The acting matches the script, put it that way, and Emile Hirsch has surely set his career back a few years, whilst simultaneously taking his hard-earned credibility from Into the Wild, and smashing it with a big hammer.
Main problem – it’s a 2 hour family film that’s too colourful and hyper for adults, too long for children, and just not very good. Should’ve taken the whole chimp-attack thing as a hint…