By Keegan Handley
I’m a new guy here on my first assignment – a “So Bad It’s Good” column, a section usually reserved for picking movies so bad (i.e. terrible in some form of production) that they’re good (hilarious in their ineptitude).
Well, I’m going to argue this movie is accepted as bad…but isn’t even bad at all.
(I know. What nerve!)
After all, what was Speed Racer if not a bad idea? It’s a barely known Japanese property, taken over by siblings who had just reinvented action movies as we know them with The Matrix and their next movie is a remake – and not just a remake. It’s a remake of something only anime nerds and youngsters who frequent the arcade have even the slightest idea of.
The film follows a boy named Speed. He idolizes his brother Rex Racer, one of the fastest racecar drivers of all time, and plans to follow in his footsteps. One day Rex sells out, joins a bigger corporation and eventually goes missing, presumed dead in an accident. Speed swears to be the best, until he too is approached by a big racing corporation and must decide whether to abandon his family for untold riches or stay true to himself and race independently once and for all.
It was critically panned, and thus ignored by audiences. The Wachowskis, everyone agreed, made a misstep.
Only I’m here to say it’s not a misstep at all. It’s exactly what they intended it to be. Even if what they intended it to be was a bomb at first. This could be the first example of a movie so good at being what it intended…that it was perceived as bad.
The movie was something new, and perhaps mainstream audiences weren’t prepared for it. It’s quirky. It’s openly honest to the point of cheesiness. After the first 20 minutes of the movie, you’re either in or out. You either understand that every single thing is intentional, even the questionable ‘bad’ stuff, or you think it’s so bad it’s just plain bad.
The anti-corporation/big business socio-political theme is abundantly clear from the beginning of the movie. Racer Motors is proudly independent, but Rex alienates himself from his family after joining a racing company, and Speed is tempted to do the same. From the people that made The Matrix, this is not surprising. First they told us to wake up and rise above the machines, and now they are telling us to do what makes you happy and stay true to yourself.
This movie has absolutely breathtaking visuals and some of the best effects I’ve ever seen. This is a movie that makes 2D 3D and pops off the screen in ways you never thought possible before. Every scene is a living painting; the use of color otherworldly. The races are something else entirely. Here are the people that invented ‘bullet time,’ innovating the action genre yet again. Every race gets more and more intense while also getting more complicated and more eye popping.
I can’t think of a better way to describe this movie, or really any good movie. Movies are a painting and the various parts are colors; blend them together in the right way and you get a masterpiece. This movie literalizes that as vividly and wonderfully as possible.
If you give it a chance, you just might be witness to one of the miracles of modern cinema – a good remake. Maybe even a great remake. The Wachowskis take this property and run with it, making something awesome in the process.
Keegan Handley is a film major at Temple University interested in the cinematic form and all it has to offer. He’s a lover of music and good beer and is partial to horror movies but appreciates any and all flavors of movie…even the bad ones. A huge fan of intricate camera shots, he hopes to one day contribute both his writing and his burgeoning Steadicam prowess to the film world.
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