Speed Racer: The Reason Movies Are Made

II love movies. Film. Whichever. I watch many, and I watch them often. If I was ever asked what my favorite movie is, I would have to reply: Speed Racer. Judge me all you want, but besides Shawshank Redemption, a movie hasn’t sat so well with me in my life. Some people just aren’t ready for the next step that Speed Racer was, and I can’t blame them. It has it’s faults, it’s ahead of it’s time in it’s pace and editing and even it’s visuals. It can be a bit hard to comprehend the first time through, and of course it’s a kids movie. But I enjoy it. More then any other movie.

It’s a story about a young man so in love with what he does, that he’s rendered almost nonfunctional in every other aspect of his daily life (besides smiling and looking good). He can race. Stunt race to be exact. And his older brother, his hero, perished in an unfortunate stunt racing accident while he was still young. This wasn’t enough to dissuade him. Racing was in his family’s blood: His father builds the motors, and the sons crash them. And he just got a shiny new Mach 5 to crash (in the number 1 spot of course).

He races, he wins. That’s how it went. And it was because he loved it, and he was the best at it, and there was nothing keeping him from his dreams. And then the major sponsors caught wind of this up and coming hotshot. Arnold Royalton, the owner of the biggest foundry of somethingorothers, who has more money then God and an equal, more tangible level of power, wants Speed on his team. Speed can help Royalton. Because, behind the flying steel and sparks that are at the first glance of stunt racing, there is the business that greases the wheels of the economy or better yet, sabotages them.

You see, when a racer wins… the company representing them gains value, because it has valuable champions and championships under it’s belt. This also works in reverse. Royalton wants to own the only other foundry of somethingorothers in the world, and if he can deliver a rival company for a certain price, it’s his. To get that price, the rival company’s star racer must throw his races to devalue the company to a more… “reasonable” number. But this rival company (Togokan), got wise. Their star racer (Tetsuo Togokan) was not ready to throw any races, even if the price of winning was his own life.

Speed is offered a position in Royalton’s line up. He turns it down. He is sabotaged in his latest race, and does not place. He no longer qualifies for the WRL (World Racing League), where his hopes and dreams lie. His family business is attacked with bureaucratic paper work bullshit, sticking it in court cases and making business hard. But, as all things seem hopeless, opportunity steps in. Togokan claims to have papers that could sink Royalton, in exchange for the papers they want Racer X, and of course our title hero, on their team to flatten the Casa Cristo competition and take the gold.

Speed takes the chance to strike back at Royalton, and races for Togokan. A giant sequence of lights, explosions, and absolutely maddeningly unbelievably awesome race scenes pass, and they win. Togokan takes the gold, and the regulators of the WRL get their papers. Or do they?

Tetsuo punked our heroes, there were no papers. But a gold win sends the Togokan estate into the stock-stratosphere and Royalton is forced to buy it at an obscene price tag. To the hero’s dismay, Royalton still buys Togokan and all seems lost. Speed, betrayed. His family, wounded. Dreams of the WRL, in the rearview. Until one more twist of fate: Any member of the winning team of the Casa Cristo Cross Country Competition can take the grand prize for their own, and the grand prize includes the last invitation to the WRL championship race. With no time to spare and vengeance in the headlights, the speed family takes action.

Pops Racer puts together the Mach 6 in record time, and much to the surprise of all his competition, the red and white beauty lines up on the track. Suspense is at an all time high. Royalton get’s desperate and puts a bounty on Speed. One million dollars to the man that forces him out of placing in the race, and possibly winning the champion ship. The stadium is dead silent as Speed walks to his ride. All eyes on him. Racers, start your engines.

The final race goes down as one of the most intoxicating, emotional, visceral, visually assaulting sequences in film history. The Wachowski’s achieve glory in 10 minutes of the most mind numbingly offensive CGI movie magic known to man. Cars splinter, and spin, and jump, and barrel roll, and are crushed, and are pummeled, and are all defeated by the end, everyone bowing down to the youngest WRL champion in the world: Speed Racer.

Speed defies all that Royalton believed. That racing was controlled, that all that mattered was stock prices and portfolios. That the best races in the world were planned, and the outcomes known, months before the wheels hit the tracks. Speed destroys Royalton’s racers, he reveals his illegal methods, he foils his plans, and he proves that all you need to do is do what you do best, and you’ll do just fine. Every time this movies comes to it’s last few minutes, it’s giant swell, crowds cheering, car tires squealing, Lights, cameras going off, people gasp, Speed unleashes the wrath of true skill. To quote:

“Get that weak shit off my track.”

He defeats the iron fist of the man in control, he defies the money makers of the world, he splits the record books in half, hair is pulled out, audiences jump up, a checker is seen in the distance and speed tears through it at blurringly fast rate, causing the backdrop to spin and twist, and almost make me puke it’s so beautiful and-

It’s over.

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4 thoughts on “Speed Racer: The Reason Movies Are Made

  1. Speed Racer is quite possibly my favorite movie. I hate picking favorites, but it’s definitely in my top 3. I saw it in theaters twice, the second time by myself, and bought the DVD as soon as I could get my hands on it. I just watched it again this weekend and it’s as engrossing and fun and beautiful as I remember it. I found your article and you’re spot on. The final race is so intense; people don’t get why this movie makes me tear up (more than once throughout the film!!), but I just love it to pieces.

    I was very skeptical when I initially saw the ads airing on television. I remember rolling my eyes and wondering why on earth did we NEED a Speed Racer movie. But the more I saw the ad, the more I had to admit that, VISUALLY, it looked like a treat, so I eventually went from skeptical as hell to curious at best. I wasn’t prepared to become so enveloped so quickly; the opening race was so great and engrossing!!

    It’s not perfect and I think in the attempt to make it “kid friendly” we suffer from weird pacing in some more serious moments, but the strength of the movie over all, from great cast and performances, to incredible visual effects and story telling ideas (LOVE the way they wipe / transition with figures, etc), design, etc etc, makes those imperfections easy to look past.

    The fact that this movie is so poorly rated across the web and people didn’t try to give it a chance breaks my heart. I would love to see more interesting, original movies that try new ideas than see another Avengers movie. I am always going to love this movie and I hope for whatever crazy reason I get to see it in a theater setting before I die, because it is such a grand experience.

    Thanks for taking the time to write an article about one of my favorite flicks!!

    • Thanks for commenting, Susie! I really appreciate you putting the time to talk about it.. This post still holds true. I watched it just recently after Furious 7 (I knew it would be bad, but not that bad) to wash the taste out of my mouth. Speed Racer is still the best racing movie of our time, in my opinion. No movie makes me as overjoyed and ecstatic as this one. My hair stands every time. Just picturing the last race takes my breath away.

      It’s cool to know there’s someone else who also feels strongly about Speed Racer. Keep in touch!

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