Friday, June 6, 2008

Standing up for Speed Racer The Movie

Some people are enamored with words. Reviewers are often some of these people. Their job after all is to write. Writing a review might not be the same calibur of art than writing something to be reviewed, but if it's what you do, you might feel the need to flex your muscles. I, however, feel that the most important thing about writing is communicating a thought or idea clearly and often the more "artistic" the review, the more confused I become about what the writer is trying to communicate. As a reader I'm not really interested in what intellectual arsenal the writer might be trying to show off. I'm interested in what I get out out of it.

The movie Speed Racer has been ripped apart by critics and for sure, this is not a movie for everyone. But it worked for me and not because of all the special effects or action sequences, but because of the very basic, almost universal morals and values of the movie, and about how clear and genuine it is in communicating those values. We live in an era obsessed with deconstructionism, and we've come to expect our media to be more sophisticated and more abstract. But deconstructionism is nothing new, and frankly, it's become overused and often is unoriginal and cliched.

Speed Racer, however, reminds me of the movies I grew up with in the early and mid 1980s. It reflects a clarity of values (and not in a right wing political sense), where a hero takes a stand against a corrupt institution. There is the theme of the odds being stacked against the hero, the hero's idealism questioned, and then rediscovered in a more mature, less dogmatic, and more aware sense. There is a value to this kind of movie for kids, as well as for adults like myself who need to be reminded. It isn't a complicated message and it's quite opaque, but it is relevant and at least it isn't pseudo intellectual posturing. No, life is never this simple and it rarely works itself out so neatly. But when we can escape into the heroes of fiction we take something out of the story that adds to our lives.

I've seen a couple old episodes of the classic cartoon but don't really know much about the Speed Racer story. I'm sure hardcore fans might have legitimate reason to complain that something might be missing from the continuity. It seemed to me, from what I do know, that the essential story is there, but it cuts to the chase. The cartoon had that anime iconography and what the critics are complaining about regarding the manic visuals is the very literal way it is interpreted to film. For me this movie, not unlike Sin City, helped me see the source material for what I discounted the first time around. This is geek kitsch and there might be any number of reasons why it didn't speak to it's critics. And maybe the the most important one is, it wasn't for them. It might be a cliche, but the right one one; this is a movie for the young at heart.