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Born to race cars, Speed Racer is aggressive, instinctive and, most of all, fearless. His only real competition is the memory of the brother he idolized - the legendary Rex Racer, whose death in a race has left behind a legacy that Speed is driven to fulfill. Speed is loyal to the family racing business, led by his father, Pops Racer, the designer of Speed's thundering Mach 5. When Speed turns down a lucrative and tempting offer from Royalton Industries, he not only infuriates the company's maniacal owner but uncovers a terrible secret - some of the biggest races are being fixed by a handful of ruthless moguls who manipulate the top drivers to boost profits. If Speed won't drive for Royalton, Royalton will see to it that the Mach 5 never crosses another finish line. The only way for Speed to save his family's business and the sport he loves is to beat Royalton at his own game. With the support of his family and his loyal girlfriend, Trixie, Speed teams with his one-time rival - the mysterious Racer X - to win the race that had taken his brother's life: the death-defying, cross-country rally known as The Crucible.
For more about Speed Racer and the Speed Racer Blu-ray release, see Speed Racer Blu-ray Review published by Ben Williams on September 16, 2008 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.5 out of 5.
Starring: Emile Hirsch, Christina Ricci, Susan Sarandon, Matthew Fox, John Goodman, Rain
Directors: Andy Wachowski, Lana Wachowski
» See full cast & crew
Speed Racer Blu-ray Review
Here he comes, here comes Speed Racer!
Reviewed by Ben Williams, September 16, 2008
Speed Racer entered the public lexicon in the late 1960s when the popular Japanese animated series "Mach GoGoGo" was translated for the United States market. As one of the earliest Animé series to gain popularity in the United States, Speed Racer has been a formative cartoon experience for generations of television viewers. Self –professed Animé fanatics, Larry and Andy Wachowski, had always been fans of the show. When given the green light to adapt the show for the big screen, they fulfilled their life-long ambition of bringing the storied Animé classic to cinemas worldwide. Their passion for Speed Racer is abundantly clear with the film playing like an amped up homage to the original animated series. Unfortunately, the film version of Speed Racer was met by critical ambivalence and lukewarm audience reaction and the film faded from theaters in a matter of weeks. So, just what happened, exactly? Was the film really that bad? Did audiences just not get it? Or, is the legacy of Speed Racer just too far past its prime?
If there is one thing the Racer family knows, it's auto racing. Pops Racer (John Goodman) builds the world's greatest racecars while his son Rex (Scott Porter) rules the world's racetracks as the greatest driver of his generation. When Rex is tragically killed running a dangerous race known as the Casa Cristo, the Racer family's only hope lies with young Speed (Emile Hirsch). Speed quickly grows into being one of the world's greatest drivers - - he races in the memory of his brother, for the honor of his family and with a love of the sport that borders on the fanatical. At the height of his career, Speed is offered a lucrative racing contract from Royalton Industries and declines due to allegiance to his family. Infuriated by Speed's refusal to sign, Arnold Royalton (Roger Allam) threatens Speed's life and reveals a plot to fix races for monetary benefit. Speed's only choice is to join forces with his greatest rival, the mysterious Racer X (Matthew Fox), and to defeat Royalton Industries in the deadly Casa Cristo race that claimed his brother's life. Only with the help of his loyal girlfriend Trixie (Christina Ricci), brother Spritle (Paulie Litt) and his brother's pet chimpanzee Chim Chim, will Speed survive the race, expose Royalton Industries and restore honor to the world of racing.
I'm not sure what it was that inspired so much vitriol in the press for Speed Racer, because it is a wonderful family film and is tremendously fun. As a matter of fact, Speed Racer qualifies as one of those rare cinematic pleasures that is a joy to behold from beginning to end. Perhaps my own love of the original cartoon colors my perception, but I was giddy with excitement for every corny joke, every silly line reading, every over the top action sequence and every frame of this striking movie. Speed Racer is a delight. I suppose that if one had never seen the cartoon before, the movie would be pretty confusing. It's not that the movie is difficult to understand or so bogged down in plot as to make the causal viewer feel overwhelmed. On the contrary, it's a very simple story. I think the language of Speed Racer is what causes the most confusion for audiences. This is, for all intents and purposes, a live action cartoon. Every wild angle, physically impossible act and gravity-defying stunt is taken straight from the visual language of the original cartoon series. Physics and realism are not part of this language and anyone expecting anything else will be gravely disappointed. This is a movie that exists as a prime example of the importance of suspension of disbelief. Plausibility doesn't enter into the equation and Speed Racer is a better movie for this very reason. I can't think of another movie that does such a good job of bringing a cartoon world to life.
Speed Racer fans should be thrilled by the way the movie turned out. Every element of the cartoon series is here. From Spritle and Chim Chim's stowaway hijinks and Trixie Chanting "go, Speed, go!" to Racer X's mysterious past and the gadgetry of the Mach 5, the Wachowski's didn't forget a single detail. It's that attention to detail that makes Speed Racer such a special experience and helps the movie create a very unique cinematic world. For viewers out there with families, I can't imagine a better film for family viewing. Speed Racer, at its core, is about the Racer family's bond. Speed's determination, dedication and commitment to playing by the rules make for a nice moral backdrop to the tale. Speed Racer is a great film for the whole family and is a joy to behold.
Speed Racer Blu-ray, Video Quality
Warner Brothers has done a masterful job with this Blu-ray release of Speed Racer. Presented in full 1080p in the movie's original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.40:1, Speed Racer is easily one of the finest transfers of the year. The look and feel of the movie is very unique. The Wachowski Brothers have captured the essence of the cartoon world created for the original animated series and have morphed it into an infinitely detailed world of striking colors and beautiful cityscapes. Speed Racer is visually arresting and will initially deliver a large dose of sensory overload. This passes as the film progresses, but the amazing images and special effects never cease to amaze.
Speed Racer was "filmed" using high definition cameras and as such, has been ported to Blu-ray without ever being transferred to film. This direct digital approach has given Speed Racer a stunning visual sheen and a truly flawless picture. Colors practically leap off of the screen and the movie's many small details are rendered with a crystal clear clarity that I've never seen equaled on home video. Black levels are deep and contrast is excellent. I can't even begin to accurately convey how amazing Speed Racer looks on Blu-ray. This is THE definitive reference disc of the year and will be utilized the world over as a demo disc for Blu-ray for years to come. Speed Racer is a visual masterpiece and this Blu-ray edition is the perfect way to experience it. Speed Racer earns my absolute highest recommendation.
Speed Racer Blu-ray, Audio Quality
I wish I could offer the same rave reviews for Speed Racer's audio. Unfortunately, what could have been an all-around spectacular demo disc has been marred by Warner Brothers' refusal to include lossless audio. Perhaps the problem started with deciding to only utilize a BD25 instead of the normal BD50 disc used for feature length films. Whatever the reason, this decision seriously dampens my excitement for this otherwise outstanding release. Speed Racer has one of the most active surround sound mixes I've ever heard and the mind boggles at the potential this title could have realized with lossless. Unfortunately, we have no point of reference for how great the soundtrack for Speed Racer could have been. Warner has recently stated that they intend to offer lossless audio on all future releases. Let's hope they stick to that plan and we never have another instance where a film is robbed of its full potential on Blu-ray.
Regardless, this is one of the better Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks I have experienced. Bass response is good and dialogue is generally well reproduced. The film's exciting musical score is well represented within the mix and surround usage is extremely heavy. Spatially, the mix suffers a bit with a more directional feel that takes away from what could have been a more effective ambient mix. Don't get me wrong, this isn't horrible audio by any means - - it's just a disappointment that we could have experienced so much more.
Speed Racer Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Speed Racer arrives on Blu-ray with a decent assortment of special features that allow the viewer to explore some of the techniques used in bringing this groundbreaking visual masterpiece to movie screens.
Here's what's included:
- Spritle in the Big Leagues -
- Speed Racer: Supercharged -
- Speed Racer: Car-Fu Cinema -
- Speed Racer Crucible Challenge -
While the above list might not look very imposing, there are a number of nice featurettes included on this set. First up, we are treated to a tour of Speed Racer's production facilities by Paulie Litt (Spridle). Paulie is obviously very excited about his part in the film and his enthusiasm is infectious. Second, is a throwaway feature called Speed Racer: Supercharged. It's a look at the various race drivers in the film and acts as a character database and racetrack resource. Speed Racer Car-Fu Cinema is a detailed, behind the scenes look at the techniques used to achieve the film's spectacular gravity defying racing scenes. I particularly enjoyed this feature and its in-depth coverage of the Wachowski's innovative shooting processes. Finally, Warner has opted to include an interactive game called Speed Racer: Crucible challenge. I'm at a complete loss for why anyone would want to play a video game on their Blu-ray player, but apparently there is a call for this kind of feature. I can't imagine why Warner thought this was a better option for this release over, say, a lossless audio track? Surely this game wasn't free to develop. It has limited playability and using a Blu-ray remote for a controller is on the wrong side of frustrating. At any rate, this set of extras isn't exactly the most comprehensive I've ever seen, but there are a few enjoyable options at your disposal.
Speed Racer Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Speed Racer is about as good as mindless family entertainment gets. The film is a visual masterpiece that creates a striking realization of a cartoon world. I was blown away by these stunning visuals as well as the Wachowski Brothers' commitment to maintaining the essential look and feel of the original cartoon. Fans of the original series will undoubtedly be amazed by the film, while casual viewers will hopefully find a lot to like in the film's interesting characters and a great underdog story. Whatever your previous experience with Speed Racer might be, this is a great movie that deserves to be seen. Speaking of seeing Speed Racer, any self respecting Blu-ray fan will want to add this disc to their collection on the merits of its striking reference-grade video transfer. This is the finest piece of eye-candy of the year on Blu-ray and will be seen in electronics stores and home theaters demoing Blu-ray gear for years to come. Unfortunately, Warner opted to not include lossless audio with Speed Racer, so this disc is marred by a woefully underpowered audio track. I hope that Warner will re-visit Speed Racer in the future and correct this oversight. Despite this major flaw, Speed Racer is a must own title that is sure to knock people's socks off as video demo material. Kudos to Warner Brothers producing an exceptional video presentation of a fun and exciting film. Speed Racer comes highly recommended.
Speed Racer: Other Editions
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Speed Racer Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Speed Racer Announced for Blu-ray; The Matrix Next? - July 15, 2008
Warner Home Video has announced that they will bring the Wachowski brothers film 'Speed Racer' to Blu-ray on September 16th, day-and-date with the DVD release. This three-disc set will feature the main feature and supplemental features on the first disc, the DVD ...
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