Speed Racer Review

I saw this film a long time ago so it was time for a revisit. I remember watching some of the old Speed Racer cartoon back in the day. It was definitely pretty fun as the show balanced out the races and the anime stakes pretty well. I can’t think of another racing anime where the main character had to take on armed assailants off the track. This film does a pretty reasonable job of adapting the show, but relies a lot on exposition rather than showing us what’s happening. The races are hype, but end up carrying the film.

Speed Racer is determined to be the best racer of all time. That is actually his name by the way so he has a lot to live up too. His brother died in an unfortunate accident a while back after he had slowly been turning to the underworld. His reputation is tainted and Speed Racer’s family has been trying to pick up the pieces ever since. Speed decides to let his brother keep the local racing record, but he still wants the championship. The problem is that corporate business is making a lot of money off of this and they plan to rig the championships. Speed is either in with them on the deal or they’ll destroy him. Can he prove that races are about heart and effort or will greed and money save the day?

First I want to give the film some credit for the world they built around the characters. It really looks like something out of a cartoon with how bright and colorful it is. The backgrounds are obviously fake of course, but whether it’s a set or CGI, it works really well. It doesn’t clash or anything and I’d like to see more films go with this approach. Imagine Dragon Ball Evolution actually having a Capsule City background? I can imagine this approach may not be too popular with critics if it’s over done, but embracing the cartoon route is always a good move if you ask me. Especially since this film dials the effects up to 11 when it comes to the racing and action.

As mentioned earlier the races are quite good. It’s like watching a live action F-Zero as they race down the neon tracks and dodge all manor of attacks. Missiles and other crazy gadgets are attached to the cars. (Quick shoutout to the video game. It perfectly captured every aspect of the movie’s races) You’re at the edge of your seat here and I’ll take this kind of fantastic car battle over the more realistic Fast and the Furious shots any day. The Mach 5 really feels like an ultimate car and gets the respect it deserves. If the whole film was packed with races it would have been really cool.

Unfortunately there are many times where you feel like there aren’t enough race scenes in the movie. The whole first half of the film is essentially speech after speech after speech. The characters just never stop talking and at times this can get old really fast. The film’s writing is certainly not its strongest suit and I think the movie worried too much about trying to paint a picture for the audience. The plot isn’t exactly complex so it should be explained rather quickly. Dragging it out like this just makes me wonder if the writers were confused.

The humor also wasn’t that good here. Spritle and the chimp really didn’t need to be in the film. It’s not as if they added anything to the story and that is unfortunately the problem with most comic relief characters. They just aren’t funny. The more the film tries to make them funny by adding joke after joke, the more forced it all becomes and that makes it backfire.

As far as the cast is concerned, it isn’t bad. Speed makes for a decent lead as he stands up for what’s right and adapts to the cheating competition. I don’t agree with him holding back on the first race though. If anything, Rex would be proud of Speed surpassing him without having to resort to the dark side. I suppose it’s a nice thing to do though so I won’t fault him for that. Speed should probably suspect Racer X’s true identity, but since it was plastic surgery, that makes it all a lot more convincing than it would have been otherwise. (Although to be honest, he looked the same to me and I wouldn’t have guessed there was any plastic surgery) Speed can also fight when necessary even if he isn’t quite strong enough to handle the ninja.

As expected, Racer X is a great character and the best by a longshot. At first you do have to wonder how they can possibly justify Racer X mowing everyone down during the races, but since they were all paid off by the main villain, it makes sense. It’s not as if he’s destroying them either since defeated racers float away in a jello bar. His fight scene with the ninja is one of the stand out moments of the film since the fight scene is actually impressive and played straight. That’s definitely the kind of battle you’d like to see here since the cartoon did have some action as I mentioned earlier.

Trixie is a good main heroine. It’s always nice to see someone standing up to the bullies right from the start. The romance between her and Speed isn’t handled well as expected, but it could certainly be worse. At least she is a likable character so that puts her ahead of some of the others. I thought Sparky got the shaft here since his role was incredibly small and he wasn’t likable at all. I don’t remember what his personality was in the TV show, but I’m inclined to think that he was a lot better there. Here…he just didn’t serve much of a purpose.

The main villain, we may as well call him Mr. Corporate, was okay. He basically checked off all the boxes on how an evil CEO should act. It was interesting to see him try to rig the races, but you can see why it’s such a dangerous game. If even one racer goes too fast or too slow, all of the money he invested is pointless now. Once Speed was in the game, I would have tried to get a refund instantly. He’s just too much of a wild card. The other antagonists like the Chinese CEO and his racer didn’t really serve much of a point. I do think the heroes didn’t do a good job with the plan since it was so easy for them to be portrayed as well. I suppose they’ll be better prepared for the next time though and the villains were inspired by Speed’s race so it all worked out in the end. I’d be game for a sequel if it could work out the negatives.

Overall, Speed Racer succeeds at the main thing it was trying to do, having good races. Unfortunately, you can’t rely on that to carry the whole film forward if the dialogue and story get just as much of a focus. It’s not a bad movie by any means, but it just could have been a lot better. It’s a striking contrast between the dynamic racing scenes and the talking moments. It can be goofy in a fun way at times like the corporate villain coming in for pancakes or just in an obnoxious way like with the monkey. The film couldn’t find that perfect balance which drops it down a star, but is still an entertaining film if you want to watch Speed Racer on the big screen. A sequel or at this point reboot since that’s more likely, just needs to keep up with the races. They don’t need to change anything about that. For the human scenes, they either need to cut down on the exposition since it really hurt the film’s pacing at times, or they just need to get some all star writers on board. Take out the extra humor as well and you’ve got a quality movie. Nintendo should take the plunge and make an F-Zero movie to show these guys how it’s done.

Overall 6/10


Speed Racer Review

I finally managed to complete the Speed Racer video game! It’s actually quite fun although it’s the kind of game where you can definitely get worn out with the tournaments. Also be warned that it can definitely induce seizures. It’s rather unique for a cash in and it’s easily one of the best PS2 racing games. I got it for a decent price so I can definitely say that it was worth it and it is one of the final games from my Christmas batch that I had yet to complete. Let’s look at what makes this game cool.

First of all, there is no real story mode, but we do get a tournament mode. That’s a fair trade off if you ask me although I certainly would have preferred a plot. You basically have to play around 30-40 tournaments and each tournament has 2-5 races in them. Unfortunately, a bunch of the tournaments are in the 4-5 range so they can be quite long. That’s my main problem with the game. No matter how fun the gameplay is, staying glued to the TV for 30-40 minutes on one tournament can be quite taxing. Beating the game is definitely a long battle and it will leave you feeling very tired by the end.

The standard rules for the race are set to 2 laps and 12 racers. The 2 laps part may sound pretty great at first, but they still take around 3-4 minutes per track so it still manages to be as long as the average Mario Kart stage..or even longer than those stages. 3 laps would have definitely been too much and even with 2, I think that some of the stages should have been a whole lot shorter. Like I said, the tournament mode basically burned me out so I definitely can’t think about playing this game again for a long time. At least solo, local multiplayer would still make for a lot of fun races.

One of the new gimmicks in this game is that getting to 1st place is only a secondary goal during the race. It’s highly recommended since it helps you get points in a tournament, but staying in the middle of the pack has its perks. You get points by ramming into the other racers and a whole bunch of them when you destroy a car. Every 1000 points gets you 1 real point so if you get 13000, it’s even better than coming in first. The best of both worlds is hitting a lot of cars and still managing to come in 1st, but that’s extremely difficult in the latter stages. I would sometimes come in 11th, but I smashed so many cars that I still got the most points. If you ask me, that’s definitely the best way to go about it. You can juke from side to side to hit the cars or do a spin move if they are right ahead of or behind you. The combat system is a lot of fun to play around with. You also gain energy as you move, which you can use to heal yourself or boost. As for the boosts, you can wait until you have 3 of them and use the ultimate boost.

Be warned that the ultimate boost is great, but it is tough on the eyes. You go so fast that you don’t even need to steer as it just takes you through the course, but the game can’t really keep up. You colors start to turn purple and orange and the screen gets very blurry. You’ll even lose sight of the racers as things start to get loopy and I have a feeling that the developers were just having a little fun there. It’s still something that you’ll definitely want to be aware of if your eyes are weak against flashing lights. They definitely make me feel tired, but my glasses protect me from that kind of thing.

Naturally, this doesn’t speak very well for the graphics. They’re actually pretty decent when they work, but I’ll have to give this area a failing grade. The boosts should not make the screen as chaotic as they do and the game gets way too blurry for me to say that it is acceptable. If not for the graphics part of the game you probably wouldn’t be able to even tell that it is a cash in for the film.

Although, one tip off is the stage selection. Initially it looks like there are a lot of tracks. After all, you are playing on over 100 of them during the tournament mode. The trick is that a lot of the stages are simply recycled over and over again. Some of them are technically different, but just about the whole track will be the same aside from a slight twist. The background and road for most of the stages are identical so there was definitely not a whole lot of effort put into them. It can certainly make the game more repetitive than it would have been with unique tracks. The final two levels are basically the same with the difference being that the final level has opera style music.

Speed Racer’s soundtrack is definitely very good. It’s a little limited to be sure, but it fits the intensity of the races. It’s all very fast and the climatic sounding theme in the final stage is really fun as well. Racing games definitely need a good soundtrack since nobody wants to race with a boring theme playing in the background. Luckily, Speed Racer delivers on this front.

Typically, glitches aren’t a problem in a video game since they are rare occurrences that you may miss when you’re playing the game. That being said, it’s much easier to run through them when you have to play a game for as long as I played this one. It’s not uncommon to just fall through a stage or get launched off the rails. There are many times where you are not supposed to fall off the stage, but you are using your triple boost so you just go flying out of the level. Once I just fell through half of the stage and instantly fell into a big hole over in last place. The glitches still don’t occur too often, but they are certainly noticeable this time.

It’s definitely commendable that the game has so many playable characters. There may even be 50 as I lost count, but you tend to unlock 2-3 per tournament. There are many guys that you’ll never have even heard of here. I stuck with Speed Racer through all of the levels, but maybe you’ll find a character who catches your eye and forces you to change from the famous mach 5. You definitely won’t want to discount the possibility.

For replay value, there really isn’t a whole lot to be found here. Once you beat the game, you do unlock mirror mode so you can play a bunch of tournaments in reverse. You’ll probably find that you’re way too tired to do such a thing after the main mode, but it does add to the game’s length I suppose. After that, you’ll want to hope that you have someone to play the game with since there will be nothing left to do. The multiplayer option is the main reason why I ended up giving this game a 7 over the 6 after all.

Overall, Speed Racer is a pretty fun game. The actual gameplay is really a blast and it really says something about how good it is when you consider how many levels I had to play in this game. The stages are just a little too long, but the tournaments actually do auto save so you can turn the game off in the middle of one if you need too. Knowing this, that actually helps the game a whole lot, but I didn’t find out until the end. It only minimizes the problem though as the stages really should be shorter. The graphics look very sci fi esque, but they’re still too crazy and blurry. The music is good and the character roster is very impressive. If you are by yourself, I recommend the game, but it’ll be a shorter experience. If you have someone to play it with, then this game is definitely one of the ultimate racing titles and you’ll really want to play it. Just watch out for those glitches!

Overall 7/10

Speed Racer vs One Above All

Speed Racers is back once again and it’s time for him to get his first win! I don’t think the blog viewers could bare to see him down near the likes of Howard Aguello and Oolong so this win ought to boost him up. The One Above All is tougher than he looks I suppose, but he’s still no match against Speed Racer! Speed Racer wins.

Batman vs Speed Racer

Speed Racer has a lot of losses and this battle is going to give him another one! Batman is a pretty good racer as we’ve seen from the Gotham racing game. His Batmobile should give the Mach 5 a good fight and Speed doesn’t have a large array of gadgets to save him. I gotta say that the victory clearly goes to the man in the bat costume here! Batman wins.

Speed Racer vs Racer X

Racer X enters into the blog with this round! He’s always had the superior design when it came to these two racers, but Speed definitely has the cooler car. Racer X is supposed to be the better driver, but Speed’s cars are just too good for him to lose. The Mach 5 can tackle anything that Racer X can throw at it and Speed has been known to fight Gunmen in the past! Racer X will have to enter with a loss…for now! Speed Racer wins.

Captain Kirk vs Speed Racer

Captain Kirk has his phasers at the ready, but will they be enough to take down Speed Racer!? Speed has his car and with it he can take down many opponents. If they try to get in his way, then things can get dicey fast! Can the Starship Enterprise beat the Mach 6!? Speed Racer wins.

Update! Kirk was accelerated in the original series and that means that he will be more than a match for Speed Racer. Not even the Mach 5 would be enough to save Speed! Captain Kirk wins.

Obelisk vs Speed Racer

This is a tribute to the new Speed Racer live action film. Obelisk is one of my all time favorite Yu-gi-oh cards. He’s just so cool and tough. There’s no way Speed could hope to win. Speed is too weak. Obelisk wins.

Ganondorf vs Speed Racer

Speed Racer is a decent guy with decent fighting moves but….let’s face it he won’t beat The King of Evil with just decent fighting moves. To beat Ganondorf you need a sword. With a sword Ganondorf is helpless but to my knowledge Speed doesn’t have a sword. Ganondorf wins.

Speed vs Captain Falcon (In a race)

Speed has a mach 5. That was fast back in the olden days but Captain Falcon’s Blue Falcon is from the future. It can go well over 5 mach’s. Also Captain Falcon has a lot more fighting experience. Captain Falcon wins.