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It’s been five years since the Wachowski brothers re-entered the Matrix and we’ve just about forgiven them for doing it (in part thanks to their fantastic adaptation of Alan Moore’s graphic novel ‘V for Vendetta’). Now, they’re back, directing a remake of the classic cartoon ‘Speed Racer’. But will their latest directorial effort have hearts racing or will the film stall in its tracks? Movies.ie investigates with this special preview of what’s to come.
For those of you unfamiliar with Speed, the characters and story hail from Japan in the manga and anime series ‘Mach GoGoGo’. The TV series premiered in 1967 and ran for 52 episodes. It was dubbed into English for American audiences and cult status soon followed. It centres on a young driver Speed, played in the film by Emile Hirsch (Into the Wild), who competes in a series of death defying races in his faithful car the Mach 5. Speed, with the help of his family (with Susan Sarandon and John Goodman as Mom and Pops Racer) and his girlfriend Trixie (Christina Richie), battles various racing rivals, including the mysterious Racer X (Lost actor Matthew Fox).
Pop the hood of ‘Speed Racer’ and you’ll find that this project has been years in the making – 17 years in total with top Producer Joel Silver admitting, “sometimes these movies come together very quickly, and sometimes they take a long time”. Silver, the Michael Schumacher of the Executive Producer world, has been the driving force behind bringing the live action version of ‘Speed Racer’ to the big-screen. With the brothers Wachowski now infamous for refusing to speak to the press, who better to steer us through ‘Speed Racers’.
The Wachowski brothers are by no means the first directors to be attached to this project. Over the years many a big name director has tried their hand at adapting the project – Gus Van Sant, Alfonso Cuarón, even Cloverfield’s J.J Abrams, “we could never find the right way to do it”, concedes Silver. “When Andy and Larry approached me saying -we think we have a way of doing what’s never been done before- I just said lets do it”.
Judging by what we’ve seen so far, the Matrix boys have done just that. Combining stunningly stylised visuals, the boys who brought us bullet-time have combined live action and CGI affects in a way never seen before. Even from the first trailer, you’ll see what we mean when we say the line between live action and CGI has never seemed so blurred in what can only be described as a technology driven masterpiece.
Produced in Germany at Babelsberg Studios (the same studios as their graphic novel adaptation ‘V for Vendetta’), the film was set almost entirely against greenscreen. For ‘Speed Racer’, the brothers reunited with the original Matrix visual effects team: John Gaeta, Dan Glass and Owen Paterson. “It pretty incredible what we can do today”, explains Silver, “with the matrix we set new standards in visual technologies and again with ‘Speed Racer’ I think we are really evolving a new way of making pictures. In the film, for example, we actually use very few running cars. The things these cars are doing couldn’t be achieved in the real world and although they won’t look like animation, they’ll be beautiful live action images; they are all done in a new style of production. It’s not being filmed in film but in HD and we refer to the actual shooting process as the initial capture and from there we went to work. So yeah, it’s a very different way of making and seeing a movie.”
Fans of Speed Racer will definitely recognise an aspect of the original cartoon in this adaptation, which in many ways should be considered less of an adaptation more a translation of the anime original. Silver explained that the original ‘Speed Racer’ was a major influence on their canon of work. “They were both big fans of the original ‘Speed Racer’. When they were kids, it was the first time that they’d seen Japanese animation, which made them understand there was a different type of animation out there. Having grown up on Fred Flintstone and Yogi Bear, this was the fist time they’d really seen something different. I think they’ve really framed it in a way that’s unique and fresh but at the same time it keeps the essence of what ‘Speed Racer’ was; they were very conscious of what made them like ‘Speed Racer’ in the first place.
Aside from the kick-ass visuals and the film’s stellar cast, ‘Speed Racer’ also boosts an epic feel-good story, one suitable for all the family, in this Andy and Larry’s first venture into the world of the family film. All in all, ‘Speed Racer’ sounds like it’ll be one to rival many of this summer’s big names- ‘The Dark Knight’, ‘Iron Man’, ‘Indie 4’. Speaking of the film, Silver promises ‘all the magic of the original and a whole brand new incredible story’ and with that in mind, we here at Movies.ie will be racing to this it come May 9th.