After seeing the latest trailer for the upcoming Wachowski Brothers cartoon-to-film adaptation Speed Racer, I began to warm to the concept of the flashy, vibrantly designed, CG-enriched environment that was being created in honor of 1960s Japanese animation. Pushing aside my distaste for Emile Hirsch as an actor and allowing the little kid inside of me to take the wheel for the time being, I have been able to get excited about this film’s release — not as excited about Iron Man, but excited nonetheless.
This morning, our good friends at First Showing picked up some brand new production photos from the film that will be featured in a cover story in the upcoming issue of EW. At first glance, the photos appear to be more seizure-inducing looks a this highly saturated and stylized environment, but with a closer look (and some explanation from visual effects supervisors Muhen Leo and Kim Libreri), you will see that the style of Speed Racer is a real throwback to the original series.
From the EW article:
If these photos are looking a bit more two-dimensional than usual, that’s by design. The Wachowskis “wanted to incorporate some of the limitations of ’60s cell animation in the movie,” says Leo. Explains fellow effects supervisor Kim Libreri: “The backgrounds are mostly from photographic elements that have been shot from locations around the world [and then] intensely processed to be super-colorful and super-contrasty.”
“Do you remember the 1980s video game Outrun,” asks Libreri, “with the palm trees flying past? A lot of the movie looks like that. But instead of using painted elements that they used the early days [of anime]. there are actually photographic elements flying past the road.”
I will say that as far as the viz effects go on this film, there is another level of cool here that we are yet to experience. In a recent interview with MTV, Emile Hirsch said that the film is “like nothing you’ve ever seen.” The rest of the cast has echoed those statements, almost going as far as to promise that Speed Racer will be akin to The Wachowski’s biggest success, The Matrix.
The difference, in my mind, is that The Matrix was a big kids movie — capturing the minds and short attention spans of a booming generation of internet geeks who would love to be sucked into a world where their mind (which is their most marketable feature) has full control over everything around them. Speed Racer, on the other hand, is a movie for little kids — rated G and filled with goofy, cartoonish humor. And for good reason, it is based on a popular cartoon from the 1960s.
Knowing this raises a much bigger question: will families (especially those with young children) get on board for this amazing spectacle of color and computer generated ninja cars?
I believe that therein lies the possible success or failure of a movie like Speed Racer in the family demographic. Big kids like myself and my good friend Alex from First Showing will be there on opening night, with our Christina Ricci fan club cards and our temporary “The Wachowski Brothers Pwn” tattoos, but will the little kids be there as well? If not, I can see a very strong opening weekend for this film followed by its demise a week later when families make their return trip to Narnia to see Prince Caspian. With a very full slate in May, it will be very difficult for a highly stylized, “revolutionary” family film to compete.
But since I have not yet seen the film, I’m not yet prepared to make a definitive prediction. What I can say is that Speed Racer looks cool, and could be a lot of fun — but that doesn’t always translate into great box office success. My hope is that it does go over well, as I am a big fan of The Wachowskis, but I am just not sure — at least not yet.
Sound Off: Do you think that Speed Racer will do well with families and race away with big box office totals in May?
Photos Courtesy of Warner Brothers