Forget The Matrix 4: We Need a Speed Racer Sequel
A paean for the Wachowskis’ greatest, most misunderstood masterpiece
Last week, it was announced that The Matrix would be getting a fourth installment, with stars Keanu Reeves and Carrie Anne-Moss reprising their roles and franchise co-creator Lana Wachowski returning as director. Despite the fact that no one particularly liked the first two sequels, this new movie will probably make a billion or so dollars, despite the fact that humanity does not need another Matrix movie. Instead, it needs a sequel to another Wachowski movie: Speed Racer.
If you don’t remember the 2008 film, based on the 1960s cartoon of the same name (which was an early Japanese anime series titled Mach Go Go Go before it was imported to the United States), I understand. Given that Speed Racer made only $43 million in the United States, chances are you’re one of many who didn’t bother to watch the film, and I honestly don’t blame you. The cartoon was over 40 years old when the movie premiered in 2008 — long past its nostalgia expiration date. Critics also panned it, and the result was a major flop. Even I didn’t bother to see it, instead waiting to get it on DVD via Netflix, back in those halcyon days.
This is a shame, because in reality Speed Racer isn’t just good, it’s great — and more visually innovative than The Matrix and its infinitely-copied “bullet-time.” It’s both an art film and an attempt at a giant-budget, kid-friendly, summer blockbuster. It’s one of many, many live-action movie adaptations of classic cartoons, sure, but it has so much style and is so experimental that it’s wholly unique.
Speed Racer was shot entirely on green screen, but unlike similar CG-heavy films, the technique wasn’t just used in lieu of difficult practical effects. Like James Cameron’s entirely CG Avatar, it created a dizzying world that couldn’t exist in any other form, but Speed Racer took advantage of it to create impossible scenes that are amazingly and almost relentlessly dynamic. It’s most evident in the film’s races, naturally: A camera zooms into a car’s side-view mirror, which seamlessly transforms into the primary shot. Speed mentally competes with the ghost of his brother, cleverly represented by a…