One of the most anticipated films of the year, Lana wachowski‘s Matrix resurrections, is about to open, reconnecting us to the original Matrixthe cyberpunk world. Ahead of its release, however, it’s worth revisiting a key film that led it: Lana and Lilly wachowskithe misunderstood masterpiece Speed runner. Their 2008 anime adaptation was a wonder to behold – a demonstration of the growth in the directors’ voices, echoes of which would be felt in all of their most recent films. Speed runner is a key part of the Wachowskis’ work that has shown their ability to tackle a project that seems inappropriate and take it out of the park altogether.
When it was first released in ’08, Speed runner quickly became one of the most underrated works of that year, if not the 21st century. The first critical reactions were not moved by the ambitious technical aspects of the film, from its brilliant use of color to the fluid and exciting editing. It was a visual panoply that created its own cinematic grammar that should have been praised for its inventiveness. Perhaps criticism of the film’s unique presentation was inevitable, as bold aesthetic changes can be confusing. However, the film’s enduring legacy and how its aesthetic intertwines perfectly with its themes has helped it gain a wider appreciation over time.
Speed runner shamelessly tells a story about fighting corporate corruption and standing up for what’s right, even when the odds seem insurmountable. It does so in a brightly colored world that uses its ambitious landscape to enhance its storytelling. Visual sensations do not detract from his story; instead, they create moments of awe that expertly capture the joyful catharsis that can come from fighting the right fight. It shows how much fighting for what’s right, even when you know it’s probably futile, can be exactly what’s needed to turn the system upside down. It reveals how every now and then a David can defeat a Goliath.
Speed runner was based on the animated series of the same name. Coming out of The matrix trilogy and V for Vendetta, the Wachowski siblings used this source material to create a project all of their own. It was more of a family movie than the duo had ever attempted, presumably in an effort to reach a wider audience with their work. But despite this, the Wachowskis have been able to smuggle deeper thoughts into how the world is stacked against the lower class while the rich and powerful are able to play by their own rules, a theme that remains the most important aspect. more moving and revealing of their work.
The film follows the young Speed Racer (Emile hirsch), an incredibly talented driver in a futuristic world where the sport of racing has been developed to insane degrees. Technology quickly advanced, allowing runners to reach speeds that would otherwise be unimaginable. They run on tracks that curl and fold up dangerously on themselves and present severe environmental hazards. Cars have the ability to jump through the air and almost fly. Racers even fight with other drivers on the track using weapon-like upgrades to their vehicles. In the world of Speed runner, auto racing is one of the most entertaining and watched sports in the world, resulting in a multitude of corporate interests.
Speed, however, chooses to run for his family. His parents Pops (John goodman) And mom (Susan sarandon) run the independent Racer Motors. Most importantly, they build their own cars and operate with all the freedom that comes with being a non-company. However, Speed begins to realize that the same independence puts his family against forces that would like to see them destroyed. Having already lost a brother in a lifetime of trying to tackle corporate corruption in the racing world, Speed is faced with a decision on how he wants to chart his own course. When approached by the disgusting boss of Royalton Industries, a company of unchecked power and wealth, Speed must decide whether to join the organization or stay with his loving family by his side as a team. He courageously chooses the latter, setting in motion a sneaky attempt by Mr. Royalton and an entire corrupt apparatus to bring down the Racer family.
Speed runner is often blunt in his posts, wearing his always cheesy intentions on his sleeve. But it is important not to confuse such a cheese with naivety. The film grapples with how the world is not built for the underdogs. It delicately reveals to Speed just how wrong all of his perceptions about the sport he loves were – a fantasy built out of his young innocence. There is a common thread throughout the film about how Speed has to reconcile this innocence and passion for the sport with the harsh realities of what it is built upon. Nowhere is this clearer than when Speed rejects Royalton’s offer, a chilling moment when the Overlord decides to reveal himself after a long disappointment. Royalton does it because he is immune to the consequences. He could have gotten through this for so long, so why stop now?
“You don’t know how many times I’ve seen that same disbelieving, disbelieving look,” Royalton told Speed, dropping the facade he had presented all the time. “Every bump that comes out of the sticks looks exactly like what you’re doing now. I won’t bother to prove it to you. You walk away from me, you walk away from this chord, you will know how good it is. true soon enough. This is your last chance. Are you ready to put your toys away and grow up? Are you ready to make more money in a year than your dad has made all his life? you ready to become a real race car driver? Then sign this contract!
This agonizing, insulting and endless monologue serves as the thesis statement for the focus of the film. It shows how, in order to survive and no matter how much it hurts, you have to look down on those who will cling to power and influence. The way Royalton plays on the fear that comes from losing innocence is intentional, a calculated attempt to crush the minds of anyone who opposes him. As the megalomaniac behind a business conglomerate, he is fully aware of how he can continue to cling to power. He even notices how it worked before and will work again. Failure to compromise will face threats of legal destruction and personal annihilation.
Which give Speed runner his dominant wisdom comes from how he rejects this false choice between selling himself or refusing to grow up. It shows how good being is worth doing, even when it comes at a cost. Speed not only refuses the offer, it suffers greatly. He makes this decision knowing that he has put a target on his back and that his family will have to pay the price as well. Royalton attempted to take advantage of Speed’s compassion for those close to him. His fatal flaw was that he fundamentally underestimated this group of outsiders. Royalton believed he could crush them underfoot when in fact they were the ones who would come together to fight him. It is the true nature of the underdog that Speed runner capture. It shows how, when a group of dispossessed gathers together, they can fight quite a fight. And when all the stars align, this fight may well prove to be fruitful.
The film itself is a journey through that long road to change things. Speed has to overcome obstacle after obstacle, often realizing that all the hard work leads to little change. He is betrayed and stabbed in the back. He is thrown to the wolves and kicked while on the ground. His family and friends face constant attacks. These were all things Royalton had warned him would happen if he didn’t bow to him, leaving Speed hopeless. It is only through his continued determination and courage that he finds a way to overcome. His iron will and his family by his side is something that never fails him, even like the rest of the world. He keeps walking the race track over and over again, willing to risk his life to fight for what’s right. He does all of this knowing that it could go nowhere and be nothing. His courage gives hope that when the right people take a stand against what is wrong, they can move the needle in the right direction.
There is a poetic irony that the film itself was not initially considered a success. Speed runner was a box office failure, hardly recouping its budget, and critics were largely unimpressed. Yet that precocious apathy gave way to a genuine appreciation for all she did. With time and reflection, Speed runner has made a name for itself because of how mind-blowing the film is when it all fits together. There is no better example than in the final race. This is where sound and visuals come together to create a beautiful tapestry of a highlight. After all the trials and struggles, the race shows that Speed is creating music the only way he can. He is the conductor, the track the score, and his car the orchestra. He finally found a way to expose the endemic corruption of the system he had to fight his way through. He does it by doing what he does best: take to the track and take off all the runners’ pants. All the reactions and the pace of his work come together to create a one-of-a-kind experience.
The Wachowskis don’t miss a single opportunity to create an emotionally moving cinema that resonates without flinching in its power. The vibrant visuals and rising score electrify the senses. It creates a very unique feel that can only come from the film’s distinct presentation and fearless commitment to not hold back all of its visual flair. Every flip and jump punctuated by the resounding sound of the car flying through the air, every flashback that shows just how meaningful this moment is, it all comes together to create nothing less than an awe-inspiring experience.
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