When it comes to deciding what movie to choose for a screening as part of the site, it was always clear it would be a film from Director’s Week. Timing-wise, it ended up being for The Wachowskis. And out of their entire filmography, it was always obvious which film would be the one that needs to be seen on the big screen, Speed Racer.
Last May, Jeffrey and I started The Film Queue as a podcast. We wanted to begin with a big film, and the film we chose was Mad Max: Fury Road (which as of writing this has 183 listens, the third most amount of listens). We spent half an hour discussing a new film of the week, and another thirty minutes debating a film-related question. It typically was just the two of us on the podcast, but we had a few guests who joined that eventually also joined as writers (Kennisha, William, Kenneth & MacKenzie). Since last month, we have passed a year of being The Film Queue we decided to host a commemorative screening to celebrate it. As I said at the beginning of the article, we decided to screen a film during Director’s Week, and we chose Speed Racer.
Speed Racer is a film by The Wachowskis released in 2008 based on the manga/anime that was printed and aired in the late sixties. The story is fairly simple, Speed Racer has a dream of being the best driver in the WRL (World Racing League) and as does so, he is surrounded by a family that also loves racing but more importantly, love and support him. Speed grew up looking up at his older brother (which is really common) Rex Racer who was a strong contender for the best driver before his death. When Rex dies in a car accident, Speed is still young, so he grows up trying to continue the Racer legacy, while respecting his brother at all times. This is showed beautifully in the beginning of this film. During one race in which Speed is ahead all of the other drivers, the Wachowskis edits the past into the race so by the time the race is over, you have a clear understanding of who the family is in relation to one another, their roles, but more importantly Speed’s drive as he strives to be the best.
The WRL isn’t Nascar, but rather a blood relative to Mario Kart. Maybe specifically the Rainbow Road track because of the use of colour in the film. From the beginning of the film, the Wachowskis build this new world that is almost like nothing you’ve ever seen before. It is extremely colourful, super silly, and corny but they lean so hard into it, that they give themselves to the product. They are showing their vision of what this world needs to be, bright and sweet. The film is almost childish and though at first, that almost comes off as an issue, you buy into it all by the ending that when you walk out, you can’t believe that it was the same film. You also will cry before you walk out.
When the film was released in 2008, I had the chance to watch it in the theatres, but I didn’t fully appreciate it, but I saw it recently last year and it was something that resonated with me on a very deep level. At the beginning of the film, young Speed is watching the race in which Rex earns the fastest lap time record, but Speed tells Pops “My brother is the best racer in the world. Everyone else is running for second.” It is that, unabashed child’s vision of his older brother that makes the film so endearing.
The movie runs for a bit over 2 hours, and it never feels it, especially with how much story goes into it. It all leads to a final race that is extremely emotional. And extremely beautiful. In one scene, Speed’s mother tells him that when she sees the things he does, it takes her breath away and during that final race, that was what happened to me when the moment played again. As he drives faster than before, he makes the paint on the racetrack bleed. The lights from cameras and on the track fly by him at quick speeds, that there’s an effect of a kaleidoscope of colours. Speed literally becomes an artist in the final race, and that was something his mother saw in him all along, but it’s here that as an audience, you have finally been won by the film and are on Speed’s side (if you weren’t already), so as the crowd screams “Go Speed Racer Go”, not only do you cheer along with them, but you see what an artist he has become.
And that’s a beautiful thing. It’s not about racing, it’s about believing in your dreams, and being true to yourself. Being your own artist doing whatever it takes to be it.
The Film Queue couldn’t be happier with the film that was chosen for the first of possibly many screenings, but more importantly, here’s to another year of The Film Queue.