Thursday, March 05, 2009

The Colour Of Tragic

Back in the studio days, when Nintendo’s N64 was still on the cutting edge of video game playing, come the end of the work day assorted animators, in-betweeners and clean-up artists would step away from their desks and gather in front the spare monitor the console was hooked up to. As long as we weren’t working to a tight schedule with a rapidly approaching deadline (in which case we would relieve our frustrations by shooting the shit out of each other playing first Goldeneye and later Perfect Dark) the game of choice was Mario Kart.

It was a given that the nimblest to the four controllers got to play the first race, with the loser having to surrender their handset to next in line to play. Meanwhile, the winner got to choose which of the sixteen circuits to race around. There were about a half dozen favourites, including Wario Stadium, Kalamari Desert, Koopa Troopa Beach and DK Jungle Parkway. The one track almost everyone loathed was the garish Rainbow Road. Its only supporter was one of the animation assistants who would sport an evil grin when he chose it, watching everyone’s face fall at his selection.

It was the longest circuit of the lot and the interminable laps, which not the most tortuous, constantly bombarded the contestants with an endless succession of bright, nauseating colour that almost drove us out of our minds. After a while, once that particular course was chosen, folk would begin to gather their belongings and push off home. The reason I bring this little morsel up is because I finally got around to watching Speed Racer.

Last year, back when I first caught the headache-inducing trailer, I noted that I was probably going to steer clear of this nonsense and the only way to watch it, if I had to, was with a bucket of Nurofen popcorn on my lap. Recently it was suggested that, in fact, Speed Racer wasn’t as bad as all that and I should give it a go. So I did. And fuck me, it was far, far worse than I expected. It was like someone took the scene from 1941, where the Sherman ploughs through the paint factory on its way to engage with the Japanese submarine, sped the footage up and put it on a continual loop.

For a start it seemed to go on forever. The two hour-plus running time alone seemed wholly unnecessary for what was essentially a thin, formulaic plot, frequently complicated for no apparent reason. That in itself was exacerbated by the fact that every thirty minutes or so, by which point my retinas were utterly frazzled, I had to repeatedly pause the film and go have a lie down in a dark room. The only way I could think of to make the experience even worse would be to watch it on an iPhone while sitting in the front car of a rollercoaster.

As for the races at the heart of the film, if those Wachowski idiots had pointed a cine camera at a Scalextric track it would have been far more exciting. Compiled from separate elements shot in a green-screen studio, with the camera firing off in all directions for no other reason than it can, the final composites, with their ludicrous circuits and exaggerated landscapes, lacked even a hint of the adrenalin rush brought about in the furiously-paced races from John Frankenheimer’s Grand Prix, made over forty years ago, or even the car chases in his later thriller Ronin.

Instead all that was on show was the crashing boredom of the faked, number-crunched antics. Still, even that was better than the moronic asides with the youngest Racer kiddie and his stupid monkey. Was their madcap pairing supposed to be funny? Or was it meant to be so bad that the racing sequences could only look good by comparison? Personally, if I had to piss away over two hours of my life I would rather have spent it watching the pair being beaten to death with mallets. That would have been far more entertaining.

Actually, what I would have preferred to have seen was the reaction of the Warner Bros executives after they had handed over $120 million and got this back in return. If they weren’t angry to see the money spunked away in such a retched and cavalier manner then surely they must have been ashamed that their studio name was going to be attached to it. Otherwise what hope is there?


At 7:37 pm, Blogger Laura Anderson said...

I didn't fancy that film before this, now I know I will not watch it. Thank you for saving me the pain! I'd probably get a migraine anyway if it's like the Rainbow level on Mario Kart - that used to send me into a sort of waking dream.

I want to go play Mario Kart 64 right now. I loved Koopa Troopa Beach.

At 9:44 pm, Blogger Good Dog said...


Give it a wide berth. If you ever have any spare time on your hands go visit the swans rather than waste it on this nonsense.

Yeah, Rainbow Road did send people into an almost trance-like state. I thought it was like the brainwashing in The Ipcress File.

I preferred Kalamari Desert or the Royal Raceway myself. Of course the last time I tried playing either my thumb would cramp up from having to keep it pressed on the speed button. That’s age for you!


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