Thursday: Speed Racer
Like most Baby Boomers and Gen-Xers, I grew up watching the cartoon. I'm not a fanatic, but I know all of the main characters and some of the ancillary ones. I even had the Alpha Team remix of the theme song. Speed Racer was an archetype of late 60s anime in an American culture. I was curious to see how the Wachowski brothers were going to make a live action movie out of this.
The answer is, they didn't. The Speed Racer movie contains flesh and blood actors, and may even have one or two real cars, but the rest of the movie is almost totally computer generated. This brings a wonderful freedom from reality that is visually overwhelming; colors are so oversaturated as to drip off the screen, and gravity and physics are laws that are frequently broken, if not outright repealed.
For all of that, it still manages to have a good storyline. I know this movie got slagged off by many of the critics, but you have to take it at face value. It was like most every Speed Racer cartoon episode: Speed has to win the big race with the help of his family, friends, and the mysterious Racer X, while fighting off the corrupt corporation and the other cheating drivers. In that regard, it succeeded. I don't think there will be a sequel, only because it did so poorly at the box office, and to be honest, if you've seen one Speed Racer story, you've seen them all.
(BTW, when are they going to do a Gatchman / Battle of the Planets movie?)
Friday: The Incredible Hulk
I don't know what Ang Lee was smoking when he did his Hulk movie in 2003, but you should do the same and block that movie right out of your mind. This new version is actually closer to a movie spinoff of the 1970s TV show. Keep that in mind.
Edward Norton does a fantastic job as Bruce Banner (I'll admit I'm biased; Norton is one of my favorite actors). He is skinny and gangly enough to play the mild-mannered Banner, but when the scene calls for it, you can see the anger building and the beginning of the Hulk pushing it's way out. He also manages to look much younger than he actually is, so he can pull off the scenes with Liv Tyler without looking like a dirty old man.
The CGI Hulk is also miles ahead of the one from the 2003 movie. I am glad that they abandoned one characteristic of the Hulk: the madder he gets, the bigger he gets. This Hulk was BIG without being B-I-G, and it helped give the movie a better sense of perspective against all of the men, machines, and monsters going up against him. It also made him a little more human, not nearly as mindless as is his stereotype.
The story was great. Again, if you view this as an extension of the TV series and not as a sequel to the 2003 movie, it really, really works. There are a number of subtle and not-so-subtle references to the TV show, along with one or two puns that just made me groan (hey mephron, you were right). I hope that they do continue with this characterization in future movies (and if the scenes in the lab and the final bar scene is any indication, they most certainly will).
Here's an update on the summer movies I've seen so far:
Iron Man - four stars. I will definitely see it again.
Speed Racer - two and a half stars. I may watch it again on DVD.
Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull - three stars. Great start, weaker finish.
The Incredible Hulk - three and a half stars. I may go see it again.
The next movies I may see:
WALL-E - not a must-see in the theater, but maybe I'll catch a dollar show.
Hancock - maybe, maybe not.
Hellboy II - A strong possibility, but if I miss it, I won't be too upset.
The Dark Knight - oh, HELL yeah! I'll be there on opening night.