Oh dear indeed ... the Wachowski's have strayed far and wide from the brilliance of The Matrix, all the way back in 1999. I remember checking that movie out at a local cinema with my Dad as a teenager and being blown away, getting quite struck by the promo material beforehand, and then raving about it after seeing it.
Then the second and third Matrix movies came along - saw them both in the cinema - they were visually jaw dropping at times, and had their fair share of kick ass action...the problem was the poncy-arsed pseudo-philosophical stance(s) getting thrown around. The Architect sums it up really, but that sort of smug-faced "oh this is so terribly complex and long-worded, we're so clever" attitude that pervaded the quieter moments of Reloaded and Revolutions were wide of the mark, by a good margin. Such philosophical pondering was handled well in the original - but sadly the Wachowski's got completely carried away.
Fortunately, for Speed Racer, they ditched the philosophy 101 stuff ... with generally rubbish, seen-before family dynamics, childhood passions brought to realisation, sibling-death-based-motivation, and "corporate bad ... friends good" dimwittedness obviousness.
Mind you, it's a kiddier film this time round (far more so, in fact), but what a shame the script was toned down to a far younger level of thinking (no kiddy/adult story duality going on here, which is precisely what we got in the superb WALL.E recently).
The first hour is standard set-up, and generally boring so it is, but we do cut to some car racing now and then - it's just a shame that it's all so stupendously colourful and all over the place that we've got absolutely no idea what's going on, where anybody is, nor any real sense of 'car meets road'. The CGI motors just slither around and occasionally "car-fu" each other about the bonnet now and then, but even in a candy-land fantasy, you've got to have some sort of grounding in reality to sell it.
Nobody's in danger, the cars don't have much grunt, the colours are either far too distracting, or completely baffling, the story is boring and it all feels not at all adapted from television to film - sometimes you've gotta kick it up a notch for a jump to a new medium, but there's none of that here - seemingly so, anyway.
Then, hazah, after the first hour things pick up a bit...the story isn't so dull, the car racing not so "eh?", and then finally - in the last act - shit starts to pay off (mostly). But what a slog to get there. You see what they're trying to do, and it's generally admirable, but the film is so devoid of any real soul or passion (instead just attention to specific details - the anime style blurred action backgrounds, and headshot screen wipes for two).
If they don't buck up their ideas soon, they'll completely descend down the rabbit hole into obscurity. They're capable of so much more, so what on earth is going on?