Film Crit Hulk Smash: SPEED RACER As Artist

The Hulk on one of his favorite films.

THE WACHOWSKIS, PERHAPS MORE THAN ANY OTHER FILMMAKERS, SUFFER FROM THE PAINS OF BEING PURE AT HEART.

THEY MAKE CINEMA THAT IS SO GENUINE AND JAW-DROPPINGLY SINCERE THAT IT CAN'T HELP BUT SKEW RIGHT INTO MOST PEOPLE'S "THIS IS CORNY" TERRITORY. IT'S LIKE THE SIBLINGS HAVE NO RADAR FOR IT. THEY MAY NOT EVEN KNOW THE MEANING OF THE WORD. AS SUCH, THEIR BIG, LOVING IDEAS COME ONTO THE SCREEN COMPLETELY UNDISTILLED BY CYNICISM. TO BOOT, THEY ARE ABOUT AS SUBTLE AS A JACKHAMMER. EVEN IF THEY REGULARLY CONFUSE THEIR METAPHORS, THEY ARE SO COMMITTED TO YOUTHFUL NOTIONS OF IDEALISM THAT THEIR CHARACTERS ACT AS IF THEY HOLD THE ONE TRUE WILL OF GOD IN THEIR HANDS. MEAING IT'S CHARACTERS WHO BELIEVE IN PEACE / LOVE / TRUTH AND WILL FIGHT THE WHOLE WORLD WITH KEWL KUNG FU TO PROVE HOW MUCH PEACE / LOVE / TRUTH THEY HAVE (WHICH IS OFTEN HYPOCRITICAL, BUT, HEY. THAT'S GENRE, REALLY). BUT IF HULK HAD ONE CREATIVE STANDARD OF ALL FILMMAKERS, IT IS THE REQUEST THAT ONE'S CINEMA BE HONEST TO WHAT IT REALLY WANTS, WHAT IT REALLY BELIEVES, AND WHAT IT'S REALLY SAYING.

WHICH ALL JUST MEANS THAT HULK ADORES THE WACHOWSKIS.

EVEN WHEN THEY FAIL. HECK, ESPECIALLY WHEN THEY FAIL. IT'S BEEN ENOUGH YEARS WHERE HULK CAN LOOK BACK AT THE ANTI-CLIMACTIC LECTURE MATRIX RELOADED WITH A KNOWING SMILE. SAME WITH THE CONFUSED ETHOS OF REVOLUTIONS' "SYNTHESIS ENDING" (WINK WINK). AND HULK ALREADY ARGUED THAT HULK IS A HUGE FAN OF THE SWELLING HYPER-CONNECTION OF CLOUD ATLAS AND ITS PLEA FOR A BASIC MORALISM... HULK ALSO LIKES BOUND A LOT.

BUT SINCE IT'S CAR CHASE MONTH HERE IN BADASS LAND, THAT MEANS HULK SHOULD BE SITTING DOWN TO TELLING YOU ALL ABOUT THE HYPER-KINETIC CAR CHASE MECHANICS OF THEIR NEVER-EVER-DISPUTED-IN-ANY-WAY MASTERPIECE, SPEED RACER.

BUT INSTEAD OF DOING THAT FUN IDEA HULK IS GOING TO TALK ABOUT HOW THE ENTIRE FILM IS A METAPHOR FOR BEING AN ARTIST.

*WOMP WOMP*

BUT HEY, THE GREAT THING ABOUT "_____ AS ART" METAPHORS IS THAT THEY'RE REALLY EASY TO DO! WELL, NOT TO BE TONGUE-IN-CHEEK ABOUT IT, BUT THEY KIND OF ARE. BUT SPEED RACER AT LEAST HAS THE DIGNITY TO MAKE THE METAPHOR WORK REALLY, REALLY WELL.

* * *

THE SPEED-AS-ARTIST METAPHOR (AND SO MANY OF THE FOLLOWING POINTS) WERE ACTUALLY FIRST BROUGHT TO LIGHT IN CONVERSATIONS WITH HULK'S FRIEND MATT, BUT BEYOND THE OBVIOUS PARALLELS THAT WE'LL GET TO IN THE FILM'S ENDING, IT'S REALLY HOW MUCH THE FILM'S OPENING BOOKENDS WITH THE FINALE. TO RE-JOG YOUR MEMORY, PLEASE RE-WATCH THE OPENING 7 MINUTES BELOW, AS IT IS FULL OF THE VIVID, YOUTHFUL STAGES OF ARTISTIC EXPRESSION: THE HAND-DRAWN RACE, THE SINGULAR FOCUS, THE INCEPTION OF AN ARTIST WHOSE CANVAS JUST HAPPENS TO A RACE TRACK...

IMMEDIATE THOUGHTS:

-GOD, THE FIRST FEW NOTES OF THAT SCORE!

-GOD, THE COLOR! REMEMBER COLOR IN MOVIES!??! THIS WAS THE FIRST TIME HULK GENUINELY FELT LIKE THE NINTENDO AESTHETIC WAS BROUGHT TO LIFE.

-FILMMAKING IS DEFINITELY ABOUT TRANSITIONS, FOLKS.

-NOTICE HOW ALL THE CHARACTER INFORMATION IS CLEAR AND PLAIN-SPOKEN TO THE POINT THAT IT ALMOST LANDS WITH CLUNKY THUDS. ONE COULD ARGUE THIS IS "BAD WRITING," BECAUSE IT DOESN'T TRY TO DO ANY OF IT GRACEFULLY, BUT IT WORKS HERE BECAUSE THE CONNECTIONS AND POINT OF ALL THAT INFORMATION ARE DRAMATICALLY COHERENT. EVERYTHING MAKES SENSE AND MAKES EACH CINEMATIC MOMENT POP. WE GET TO KNOW EVERYTHING WE NEED TO KNOW. BETTER YET, IT'S COMPLETELY AWARE OF ITS FUNCTION AND EFFECT.  HULK WOULD POINT TO THE SPECIFIC GOOFY DELIVERY COMING FROM THAT ONE ANNOUNCER "Let us hope... he does not make... the same mistakes... that his brother made." HULK WOULD ARGUE THAT IS DEFINITELY KNOWING FUNCTION, AND THAT MAKES ALL THE DIFFERENCE.

-HULK ALWAYS FORGETS THAT YOUNG REX IS JASON STREET!

-AND YES, THE CAMERA WORK. HULK KNOWS THIS IS PRETTY MUCH ALL A BLEND OF ANIMATED AND GREEN-SCREEN, BUT THAT DOESN'T MATTER. LOOK HOW FUCKING ELEGANTLY THEY WEAVE IT ALL TOGETHER. THIS IS PRACTICALLY A HOW-TO-GUIDE ON SHAPING HYPER-KINETIC MOVEMENT IN A 3D SPACE, WHILE SOMEHOW NOT GIVING THE VIEWER WHIPLASH. AND THEY MAKE IT LOOK EFFORTLESS. SERIOUSLY, WATCH THE WAY IT MOVES FROM SHOT TO SHOT FROM 5:34 TO 6:58. THE MOVEMENT ALWAYS MAKES YOU FEEL LIKE YOU'RE STRAPPED IN FOR AN OUT OF CONTROL, WOOZY RIDE, BUT NEVER ACTIVELY JERKS YOU IN AND OUT OF SCENES. PLEASE UNDERSTAND... THAT IS REALLY, REALLY HARD TO DO.

OKAY BACK TO RACER AS ARTIST!

LOOK. THE TRUTH IS THAT THIS PIECE ISN'T REALLY MEANT TO BE SOME CRAZY IN-DEPTH BIT OF ANALYSIS OF A CONVOLUTED METAPHOR. THIS ISN'T MULHOLLAND DRIVE. IN FACT, THE ART-AS-RACER METAPHOR IN THE FILM IS PRETTY DAMN OBVIOUS. WHICH JUST MEANS THIS LITTLE PIECE EXISTS AS MORE OF AN OPEN INVITATION TO GO BACK AND WATCH THE FILM AGAIN THROUGH THIS SPECIFIC LENS.

THROUGH WHICH, THE PERSONAL EXPRESSION OF THE FILM ON THE PART OF THE WACHOWSKIS BECOMES ALL THE MORE CLEAR. LANA WACHOWSKI, THE BRILLIANT, INDOMITABLE ONE WHO WANTS TO LEAVE THE DIGNITY OF THE WORK AS SIMPLY BEING ABOUT THE WORK, BUT THE IDEA OF "BEING REBORN AS YOUR TRUE SELF" HAS BEEN A CONSTANT STAPLE OF EVERYTHING THEY'VE TOUCHED. THIS IS AN INCREDIBLY REAL, IMPORTANT THING TO THEM. AND THAT OBVIOUS, PERSONAL EXPRESSION ASIDE - ONE COULD QUESTION THE IDEA OF ENGAGING IN A PERSONAL EXPRESSION WHERE ONE POSITIONS THEMSELVES TO BE THE KIND OF RACER CAPABLE OF WALKING ON AIR (THE CHRIST METAPHORS OF THEIR WORK EQUALLY RAM HOME), BUT HULK WOULD ARGUE IT IS ACTUALLY JUST INCIDENTAL TO THE NATURE OF HOW THEY ALWAYS STRIVE FOR THE MOST UNDISTILLED VERSION OF THE STORY ITSELF.

HOW ELSE CAN WE EXPLAIN A MOVIE THAT STOPS RACES FOR CRAZY GUN FIGHTS, SPENDS 14 MINUTES WITH A MONKEY, AND HAS NINJAS ATTACK A WALTON-ESQUE FAMILY THAT CLIMAXES IN JOHN GOODMAN BODY SLAMMING ONE OF THEM LIKE AN OLD-TIMEY WRESTLER?

EVERYTHING IS IN PLAY. AND NONE OF IT IS SUBTLE. BUT HOW ELSE CAN WE EXPLAIN THE "AS AN ARTIST" METAPHOR WITH THEIR GRAND, ROMANTIC LANGUAGE ON THE GLORY OF "TRUE RACING" EXPRESSION? HOW ELSE CAN WE EXPLAIN THE OVER-THE-TOP-BUT-DISTURBINGLY ACCURATE LECTURE ON THE MECHANIZATION OF STOCK MARKET MANIPULATION? WHICH IS NOTHING BUT THE COMPLETE CORRUPTION OF THE PURITY OF FORM FOR THE SAKE OF TINY, INCREMENTAL ECONOMIC GAINS. HOW ELSE CAN WE EXPLAIN THE FILM'S ROUSING CLIMAX, WHICH GOES FROM THE LOW-POINT CRASH AND DISSOLVES NOT SO MUCH INTO A "RACE" BUT INTO A DAZZLING, CUBIST PAINTING-LIKE DISPLAY OF SEAMLESS, EXPLORATORY FORMS....

HULK HAD A FRIEND WHO ONCE ARGUED THAT THE SCENE IS "OBVIOUSLY BORING" BECAUSE IT CUTS AWAY FROM ACTION AND THUS RELEASES THE TENSION. HULK WOULD ARGUE THAT TENSION ISN'T EVEN THE GOAL OF THE SCENE. HECK, THE SECOND SPEED SLAMS ON THE GAS-PEDAL HIS YOUNGER SIBLING LITERALLY TELLS US "HE'S GOING TO DO IT." IT'S ALL A FOREGONE CONCLUSION. INSTEAD, THE SCENE BECOMES A VISUAL REPRESENTATION OF THE ARTIST'S CATHARSIS. AND IN THAT PROCESS, THE FILM FINALLY SUBVERTS AND RE-CONTEXTUALIZES THE SOMEWHAT GROSS IDEA THAT SOME PEOPLE ARE "BORN" ARTISTS (LIKE HELL, THIS GUY'S LITERAL NAME IS SPEED RACER), BY HIGHLIGHTING HOW EVERY CHOICE YOU MAKE ALONG YOUR LIFE BRINGS YOU INTO A PLACE, A MOMENT WHERE YOU ARE FINALLY ABLE TO DO WHAT YOU'VE WANTED. WHEN YOU ARE FINALLY READY TO CREATE. AS SUCH, WE SEE HOW MUCH OF HIS "MOMENT" OF "RACING" IS REALLY ABOUT THE PEOPLE AROUND HIM. THESE ARE HIS COLLABORATORS, HIS FAMILY, HIS COMMUNITY OF SUPPORT THAT ENABLE HIM TO DO HIS VERY BEST. HE'S NOT ALONE. HE'S ANYTHING BUT ALONE. SO UNLIKE EVERY SPORTS MOVIE EVER, HE'S NOT PROVING PEOPLE WRONG...

HE'S PROVING PEOPLE RIGHT.

AND WITH THAT CRUCIAL DIFFERENCE SPEED BECOMES HIS BEST POSSIBLE SELF. DRIVEN, DEDICATED, SWIRLING DOWN THE LAST STRAIGHTAWAY IN A DIZZYING CACOPHONY OF GRACEFUL CHAOS, THE TRACK BENDING INTO A STRAIGHT-UP BIRTH CANAL MOTIF, ALL BEFORE HE EMERGES INTO THE LIGHT OF THE FINISH LINE; HAZY, BLURRY-EYED BEING BORN AS WHO HE REALLY IS FOR THE FIRST TIME IN HIS LIFE...

IS THIS MOMENT OVER-THE-TOP? OPERATIC? DRIPPING WITH IMPOSSIBLE LEVELS OF CORNY SINCERITY THAT ARE IMPOSSIBLE TO IGNORE?

SURE. BUT HULK STILL CRIED THE FIRST TIME HULK SAW IT.

SO WHATEVER. YOU CAN ARGUE THAT NO OTHER FILMMAKERS FEEL THE PAINS OF BEING PURE OF HEART QUITE LIKE THE WACHOWSKIS DO...

BUT NO ONE GETS THE TANGIBLE JOYS OF IT QUITE LIKE US.

<3 HULK

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