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Film / Speed Racer

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Pops: You think you can drive a car and change the world? It doesn't work like that!
Speed: Maybe not, but it's the only thing I know how to do and I gotta do something.

Speed Racer is a 2008 film based off of the anime series Speed Racer, directed and written by The Wachowskis. It features the titular Speed Racer (Emile Hirsch) characters with their same basic personalities thrown into a racing world where corporate greed determines everything.

The film also stars Christina Ricci as Trixie, John Goodman as Pops Racer, Susan Sarandon as Mom Racer, Matthew Fox as Racer X, Roger Allam as Arnold Royalton, Benno Fürmann as Inspector Detector, Hiroyuki Sanada as Musha, Ji Hoon Jung as Taejo Togokahn and Richard Roundtree as Ben Burns.

An outrageous visual spectacle, the movie did not attempt to make any apologies for the implausibilities or cliches of the original, instead merely using them to show insane, over-the-top brightly colored race car action sequences.

The film bombed at the box office and was panned upon release, but has since become a Cult Classic in more recent years. It also got a Video Game adaptation, set one year after the events of the film.

Speed Racer provides examples of:

  • Abnormal Ammo: The Vikings have a beehive catapult and Snake Oiler has a snake catapult.
  • Action Girl: Trixie was fairly tough in the anime, a novel concept at the time, but in the movie is much more an active partner to Speed than in the original. Even taking part in a portion of one of the races.
  • Adaptational Angst Upgrade: In the original anime, Rex Racer merely ran away from home and disappeared before assuming the disguise of Racer X. In the film, Rex faked his own death to protect his family from the shady figures he had become embroiled with, leaving both of him and Pops with even guiltier consciences over their last interaction.
  • Adaptational Backstory Change: In the original anime, Rex Racer ran away from home after getting into an argument with Pops over wrecking the Mach 1 during his first professional race. In the film, Rex was already a racing legend who had a falling out with Pops after Rex got involved with several scandals over alleged cheating on the race track. While in the anime, Rex became Racer X to prove to Pops that he could strike out on his own as a capable racer, in the film, he assumed a new identity in order to protect his family from the enemies he had made combating the corporations involved in race fixing.
  • Adaptational Badass: As opposed to the original anime, Trixie is a Badass Driver who can cover for Taejo in the Casa Cristo.
  • Adaptational Dumbass: Downplayed but Speed is shown to have been Book Dumb throughout school. This is in contrast to his anime counterpart, who was shown to be very adept and intelligent, with him and Trixie solving an Egyptian mystery through historical research.
  • Adaptational Wimp: As evidenced by the episode "Junk Car Grand Prix," the film makes Sparky less handy in a fight than the anime does.
  • Adaptation Distillation: The Wachowskis managed to distill the feel of the animated Speed Racer, keeping the bright colors, but bringing it into the live-action arena.
  • Adaptation Dye-Job:
    • In the anime, Racer X's racing uniform has white and red colors. For the film, he wears a black racing uniform.
    • Cruncher Block wears a white suit in the anime and an all-black suit in the live-action film.
  • All for Nothing: Taejo's plans to have Racer X and Speed help his team win the Casa Cristo 5000 so he can uncover evidence that will implicate Royalton initially turn out to be a farce when the Racer family learns from Inspector Detector that they were being played for chumps.
  • Almost Kiss: Twice, until the end — where the trope gets parodied as Spritle and Chim-Chim interrupt it for the sake of a quip, and then it resumes.
  • Amazing Technicolor World: And how. This movie is so vibrant that some critics reported visual fatigue.
  • Ambiguous Time Period: The movie seems to take place a few decades into the future, with hovercrafts, futuristic cities, and advanced car safety technology, but Ben Burns is said to have driven in the 1943 Grand Prix. Richard Roundtree, who plays Burns in the present, was born in 1942, which means even if the movie took place the year it came out, Burns would be too young to have been a driver. He could simply be much much Older Than He Looks, as he would be pushing one hundred were the movie set when it seems to be.
    • The poster of Ben Burns says he's the champion of the Grand Prix XLVIII. If this is also the '43 Prix that Speed talks about (which is never explicitly stated to be 1943.) then Speed competing in the 91st annual Grand Prix means that it's '91, right? So either a really futuristic alternate 1991, or an anachronistic retro-styled 2091.
  • Anachronic Order: Several scenes (especially in the beginning) keep switching around between multiple points of time.
  • Animesque: It's been called 'the first live-action anime'. That's an accurate description.
  • Annoying Younger Sibling:
    • Spritle (and Chim-Chim).
    • Speed was something of one to Rex.
  • Anti-Climactic Unmasking: When Speed confronts Racer X on potentially being his long-lost brother, Rex, Racer X unmasks himself to reveal that he's...some random guy. Except it's revealed at the end that Racer X is Rex Racer and had his face changed with Magic Plastic Surgery.
  • Artistic License – Cars:
    • Convertible sports cars like the Mach 5 would be the last vehicle to take on a cross-country rally. One, the vehicles lack the suspension travel for a route over desert sand and pockmarked asphalt, two, the racers would be choked by the clouds of sand kicked up by their competitors in the desert section and three, the vehicles' long wheelbases wouldn't have been ideal for the tight mountain roads. A rally car would be a better choice.
    • T180's like the Mach 6, also make V8 Engine Noises despite appearing to be rocket powered.
  • Artistic License – Physics:
  • Naturally, none of the car combat moves the drivers do are close to possible in real life, and a car that is strong and rigid enough to come out unscathed in such accidents would impart the force of the impact onto the driver.
  • There is no conventionally possible way to transmit power to a wheel that can turn 360 degrees inside the fender, much less steer it. The wheels are clearly being driven by something, as the Mach 6 is able to leave burnout marks from a standing start.
  • Artistic License – Sports: At no point in the movie do we see any driver wearing a full face helmet or a head and neck restraint, both safety improvements that were introduced in the late 20th century. While the "Kwik-Save" might keep drivers from being trapped in a burning car, it does nothing against flying debris or neck injuries.
  • Ascended Extra: Mom Racer. While in the original series, she is a minor character with limited dialogue, in the movie, Susan Sarandon plays her as a strong, caring mother who provides emotional support and inspiration for Speed.
  • As Long as It Sounds Foreign:
    • Royalton's German is totally off. Though it might be justified as he's a corrupt Upper-Class Twit.
      Royalton: When I was a child, we used to say "Pänkuchen sind Liebchen!" — "Pancakes are love." (what he said translates to "pancakes are sweethearts")
    • Also Chim Chim's "favorite TV show" doesn't sound like German as claimed by Pops.
  • A-Team Montage: The Racers rebuilding the Mach Six for the Grand Prix, intercut with Royalton and Musha's contract signing.
  • Avoid the Dreaded G Rating:
    • The only reason for any of the cursing in the movie.
    • After Speed rejects Royalton's outrageously generous but sell-out deal, (something which became a Hannibal Lecture when he realized he wasn't getting what he wanted) 10-year-old Spritle gives Royalton the finger right when the elevators close!
    • In the final Grand Prix, when Speed reaches Jack "Cannonball" Taylor, they engage in a personal duel and Speed's Mach 6 hits the GRX several times. In one of these, Speed utters "get that weak shit off my track!" Hard to distinguish due to the crashing sounds and the engine noise, so it went uncensored anyway.
  • Awesome Aussie: Melbourne-born Kick Gurry uses his native accent as Sparky.
  • Awesomeness Is a Force: Implied in the final lap of the final race, when Speed restarts the stalled Mach 6, drives so fast his taillights leave visible afterimages, overtakes every single other racer on a partial lap when starting from a standstill, smashes two of his rivals while flinging a multi-ton car around with downright balletic grace, and seemingly achieves nirvana, all on nothing but his passion for racing and determination. When he finally comes to a stop, the Mach 6's tires are melting.
  • Awesomeness Is Volatile: As seen with Awesomeness Is a Force. The Mach 6 manages to get Speed to the finish line and then collapses once it comes to a stop, with its suspension shot and tires melting into black puddles. Speed himself isn't much better; he has barely enough energy to take off his helmet. The crowd pulls him out and carries him to the winner podium. Seeing as they both reached what could be described as Speed Nirvana, they are in good shape all things considered.
  • Badass Driver:
    • Nearly half the cast, though Speed deserves special mention when he has his "in the zone" moment in the final race.
    • Racer X. You don't earn the sobriquet "Harbinger of Boom" by being a nice, considerate driver.
  • Badass Family: The Racers and extended family all apparently know how to deal out some awesome whoopass. Except Sparky.
  • Bee-Bee Gun: A bee hive is used as a weapon in-race.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: Speed is a good man overall, but the best way to piss him off is putting his girlfriend in peril. Best exemplified during the rally when Snake Oiler pulls off an offensive maneuver (positioning his speeding car so that his front wheel is dangerously close to Trixie's face) that could have cost a disguised Trixie her life; an enraged Speed performs the same move against Snake, coming inches away from killing the terrified man before relenting.
  • Big Bad: E.P. Arnold Royalton is the main antagonist of the film. Specifically, he represents everything corrupt about the racing industries and big businesses in general that goes against what Speed and his family stand for.
  • The Big Damn Kiss: Speed and Trixie's kiss at the end after Speed wins the Grand Prix.
  • The Big Race: Several increasingly over the top races culminating in the WRL Grand Prix.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Speed wins the Grand Prix, Royalton's cheating and corruption are exposed and he is put in prison, it is implied that the WRL will be reformed. However, Racer X has decided against revealing to his family that he is actually Rex Racer, and that he is still alive.
  • Blood Sport: While there are plenty of car crashes, this is downplayed by the fact that all cars have the foam bubble "Kwik-Save" ejector system installed, and any devices that are designed for or can be used to intentionally harm other racers, such as the Spearhook, are illegal. This makes it probably the most plausible bloodsport in fiction.
  • Bond One-Liner: Delivered by Pops Racer after dispatching a ninja:
    Trixie: Was that a ninja?
    Pops: More like a nonja. Terrible what passes for a ninja these days.
  • Book Dumb: As a young child, Speed was so obsessed about automobile racing that he spoke about little else; he even filled out a multiple choice test's answer sheet so that the dots read GO REX GO. He later admits he probably would not have finished high school without Trixie's help.
  • Bullet Time: It was written and directed by the Wachowskis. Think about that.
  • Call-Back: Speed attempting to leave his younger brother and father behind in an exact mirror of what happened with Rex when Speed was a child.
  • Canon Foreigner: Royalton, the Togokahn clan, and Ben Burns were among the characters specifically created for the film.
  • Can't Get Away with Nuthin': Speed and Trixie tell a fib to help Racer X and Inspector Detector by racing in the race that killed Rex.
    Spritle: Look!
    Pops: I'm not falling for that.
    Spritle: It's Speed!
    Pops: Speed's skiing!
    Spritle: ...then who's driving the Mach 5?!
    [On the television, the Mach 5 roars up the road. Cue an Oh, Crap! from Pops.]
    Pops: Oh, no...
  • Car Fu: Also actually called such in the video game.
  • Catchphrase: Trixie's "Cool beans."
  • Cement Shoes: Cruncher Block wants to use this method on Taejo, but he instead decides to use piranhas to try and eat Taejo's hand.
  • Changed My Mind, Kid: One post-finale. Taejo Togokahn initially left Inspector Detector and the Racers high and dry by using them to win Casa Cristo, drive up the price of his father's company for a bigger buyout, and leave without giving them any evidence of Royalton's connection to Cruncher Block, but inspired by Speed's Grand Prix victory, he decides to testify in court and put Royalton behind bars for good.
  • Cheaters Never Prosper: This trope is spelled out verbatim by the judge in the Racing Chronicle issue about Royalton's conviction and sentencing.
  • Chekhov's Armoury: All of the "defensive modifications" on Speed's car come into proper use. Except for the Homing Bird.
  • Chekhov's Gun: When Sprite and Chim-Chim sneak into a restricted area of Royalton Industries, they see testing for the spearhook in the Industry’s cars. Later on Royalton tells Cannonball Taylor that a spearhook has been fitted into the Royalton GRX car he’ll be using at the Grand Prix just in case he needs it, and while Taylor insists he doesn’t need one to win, the fact that a whole flashback is dedicated to it makes it clear it’ll come into play somehow later - which it does when Taylor gets desperate enough to use it against Speed, which ends up backfiring as Speed manages to free himself from it and expose both Taylor and Royalton for corruption and cheating in the process.
  • Color-Coded Characters: by Word of God in the DVD Extras.
    • Speed — Blue
    • Pops — Red
    • Trixie — Pink
    • Racer X — Black
    • Taejo — White (really, the whole Togokahn family)
    • Spritle — Yellow
    • Royalton — Purple
    • Mom — Green
    • Sparky — Orange
  • Conservation of Ninjutsu: Ninjas infiltrate the hotel where Taejo, Racer X and Speed are staying to take their team out of commission. The first ninja, a stealthy assassin, is deftly successful at silently drugging Taejo, while the second somewhat annoys Racer X. Supported when the third makes trouble for Speed, Sparky, Spritle and Chim-Chim, but then subverted as he is comically relieved of his pants by Spritle and Chim-Chim, then trounced by Pops Racer, who derides the assailant as a "non-ja".
    "Terrible what passes for a ninja these days."
  • Context-Sensitive Button: Speed has one button for each of the Mach 5's various tricks, however they're each shown capable of performing a variety of very precision maneuvers. For example, the "jump" button may deploy all four jump feet to hop over someone, or it might deploy just the left two to flip to the right, like how 'tap','double tap', 'press' and 'press and hold' can do different functions in a video game but with more options than the ones mentioned above. The auto-jacks in particular have their sound effects from the original anime.
  • Continuity Nod: To the original series and the original Japanese version of the show; the end credits music is a remix of the "Speed Racer" theme song, and intermixed with the remix is dialogue from the original show and lyrics from the original Mach-A-Go-Go theme song.
  • Cool Car: Every car in the movie, pretty much, but the Mach 5 remains the coolest.
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive:
    • Royalton made his big bucks off of fixing races and disposed of every racer who refused to play ball with him.
    • Hell, any of the WRL sponsors qualify. They've been fixing races for the benefit of the stock market for at least 48 years.
  • Creator Cameo: Peter Fernandez, Speed original voice actor, appears as a race commentator at Thunderhead.
  • Crush Filter: Speed and Trixie have a Love at First Sight one when they first lay eyes on each other as grade-schoolers.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: Pops utterly destroys and humiliates the ninja ("nonja") who attacks his kids in the hotel.
  • Dawn of an Era: Ben Burns even says so when Speed manages to not only expose Royalton but manages to break speed records to win the race from last place. In front of the entire world an Independent Team, Car, and Racer blew out all of the Big 5 to win the largest race in the world. By winning, Speed's not only singlehandedly crippled, if not outright demolished, the systemic race rigging, but destroyed one of the biggest companies ever, in one fell swoop.
    Ben Burns: It's a whole new world, baby!
  • Deadly Delivery: During Trixie's childhood flashback of how she met Speed and his family, a young Speed hands Pops a mysterious package, claiming it was from a "fan". Rex Racer puts an ear to the package and realizes that it's a bomb delivered to the family with intent to kill them — and quickly uses both Speed's childhood race car and a mop to send the bomb away. It explodes as soon as the race car hits the road, with the Racer family safe and sound.
  • Destination Defenestration: Pops throws the ninja who infiltrated the Racers' hotel room out of their window.
  • Disney Acid Sequence: Several times during the film, but especially during the final race, where Speed literally becomes the race and the track dissolves into, well, Nirvana.
  • Dogpile Of Doom: Several racers try to do this to Speed during the final Grand Prix, by piling their cars against him to shove him up against the track side. Unfortunately for them, the Mach 6's jump jacks are more than strong enough to fling all of them off in one go.
  • Doorstopper: Royalton's contract document is thousands of pages long, arranged in four giant stacks on a table.
  • The Dreaded: Criminals, terrorists, and other racers alike fear Racer X, "The Harbinger of Boom". Even Spritle (and Chim-Chim) flee in fear at the sight of him.
  • Dub Name Change: In the LATAM dub, Speed is renamed MeteoroTranslation  and Sparky as BujíaTranslation  as both names sound way better in Spanish than their literal translations (i.e., Velocidad and Chispita). Spritle is the one go becomes Chispita.
  • Epic Race: The Casa Cristo 5000.
  • Everybody Was Kung-Fu Fighting: See Badass Family.
  • Evil Brit:
    • E.P. Arnold Royalton. Interestingly, he has a semi-realistic working class London accent, not the usual "posh" evil accent. This might suggest that he is from a poor background. If his speech about building his own computer out of scraps is true, then he definitely came from a poor family. His actor, Roger Allam, was born in London.
    • Cruncher Block in the movie is a cockney gangster boss portrayed by John Benfield.
  • Failed a Spot Check:
    • Just look at how Speed acts in the opening scenes—how does anyone miss such obvious signs of ADHD? Or worse?
    • During the rally, Cruncher Block raids the Togokahns' private helicopter to take Haruko hostage and doesn't notice Taejo swapped places with his sister until he sees his face, despite the siblings' large difference in build.
  • Fascinating Eyebrow: Oh Trixie... delivers a decidedly sexy one during her "talk" with Speed.
  • Faux Affably Evil: Despite being warm and friendly while initially courting the Racer family, after Speed rejects his offer, Royalton reveals his true Corrupt Corporate Executive personality by giving Speed a "The Reason You Suck" Speech.
  • Fighting Fingerprint: Played with. Speed suspects Racer X of being his Long-Lost Relative Rex, because Racer X drives in the same distinctive way Rex did. Racer X proves him wrong by removing his mask, showing he looks nothing like Rex. He is, naturally.
  • The Film of the Series: Of Speed Racer.
  • Fingore: Cruncher Block attempts to have his piranhas bite off Taejo's hand, but it doesn't work out as Racer X is able to rescue him. One of his henchmen ends up having his finger eaten in his attempt to save the fish when a stray bullet breaches the tank.
  • Five-Second Foreshadowing: You know what is going to happen to the Gratuitous Ninja attacking the Racers when Pops performs a Punch Catch and the camera zooms to the ring he's been wearing all film long so we can read it: “Greco-Roman Wrestling State Champions”.
  • Flashback:
    • A good bit during the first race, as Speed and family recall pivotal moments in their lives.
    • Another during the final race, as Speed remembers his interactions with his friends and family, allowing him to race for the pure love of the sport, which causes him to essentially transcend reality and complete an entire lap in mere seconds, winning the race.
  • Floating Advice Reminder: On the last lap of the Grand Prix, Speed has flashbacks of his friends and family's advice, which spurs him on to a Heroic Second Wind.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • Inspector Detector asks Racer X if he really wants to be at the Racer house for the attempt at recruiting Speed. Racer seems unusually emotional about it. We learn later that Racer X is Rex, Speed's older brother who everyone believes died years before in a racing crash.
    • During the Racer family's tour of Royaltan Industries, a Royaltan escort is extremely rough while removing Trixie's jacket, which Trixie notes with a "what the hell" look on her face. This is a very early indication that Royaltan and his business are not as nice as they try to appear.
  • Gosh Dangit To Heck: Averted; there's a moderate amount of cursing ("ass" is said a lot; there's both an in-movie bleeped and entirely uncensored "shit") and Spritle even flips Royalton off after the factory tour. Yet it's still rated PG.
  • Gratuitous French: Johnny "Goodboy" Jones, one of the Casa Cristo sportscasters, sometimes peppers his speech with French words courtesy of his actor Melvil Poupaud.
  • Green Screen: Was filmed almost entirely on green screen to give it an anime-style effect.
  • Groin Attack:
    • Taejo delivers one to Cruncher Block while disguised as Horuko during the last leg of the Casa Cristo.
    • Spritle does this during the mob fight.
  • Happily Married: Mom and Pops Racer. Pops goes so far as to say marrying his best friend was the most important thing he'd ever done in his life, above and beyond his sons.
  • Happy Ending: With kiss included. But then, see Bitter Sweet Ending.
  • Heel–Face Turn: Taejo decides to honor his word and turn over incriminating evidence to imprison Royalton after being inspired by Speed's incredible win of the grand prix.
  • Helmets Are Hardly Heroic: Despite full-faced helmets being mandatory in most forms of motorsports for decades, none of the racers in the film wear more than an open faced helmet.
  • Here We Go Again!: Said word-for-word by the the Grey Ghost towards the end of the film when Speed Racer catches up to him.
  • Heroic Second Wind: During the Grand Prix, while Speed Racer is able to expose Royalton's spearhook and break the Mach 6 free of it, it still leaves the Mach 6 unable to start up, putting him at dead last. Speed Racer is frantic and despondent over what to do, thinking he's going to lose for real... until he remembers Rex's childhood advice on Don't Think, Feel when race-driving. He intuitively jumpstarts the Mach 6, getting back into the race and shooting up from dead last in a short amount of time. The previously concerned crowd goes absolutely wild at this, with Cass Jones triumphantly shouting, "He's back in it!"
  • Hoist by His Own Petard:
    • The female member of the Barbarian team (y'know, the ones that were bribed with furs?) is attempting to launch a beehive via built-in catapault into Taejo's car, but a quick side bump from Speed sends the giant honeycomb straight into the air, and back into the driver's seat.
    • Royalton fits Cannonball's car with a spearhook over his protests, just in case he might need it. When Cannonball gets desperate enough to use it against Speed, Speed manages to jump their cars near a race camera, clearly showing the spearhook is coming from Cannonball's car, not only ruining Cannonball's career but Royalton's since he made the car and would have approved its installation.
  • Human-Focused Adaptation: Downplayed example, as the series always focused on humans, but in the series, the Mach 5 was constantly called the fastest car in the world, and the original Japanese series was named for it instead of the driver. Here, there's nothing stated to be particularly special about any version of the car, instead focusing far more on Speed's skill as a driver.
  • Idiosyncratic Wipes: All through the movie. There are images of people's heads traveling across the screen with the new scene unscrolling behind them. The scene immediately before the Grand Prix is one over a minute long with the good guys, the bad guys, and the Racer family all sliding across the screen as Ben Burns declares "This is not a race. This is a showdown." In a case of Book Ends, right after the race, Racer X gets one of his old face, his doctors, and his new face, to explain to the audience how he pulled off his mask when Speed (would otherwise have correctly) identified him as his brother, Rex.
  • Implied Death Threat: When Speed declines Royalton's offer, the latter threatens to do whatever it takes to ensure Speed won't win, place, or even finish the Grand Prix.
  • Impossibly Cool Weapon: Almost all the cars in the Casa Cristo have them (especially the Barbarians); even the "defensive" modifications made to Team Togokahn (Racer X, Speed, and Taejo) could be quite dangerous.
  • Ironic Echo: Royalton's "The Reason You Suck" Speech to Speed gets one in the finale as he uses sheer Heroic Willpower to come up from behind
    "You ready to throw away your toys and grow up?! Are you ready to become a real race car driver!?"
  • Karma Houdini: Ben Burns was just as crooked as the other racing champions, but it looks like he'll never have to answer for it. Though given how he cheered Speed on and declared it to be a whole new world after he won the Grand Prix, it's entirely likely he was never happy with the situation in the first place.
  • Large Ham: The whole cast, with the exception of Susan Sarandon, who played the wholesome Mom Racer. Even the most negative critic liked Roger Allam's over-the-top villainy.
  • Leaning on the Fourth Wall: The elderly announcer at the start says "I knew Rex Racer" because the announcer is Peter Fernandez who voiced Rex/Racer X in the dub of the original anime.
  • Leitmotif: Virtually the entire soundtrack is remixes of the anime theme.
  • Live-Action Adaptation: Of the original anime, although the way it was shot (90% green screen) makes it look more like a live-action anime.
  • Long Lost Sibling: Intentionally subverted by Racer X, who takes off his mask to prove to Speed he's not actually Rex Racer. But he is.
  • Loophole Abuse: Taejo's sister Horuko uses this to get Speed into the Grand Prix. Ordinarily you'd need to win an entry certificate, which Speed technically did not, but since he helped Taejo win the team rally and Taejo declined, he can claim the spot.
  • Love at First Punch: Played with. Speed first notices Trixie after she punches out the Alpha Bitch on his behalf.
  • Loved Ones Montage: During the Grand Prix at the finale of the live action Speed Racer film, Speed's Heroic Second Wind after restarting the Mach 6 is accompanied by flashbacks to his discussions with his friends and family throughout the film, mixed with cuts to each of them watching in pride as he comes from behind to take the lead for the second time in the race.
  • Machine Empathy: Rex teaches Speed to "drive, not steer" by listening to the feel of the car. Speed later uses this ability to intuitively jump-start the Mach 6 in the middle of the final Grand Prix.
  • Magic Plastic Surgery: Racer X aka Rex Racer.
  • MegaCorp: Royalton Industries is the premiere maker of T-180 race cars, and is headed by Corrupt Corporate Executive Royalton.
  • Mass "Oh, Crap!": An unusual version in that the emotion and reason for the Oh, Crap! is virtually different for the different factions as Speed shows up at the final race.
  • Meaningful Name: Crooked racer Snake Oiler. Amongst his many dirty tricks, he uses oil slicks and launches friggin' SNAKES at opponents. He's also a smug jerk, earning him the trope trifecta.
  • Meta Twist: The identity of Racer X — it's obvious if you are familiar with the anime. He's Speed's older brother Rex Racer, who is believed dead by everyone. The film actually takes the fans' knowledge into account, pulling off a Double Subversion. When he takes off the mask, he seemingly turns out not to be Rex, only for it to be revealed at the end that he is Rex and had undergone plastic surgery to hide his identity.
  • Montages:
    • Lots of them, generally woven into the various action scenes. This allows the Action Prologue to ground us in the entire family's history; and, later, Speed's defiance of Royalton's Monologuing is made all the more hollow because we've already seen that the good guy loses.
    • The film is actually a pretty good study on well-handled exposition. Infodumps are done visually, essentially via the use of Cutaway Gags, and with Idiosyncratic Wipes (often involving the face of the character being exposited about) to lead both into and out of the cut-away.
  • Mr. Fanservice:
    • The appropriately sexy Emile Hirsch as the hunky hero Speed.
    • Matthew Fox as Racer X.
    • Rainnote  as Taejo.note 
  • Ms. Fanservice:
    • Trixie. She is played by Christina Ricci after all.
    • Yu Nan as Horuko Togokahn. In the process, she pulls off the Pretty in Mink and Token Good Teammate tropes quite well.
    • Racer X sports a very sexy piece of eye candy that is most likely his girlfriend. Her main purpose is as the Ms. Exposition technician detailing all of the defensive modifications added to the Mach 5 for Casa Cristo, and in all other scenes she serves as Racer X's date at events.
  • Mundane Made Awesome: When facing a ninja, Racer X whips out a length of cloth, whips it around dramatically, then ties it around his face to act as a mask.
  • My Card: Inspector Detector attempts to give one to Pops, but he declines.
    Inspector Detector: If you change your mind...!
    Pops: Keep your card, Chief Inspector.
  • My Greatest Second Chance: When Rex left the family to fight the corporations, Pops viewed it as a betrayal and told him not to come back, which he regrets to this day. When Speed decides to do the same, Pops explains this and promises Speed that he can always come back home.
  • My Rule Fu Is Stronger than Yours: In retaliation to Speed snubbing his offer, Royalton does everything he can to sabotage Racer Motors and Speed so that he doesn't win an entry certificate and thus can't qualify for the Grand Prix. However, Horuko finds a rule that says that as part of the winning team in Casa Cristo, he is eligible to participate since Taejo declined his invitation. And when Royalton tries to protest Speed's entry, Inspector Detector points out that the entry rule is ironclad and if Royalton insists on breaking it, he'll have to shut the race down and conduct a full investigation, right before the event is about to start. Since Royalton can't afford such a debacle, he is forced to back down and let Speed race.
  • Mythology Gag: In the anime, Racer X always holds himself back so his younger brother can win the race. The movie does this backwards during the opening action sequence, when Speed deliberately loses to Rex's Racing Ghost. Speed knows that no one else could beat his time, so he is giving Rex immortality, in a sense.
  • Neck Lift: Taejo chokes Cruncher Block after his Groin Attack on the Togokahn plane.
  • Nerds Are Sexy: Speed and Racer X both have their fangirls, but everyone was surprised at just how sexy Inspector Detector turned out with his styling specs. (He is a German Johnny Depp.)
  • Non-Action Guy: Sparky. Spritle and Chim-Chim win more fights than he does (to wit: they work together to de-pants a ninja, while Chim-Chim later gets to hit a guy with a wrench).
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: Roger Allam, the actor who plays bad guy Arnold Royalton, bears an astonishing resemblance to British writer and critic Christopher Hitchens, right down to the accent. Many reviewers have commented on it.
  • Non-Fatal Explosions: The cars all have a system called "Kwik-Save" that puts them in a protective foam bubble and ejects them when they crash. Snake Oiler has a parachute. A failure in this system was blamed for the death of Rex Racer.
  • Oh, Crap!:
    • The Racer family when Rex's death is announced.
    • Taejo when Cruncher Block nearly subjects him to the piranhas.
    • Cruncher Block when Racer X damages the aquarium tank holding his piranhas.
    • Pops says "Oh, no..." when he realizes that Speed is driving in the Casa Cristo.
    • After the non-ja is pantsed by Spritle & Chim-Chim, he bumps into and tries to attack Pops, who easily catches his fist and pulls him into a hold. This is when he notices the Greco-Roman Wrestling State Championship ring on Pop's hand.
      Non-ja: Uh-oh.
    • Cruncher Block is surprised when he realizes that Horuko is actually Taejo in disguise while on the Togokahn plane.
    • Speed has one (combined with a Heroic BSoD) right as they entered the cave where Rex died. He quickly recovers, though.
    • The Racer family when Snake Oiler pulls a gun on Speed.
    • Snake Oiler when Speed outsmarts him and sends him off of the cliff in the Casa Cristo.
    • Spritle is shocked when Cannonball Taylor uses his spearhook on Speed. Having seen it before with Chim-Chim while exploring a secret part of Royalton Industries during the tour, he alerts his family, who sport looks of horror as well.
    • Every single shot of Royalton's face from the moment the spearhook is revealed on-camera until the end of the film.
  • Oil Slick: Used by Snake Oiler during the Casa Cristo rally.
  • Older Than They Look: Christina Ricci was 27 when she played the role of Trixie, while Emile Hirsch was 23. Anyone watching would think he's the older of the two.
  • Papa Wolf: Harm one of Pops's sons, and you will be sent flying through a window. Just ask the non-ja.
  • Parting-Words Regret: Between Pops and Rex, before Rex was presumed killed in the crash.
  • Precision F-Strike: Speed gets one (uncensored!) that also doubles as a Badass Boast during the final race:
    "Get that weak shit off my track!"
  • Product Placement:
    • Real advertisements appear among the fake ones, including SeaWorld and Petrobras on a blimp at Fuji and Orange Glo on a crewman's jumpsuit at Thunderhead. In the scene where the Royalton janitor calls to report a supposed mouse problem, his Motorola walkie-talkie gets a close-up.
    • Petrobras even gets a fully 3D-rendered car, although it plays no relevant part in the film. The car was actually custom built to feature in Petrobras promotional events back in the day (and it actually raced, unlike the Mach 5 which was just a prop). In the video game, players can drive said car (and it is one of the fastest).
    • Among the competing cars in the movie is also one sponsored by the Juicy Drop Pop candy, which had real-world tie-ins promoting movie at the time, including a mobile game.
    • Though way more visible in the top-down view of the car in one of the movie's special features than in the movie itself, the spoiler on the Thor-Axine Viking team cars sports a Sparco logo.
  • Punch Catch: Happens to the non-ja when he takes a swing at Pops.
  • Put on a Prison Bus:
    • Cruncher Block and his henchmen are last seen being taken into custody by Inspector Detector's team in the second half of the film.
    • In the ending's magazine montage, Royalton himself is tried and eventually incarcerated off-screen.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Royalton gives one to Speed when he refuses to sign a contract to race for him, serving up a generous helping of Large Ham as he explains how the sport of racing is really nothing more than a corporate tool for financial gain. The big players come together to negotiate the finishing order, and all the "smart" racers play along for the big paychecks and generous perks. The crowning moment comes when he outs Speed's childhood hero as just another corporate shill.
    Royalton: (derisive laugh) You poor, naïve chump. I'm going to pretend I didn't hear that load of sickening schmaltz, and I'm going to give you a bit of an education, and at the end of it — if you're smart — you'll thank me.
  • Remake Cameo:
    • The Japanese dub of the film brings back three of the original voice actors, albeit in different roles. Kenji Utsumi, the voice of Inspector Detector in the original series, voices Pops Racer; Kiyoshi Kobayashi (the original voice of Mr. Black) is the voice of Tetsuo Togokahn; and Katsuji Mori (the original Speed Racer) voices Ben Burns.
    • In the Latin American Spanish dub, Arturo Mercado (the original voice actor of Speed Racer) voices Tetsuo Togokahn.
  • The Reveal: Subverted when Racer X reveals his identity to Speed after The Crucible and Speed learns that Racer X is not his brother, Rex Racer, as he had suspected and then double subverted when it is revealed that Rex Racer faked his death and had Magic Plastic Surgery as the ultimate disguise to fight against corruption as Racer X.
  • Rousing Speech: When Speed loses all hope of ever redeeming the crooked sport of racing, Racer X helps restore him to Wide-Eyed Idealist form.
    Racer X: It doesn't matter if racing never changes — what matters is if we let racing change us.
  • Rule of Cool: The entire film runs on this. It knows it's adapting an anime and embraces that fact with bright visuals and flashy and over-the-top racing that would make REDLINE blush. The movie makes the laws of physics its bitch.
  • Rule of Fun: Much like the anime, the plot is built around excusing over-the-top races, with action coming before everything.
  • Save the Day, Turn Away: Racer X is really Rex, who faked his death to assume the Racer X identity. He decides to not to reveal his identity to keep his family safe. X tells Inspector Detector that while hiding the truth may have been a mistake, it is a mistake he will have to live with.
  • Scantron Picture: At the beginning of the movie, the young Speed fills the bubbles on a test to read GO REX GO, prompting his teacher to call his mom in for a meeting.
  • Screw the Money, I Have Rules!: Inspector Detector threatens to shut down the Grand Prix when Royalton tries to deny Speed's Loophole Abuse. Royalton complains about the cost, but Inspector Detector sticks to his guns, confident that Royalton will fold.
  • Screw the Rules, I Have Money!: Mr. Royalton, lampshaded by Pops Racer after a whirlwind tour of his corporate headquarters.
    Royalton: What's wrong Mr. Racer?
    Pops: To be honest, Royalton, I'm feeling more intimidated than impressed. This kind of company scares me. People like you have way too much money. When someone gets that kind of money, they start thinking that the rules everyone else plays by don't mean squat to them.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here: Royalton's backers leave him behind when Speed exposes his corrupt methods.
  • Seen It All: Pops. "Terrible what passes for a ninja these days."
  • Self-Made Man: Royalton, if you believe his claims about turning his computer startup into a multi-national empire.
  • Serial Escalation: It starts with a race on a somewhat stylized but otherwise conventional race track, transitions to cross-country race full of murderous drivers and expansive, treacherous landscapes, and climaxes with Speed basically achieving Speed Nirvana.
  • Serious Business: Even more so than in the anime. Auto racing is the most popular and most noble sport in the world, there's coverage in multiple languages (which in Real Life doesn't happen at most sporting events that aren't the Olympics, admittedly including Formula One), and the outcomes of races have far-reaching effects on the global economy. This is because the "Big Five" corporations fix races to manipulate the stock market to suit their whims. If Royalton's largesse is any indication, those Big Five do have a major effect on the global economy.
  • Setting Update: The film moves from The '60s to a futuristic Retro Universe, way wackier and out of this world than the original series.
  • Shout-Out:
    • The Crucible race has plenty of shout-outs to the original series, even giving Speed an excuse to wear a neckerchief (so he can use it to cover his mouth during the desert run). At the end of the race, he jumps out and poses like in the original anime intro.
  • The auto-jacks make the exact same sound they did in the anime and work the exact same way (see Context-Sensitive Button above).
  • Not related to the original series, one of the founders of automobile racing Royalton names, Benjamin Braddock, is named after the protagonist of The Graduate.
  • Most of the named characters, even minor ones, are named after characters from the anime. Cruncher Block and Snake Oiler were both one-shot villains in the series.
  • One of the Vikings screams "KROM!" as a battlecry.
  • The "non-ja" has a P-chan dangle on his car keys.
  • One of the racers who died in The Crucible is named Cyrus the Virus O'Man.
  • Signature Style: Some Wachowski trademarks:
    • Exposition/Action montage, first seen in The Matrix Reloaded, used everywhere here.
    • The Punch Parry, first seen in the Morpheus/Smith bathroom brawl in The Matrix, used by Racer X against his Nonja. Twice, in a Oner shot. Which is impressive when you hear DVD Commentary from Laurence Fishburne about how they had to cut immediately after they accomplished that stunt, because both he and Hugo Weaving were yelping in pain.
    • Bullet Time, of course.
  • Slow-Motion Drop: Mom drops a glass of wine when Rex Racer's death is announced on the news in a Flash Back.
  • Smug Snake: Snake Oiler, Speed's primary rival throughout the Casa Cristo 5000.
  • Speed Demon: Speed has had a love of racing since he daydreamed about being a racer just like his brother Rex. Speed even goes as far as saying that racing is a religion in his family.
  • Speed Stripes: Unusually for a live-action film. Done deliberately as an homage to the original anime. It's seen especially in the transitions, or when Speed is really pouring it on.
  • Spiked Wheels: The Femme Fatale headhunters have these, which can even be remote controlled to swordfight the shields installed on the Mach 5.
  • Stock Scream: When Spritle and Chim-Chim are racing through Royalton Industries.
  • Stout Strength: Pops is a very corpulent man. But as a former wrestler, he is strong enough to toss around bad guys like they're ragdolls.
  • Stripperific: Despite playing the hero's loyal love interest, Christina Ricci's Trixie tends to dress like a femme fatale. This is most notable during her date in the Mach 5 with Speed. That red dress...
  • Stuff Blowing Up: The film has loads and loads of gratuitous explosions, but the whole movie is built on rule of cool and car-fu so no one really cares.
  • Technobabble:
    • One of the DVD Bonus Content clips is about nothing but the cars themselves, and quickly degenerates into this since the cars (and physics) have nothing to do with Real Life.
  • Technology Porn: This movie indulges in this to the extreme, with rocket powered race cars, holographic advertisements in gleaming technicolor metropolises and track designs that challenge the laws of physics.
  • That Man Is Dead: Racer X chose not to reveal himself as Rex to his family, even telling Speed that his brother is truly dead.
  • Theme Naming: The "Headhunters" (teams bribed by Cruncher Block to take out Team Togokahn) are the "Flying Foxes" (Femme Fatales), "Semper Fibre" (dressed as G.I.s), and "Thor-Axine" (Vikings). And then there's Snake Oiler...
  • Throwing the Fight: Many of the races are fixed. A good half of the racers are there just to deliberately sacrifice themselves in order to stop the ones not playing along.
  • Training from Hell: What Royalton puts his drivers through.
  • Trophy Room: Shelves of trophies are seen in the living room.
  • Visual Pun: The vertically integrated production line at Royalton is literally vertical.
  • Villainous Breakdown:
    • The Grand Prix is where everything goes to shit for Royalton. First, Speed publicly exposes Cannonball Taylor's spearhook using a race track camera, causing Royalton's corporate backers to leave him in disgust over using such illegal methods. When the Grand Prix reaches its final lap and Speed's chances of winning increase, Royalton starts screaming for the other racers to stop Speed. Once Speed wins at first place, Royalton completely loses it and pushes the ice sculpture of a race car to the ground, prompting Musha to shake his head at him and walk away, too.
      Royalton: STOOOP HIIIM!!!!!!!
    • Snake Oiler gets one earlier, when he tries and fails to send Speed off into an icy, narrow mountain pass.
  • Wacky Racing: Courses that would be at home in F-Zero or Hot Wheels? Check. Themed racing teams, including one composed of a group of barbarians paid in furs? Check. Cars covered in special weapons and improbable technology? Check.
  • Weaponized Car:
    • All the cars have auto-jacks which allow them to hurl themselves into each other with prejudice. There's also the illegal spearhook, an extendable clamp mounted on the undercarriage that grabs a nearby car and keeps it from driving off. This is mostly used for a Taking You with Me, since it's pretty hard to drag someone into an accident without ending up in it, too. In the final race, this backfires on Cannonball Taylor since he still wants to win the race, so Speed is eventually able to break free and expose him as a cheater.
    • The Casa Cristo goes all out. Most of the contestants have weapons of some kind: Epic Flails, tire spikes, etc. The Mach 5 gets saw blades mounted to the front, though Speed only uses them to disable the tire spikes of other racers. This is technically illegal, but the rules are so loosely enforced that at times it seems like the race commentators are intentionally lampshading it.
      Announcer: While it's true there have been a few bad apples, on the whole, most teams stay within league rules. [x-ray montage of hidden weapons in various cars] Or at least try not to get caught.
    • Racer X deploys numerous machine guns on his vehicle (the Shooting Star) when rescuing Taejo.
    • Cruncher Block's big rig has holes for the people in the trailer to shoot out of and a missile launcher in the grill.
  • When All You Have Is a Hammer…: "[Racing is] the only thing I know how to do, and I gotta do something."
  • Why Don't You Just Shoot Him?: Put into play during the Crucible when a frustrated Snake Oiler, foiled in his attempts to beat Speed, pulls out a pistol and opens fire on him. This is obviously cheating (and attempted murder), so he would have been disqualified even if Speed hadn't sent him flying off the cliff.
  • Wide-Eyed Idealist: Speed. After he realizes how dirty the sport is (thanks to a "The Reason You Suck" Speech) he's reminded by Racer X that it doesn't matter, so long as the dirt doesn't rub off. In the end, Speed decides to make racing fit his ideal. He apparently succeeds, as he inspires seemingly everyone after he wins.
    Ben Burns: It's a whole new world, baby! It's a whole new world!
    Inspector Detector: This will change everything.
    Racer X: It already has.
  • Wingding Eyes: When the Semper-Fiber team is bribed with a Briefcase Full of Money, the team leader gets dollar signs in his eyes.
  • With a Friend and a Stranger: Team Togokahn, except that only Racer X knows this for a fact, given the Secret Identity. Speed does pick up on how well he and X sync together, leading him to suspect that he might actually be Rex Racer.
  • World of Ham: Damn near everyone either chews the scenery or poses dramatically for the camera.
  • Wounded Gazelle Gambit: Taejo Togokahn offers to turn over incriminating evidence if Racer X and Speed help his team win the Casa Cristo 5000, on the grounds that Royalton will ruin his family financially if they don't. They do, which causes Togokahn's stock to skyrocket, and he leaves them empty-handed.
  • Wraparound Background: Used in the most obvious way possible, on both sides of the car, with a bike that rings its bell every time it passes.
  • Xanatos Gambit: As noted in Serious Business, a company may intentionally drive down the value of its own stock if it can gain some other benefit in doing so. Naturally, if this plan fails, and something else happens, they still benefit.
  • You Can't Go Home Again:
    • Racer X thoroughly erases his identity as Rex Racer, not only faking his death but getting plastic surgery so no one will be able to recognize him. When Inspector Detector asks him, at the end, if he wants to rejoin his family following Royalton's defeat, he quietly refuses, believing the loss of his former identity is a mistake he needs to live with.
    • Pops Racer out and out tells Rex this when he announces that he's leaving Pops' racing team; his underlining intention is to protect his family, as he really means to take down the crime cartel. Pops (even without ever learning Rex's true motives) later admits that he deeply regrets saying that to his eldest son.
  • Zorro Mark: While rescuing Taejo from Cruncher Block, Racer X machine-guns a giant 'X' into the rear door of Block's trailer.


Video Example(s):


Speed Racer (2008)

With Speed Racer back in the race, pursuing the leaders, flashback lines from Racer X, Royalton and his family play out while he goes on his pursuit from dead last to the finish.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (3 votes)

Example of:

Main / FloatingAdviceReminder

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