Speed Racer Crashes and Burns. Not to Worry the SuperHeroes are Coming Soon

So I was at hitsville and read about Nkki Finke’s assessment of the Speed Racer opening weekend. It’s the type of piece that most people outside of Hollywood probably aren’t uses to; its got that vendetta laced tone; a happy to see others fail/tossing of facts and figures to prove the point feel. No other industry outside of showbiz will openly display that kind of rancor without justification. Her mid-weekend prediction was that the film wasn’t going to make the 20 million dollar mark that the studio was aiming for. The film did NOT make the mark, they only generated about 18.5 on a film that probably cost 150 million to make. Keep in mind Jon Favreau from Iron Man said on Leno that if they had only made 50 million instead of a 100 in their opening weekend THEY would have been considered failures too. But that’s how Hollywood works, it’s a smile in your face then stab you in the back/hope everybody except my own projectfails kind of world. And as a wannabe actor I spent about 20 years of my life in it. And now with MY movie on it’s way to being made, I’ll be heading back into the field next year.

Personally I’m a big fan of Nikki, I started reading her when she was still at the LA Weekly, and it was quite clear she was an insider who had become an “outside.” Clearly she still had enough contacts, and the ability to piece together enough facts, to write informative as hell articles out. Then she got scooped up by what Harry Shearer calls the “LA Dogtrainer.” Yeech! I better clarify that reference; Harry is the voice of Smithers, Mr. Burns, the Family Doctor and a bunch of other characters on the Simpsons, but he also does a great weekly radio show called “Le Show on KCRW/NPR. And the “Dogtrainer” is slang for the LA Times.

But I’m afraid it’s not hard to see what went down with the Speed Racer thing. I loved the cartoon and I love what the Wachowski brothers did for film with the Matrix. They’re a couple of Chicago guys into comic books and movies-like me-so they’ve got a warm place in my heart. But let’s face it, MOST of their movies have not been great. I’m not going to list them all, go to IMDB if you want to look at their track record. But they just went at this Speed thing the wrong way; they’re taking a kinda obscure, OLD, Japanese cartoon and turning it into live action. First of all, who’s the movie for? I mean the movie starts with bad language and the middle finger, so is that for kids? But they have all these…crazy ass, bright, flashing colors-is that for adults who remember the show? I mean it’s just mixed messages. The commercial didn’t look good. In fact the ONLY thing that looked good was the idea of doing the movie; that probably looked good on paper, and it sounded good to me. But that commercial made me think…well….

But not to worry! I’ve talked before on this blog about all the superheroes movies currently in various stages of production. They are coming to the rescue of movie studios. See what most people don’t get is that Hollywood is OUT of ideas and they have been for a long time. Twenty years, at least, that I know about. And they don’t know what to do out there except follow the leader. If something hits they other studios pounce and to THEIR version of the same movie. It’s comical. Despite getting thousands of interesting scripts they rarely take chances. But I also understand their predicament. NOTHING is getting cheaper in our world. Nothing. And so every year they’re faced with putting out movies with constantly rising prices; they can’t afford to be “risky” and “innovative.” They’ve got to keep the ship on course to keep money coming in. And they have to scavenge everything available to keep making their movies. Remember when a movie came out and it would be a year before it came out on video? Juno is ALREADY on DVD!

Iron Man is doing well because it was done right. And except for Bat Man and Spider-Man movies, they keep misfiring with these superhero movies. Maybe they need to have the “Man” in their titles. Because the last Hulk movie was ridiculous and the new one looks bad too . Maybe a little better, but the impetus is wrong and you can see it. Favreau and Rami TRULY like those comic book characters and it shows. Ang Lee for the Hulk? This is so insulting I wont even address it. And you can tell this new Ed Norton Hulk is an “Ed Norton” production. You see his actor fingerprints all over it. You can just imagine him saying something like, “I really want to get into the character for Bruce Banner and why he feels the need to become the Hulk.” When it becomes an actor’s vehicle or a director’s excuse to convey some theme it’s dead. I wrote about the new Mark Miller comic Wanted becoming a movie , but it’s now an Angelina Jolie vehicle, so it’s going to be dead on arrival too. Just stick to the story.

11 thoughts on “Speed Racer Crashes and Burns. Not to Worry the SuperHeroes are Coming Soon

  1. I have to give the Wachowski bros credit for putting a lot of hard work into making Speed Racer… but overall the movie looked and felt like a cross between anime, a kaleidoscope, that Flinstones movie, a video game and the Dukes of Hazard

  2. Hi Patrick! Thanks for coming by.

    Yeah that’s a problem. You ever hear the expression “neither fish nor fowl?” A project needs to have focus-or at least convey focus.

    But you go over to Finke’s blog and there well over 200 comments with people comin’ down hard on the movie. And lot’s of “well I never liked the cartoon anyway” type things. But say what you want, the cartoon had focus
    one main character
    one main car
    one type of animation
    one type of story basically every episode.

    And you look at Matrix 2 and really 3 and you see the plot and even the special effects kinda spiralling out of control.

    And THIS blog is a perfect example; major adsense problems becuase I’ve got 6 topics. It’s actually one of the main purposes of the blog; for me to learn about public communication/money issues BEFORE I do my film project.

  3. Hey Dave,
    Interesting article. Nicely put. I agree with you totally that the Wachowskis are extremely talented filmmakers but their track record seems to always be up and down like a rollercoaster.

    But, honestly, my take on the whole popularity and success of comic books to movies is this. DC seems to be the company that has a decent streak. Aside from their total bombs in the last two Schumacher Batmans and the last few Superman (except for Returns, which wasn’t as bad as those), most comic book movies seem to be nothing more then a big opportunity to cash in at the box office. My personal favorites have been so far, the Burton Batmans, the first two Supermans, Hellboy, Batman Begins and what looks to be a surefire success, The Dark Knight. I even enjoyed the Rocketeer! Spider-Man was enjoyable, but seemed to lose steam. Three was painfully obvious that Marvel or Sony rushed Raimi to slap together something and give fans what they want. Which, in the end, turned out to be split in the middle. I turned out to be the other half that felt, blehhhh.

    The first two X-Men movies weren’t too bad, but three was utter trash. But, I do noticed that the studios had to keep pumping them out after the cash cow hit their bank. And they wanted to keep that streak up so they decided to force it out rather then wait a bit to let the filmmakers put on their creative juices to keep the audience coming back and let the story become fresh.

    Marvel for me has ended being more of an assembly line for their properties. And it’s sad. Iron Man turned out to be great because they had great people on it. But, I skeptical now for it’s future. We’ll see how far it can go.

  4. Hi K!
    Well I’m not 100% sure of your position. You enjoy the movies but you think they’re getting worse. Or Iron Man is proof that things are getting better? I mean are things getting better or worse for you. Hahahaha

    And I’m not so sure DC has had more hits. I think if you make a little chart and count them all up you’ll see the DC and Marvel output is about equal if not Marvel actually AHEAD now. Same with the success track record-if you measure the 2 most important factors; financial and quality of film. DC started with the movies sooner, during that time Marvel had about 3 Spider-Man series and 2 X-Men series on TV, AND they were about to declare bankruptcy.

    And by the way that’s why BOTH companies are doing movies to cash in. Specifically to cash in. They have to find more customers for their characters or they will be out of business-the money just isn’t there on comic sales alone. (especially with HUGH digital downloading).

    What I think IS true is the declining quality of all the sequels, but I think you’ll find that to be the case with most movies-comic book or not-again, let’s pull the Matrix series out for example. 🙂

  5. You’re right in a lot of those points. Maybe I’m just basing my opinion on my enjoyment of DC’s movies. As I pointed out, Burton’s first two Batman movies, Constantine (surpisingly, I liked that a lot!), Superman 1 & 2, Superman Returns, and finally, Nolan’s Batman. That’s 7 in DC’s catalogue.

    I’ll put Hellboy and Rocketeer on the indies list.

    Next up, Marvel. Let’s see, I was entertained my Spider Man 1 & 2. Ditto for first two X-Men. Guillermo was the saving grace of Blade 2. After that…um, Ghost Rider, Blade 1 and 3, the two Fantastic Four movies, both attempts at Punisher, Ang Lee’s Hulk (well…it was alright. Not the best) and who can forget Howard the Duck. The last X-Men and Spider Man movies. All their misses for me have made it clear to me that I enjoyed DC more. In terms of quality anyway.

    I also strongly agree with you in that, today, comics just aren’t the same as they used to be. And now, the big two are resorting to pumping out their properties like hot cakes to keep up with the financial times. I have nothing against it personally. You gotta do what you gotta do! I just think, if they’re going to give me superheroes on screen, to give it to me with meat to chew off the bones.

    Maybe I’ve become a bit of a ‘snob’ or whatever. Maybe it’s the fanboy in me. I don’t know. It’s the one reason that I have that makes me really go nuts when I hear that a film like, for example, Dark Knight is coming out. DC and Nolan are putting out something I know I would put out hard earned money for. Whereas, I don’t want to shell out ten bucks (oh, and an additional ten for the popcorn and coke deal) to see Jessica Alba do a horrible job as Sue Richards with horrible CG and story.

    In terms of sequels, I hope that both companies make the attempt to give their property some love and time and let people who care for the material do their work. I want a sequel if it’s done well.

  6. I agree with you on Singer’s departure from the X-Men for Superman. It was good…but, not as great as it was supposed to be. Ang Lee’s Hulk had so much going for it, but, in the end, all the character dramatics he tried to inject it with, just didn’t work for me. Plus, being that it was Hulk, I didn’t want to see Hulk bashing a bunch of mutant dogs.

    I know Ed Norton’s Hulk seems ‘ehhh’ too, but, there is a chance I’ll try it out. On DVD…hehe!

    I think you and I and a bunch of people all agree that the big two need to hire the right people and ‘trust’ them with their visions. I doubted Batman Begins but goddamn was I an instant convert after I saw it. I ended up kicking myself in the head for being so harsh on the early photos and trailers.

    I gotta say man, I am NOT looking forward to the Wanted movie. I haven’t read the books but hope to soon. I skimmed through it and have been very intrigued. But the movie just isn’t hitting me in the right places for some reason. I think it’s because of Angelina Jolie.

    Wish I had all day because I’d go and read all the other blogs you wrote. But, that will have to wait for another time! Gotta do it day by day to catch up since I’m new! Looking forward to your blogs though! They’ve been highly enlightening and a treat to read!

  7. Although,I originally didn’t like the idea of Robert Downy,IronMan turned out to be tite but what i haven’t ciphered yet is why are there so many BatMan remakes…

    …Perhaps its because he’s the only one who hasn’t had his genes altered in some freak accident or from another planet……hmmm?

  8. Oh hi The Oracle,
    K and I were just chattin’ away !

    Well I thought it sounded weird too if you thought about Downey from say the “Less than Zero” days, but once I thought about his addiction issues, dark hair and unquestionable ability to act it made PERFECT sense to me.

    I think they keep doing Batman for the same reason they keep doing Superman or Spider-man AND it’s the same reason some people thought Speed Racer would be a good idea;name recognition. They’re picking characters based on how many people will know the character and want to see him in the in a movie.

    But sometimes the character can be completely unknowns and the star will get people to the theater. The new Will Smith movie Hancock looks like it will be better than the Hulk movie. And it’ll probably draw big crowds.

  9. Yeah, superheroes like Batman, Superman and Spider-Man are more likely to draw crowds even if people don’t read comics. They’re ingrained into our pop culture. But, I think today, the comic industry has changed so much since I last colected comics. I remember it being just a rumor that Spider Man would be made by James Cameron. Or there’d be a Submariner movie sometime. I remember my uncle who works in the industry, who got these trade papers that held ads for a future project for some Marvel characters into movies. I have been waiting and waiting for that to become true. Now, with film and technology, it’s a reality.

    I think there have been some rare examples of successful comic movies that aren’t as well known as the above mentioned. You’ve got Hellboy, Constantine, Sin City, and 300 to start off. They were huge successes despite not being big name attractions. Comic to film adaptations are becoming accepted in film. This can be a positive thing. Like Dave mentioned, Hancock isn’t a published comic but people are excited for that because it looks fun. Same goes for The Incredibles. I thought that was one of the best comic book movies ever done.

    Also, I think people keep remaking characters like Batman, Superman and Spider-Man because it is the same reason when you bring a new writer and artist aboard the books. To bring a fresh new vision on the mythos. How many writers and artists have tackled the life of these characters. There are so many incarnations from these creative minds, that it is always a welcome to see who else can bring something new to the table for them. Some end up being super successful while others have a cult following and then there are some that just never hit a mark. You’re going to have that.

  10. Hi K
    I’ve sent you some myspace email-

    But you hit the nail on the head, and it supports what I mentioned too. There used to be a lot of talk about making these movies, but Batman 3 and 4 put the breaks on a lot of things. So it wasn’t until Spider-Man that the industry regained its confidence and now there are about a DOZEN in serious development. Best casting I’ve heard so far is the Rock as Black Adam in Captain Marvel.

    And now the industry is willing to pursuing offbeat titles. Constantine is a movie I really enjoy-but thank God I didn’t start reading the comics until after, because it is SO disconnected from the comic. I’m sure many true fans were VERY disappointed. And it’s a perfect example of what I was takling about; how the key person behind a movie really detrmins it’s success (quality and/or revenue). Frank Miller is behind Sin and 300 so they were done right. But after the RoboCop series decline he swore off Hollywood for a long time until somebody could PROMISE him his work would be ok. Rodriquez had to show him some test scenes first.

    And again, with series it’s very hard to maintain that initial rush. Just ask George Lucas. But with superhero stuff, the first movie is usually the Origin Story and then they have to decide which arch to do as a follow-up. Iron Man 2 got approved last week and it looks like it’s going to be a focus on War Machine’s creation.

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