Way back in the 1960s Tatsuo Yoshida created a manga that centered on the adventures of a young race car driver. In 1967 that series was turned into an animated television series that has seen many replays over the decades, including here in the US. That series was called Speed Racer.
The cult standing it has achieved over the years in combination with the regular televised revivals (including runs on both MTV and Cartoon Network) made a live action cinematic adaptation an inevitability. The project has come and gone a few times over the years, with Alfonso Cuaron set to direct Johnny Depp in the title role at one point. Obviously, that incarnation never came to fruition, and I am not sure it would have been an improvement over what we ultimately received.
Well, I guess the cat is out of the bag. It's true, I like, really like, Speed Racer. It is not a deep film; it will not change your life nor will it give you any deep insight into character motivations. What Speed Racer does provide is a blast of candy-colored, childlike fun. Pure and simple, this is like a candy store exploded onto the screen. It is filled from side to side and top to bottom with bright primary colors, nothing subtle about it.
I cannot claim any truly functional knowledge of Speed Racer. I have always been aware of the show, the character, and some surrounding info about characters, but I do not believe I have ever seen a complete episode. That said, I will not be able to say just how true the film is to the source material.
The story of Speed Racer is all surface; there is very little subtext to it aside from the obviousness of the evils of big business and the importance of family. It is more the coming of age story of a young race car driver as he struggles to find his way in the world. His obvious skill at the wheel of a race car make him a popular target for the big racing sponsors, whom are seen as the enemy as they rob independence from the little guy.
Speed Racer (Emile Hirsch) is the central character. He is a young race car driver who has never gotten over the death of his older brother, providing immediate pathos. Following a meeting with Mr. Royalton (Roger Allam), the head of a large corporation and potential sponsor, Speed's eyes are opened to corruption within the system. This experience leads Speed to want to make a difference the only way he knows how — by racing. Speed enters a dangerous cross-country race and he is off on his crusade to make a difference.