Why Did Speed Racer Crash?

With everyone projecting less than box-office gold for the movie, it was still slightly surprising when the totals were tallied on Monday morning. Iron Man won out again, making over $50 million on the weekend to bring its US total up to $177.8 million, and worldwide above $300 million. In second place came What Happens In Vegas with $20.2 million, and an entire budget of barely a third of just the marketing budget for Speed Racer, which limped into third place with a paltry $18.6 million, and a rumoured worldwide intake of less than $30 million. Already its crashed worse than Poseidon (opening to $22.2m) and Kingdom Of Heaven ($19.6m), two of recent memories biggest box office flops.

So what went so horribly wrong? Could it be that the poster campaign probably confused people into queuing up outside a video game store on the day of its release?:

Could it be down to the wildly varying reviews for the movie, a truly solid example of the term “love it or hate it”?:

Entertainment Weekly: In a display of relativity Einstein might have admired, Speed Racer appears to slow down even as the hero himself achieves record-breaking velocity. Forget what happens on the racetrack. This is one vehicle that stalls.

Empire Magazine: The film brims with ideas and invention, staying true its ambition of the living cartoon. And that’s just it. It’s a cartoon. Hyperreality. Baudrillard’s going to love it.

Could it be down to the fact that the general public still hasn’t quite forgiven the directing brothers from ruining The Matrix with Reloaded and Revolutions? Perhaps it was just never a great idea to try and translate something as genre specific as a hyperactive Manga cartoon, Americanising it while still retaining its zany Asian feel, making it a messy cultural mish mash which fell between the two ideologies, pleasing nobody in the process? Or could it be that the three main theatrical trailers for the movie all forwarded different types of movie; gaudy, childish and sinister, in that order.

Either which way, box office prophets are expecting this to disappear from general release pretty sharpish, making it 2008’s first official flop-buster, making less dosh than the much worse Jumper and 10,000 BC. And this friday see’s the US release of The Chronicles Of Narnia: Prince Caspian, which will only aid in Speed Racer’s hasty exit from a big screen near you. Which is a shame, because should you catch this movie a few years from now, it really will be one of those you’re gonna look at and say “I really wish I’d caught this in the cinema.”

And speaking of Prince Caspian, it may actually be the quietest Most Expensive Movie Ever, with whispers of extensive re-shoots and troubled CGI processing, as well as the over-active promotional tours, allegedly pushing it passed Spiderman 3‘s record busting $258 million budget, although no-one at New Line or Walden will make an official comment on its exact cost. All this just to make sure the sequel makes enough money in the 5 days it has before Indy 4 gets its release. Otherwise, thats it for Narnia for now.

And, whisper now, does anyone else expect Prince Caspian to be the second flop-buster of the summer? Yeah, us too. Ssssh. Move along…..

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2 responses to “Why Did Speed Racer Crash?

  1. This is a pretty interesting case. Speed has a huge cult following here in the States, but somehow the marketing of this film failed to bring these people out to the theaters. I haven’t seen the film yet, but it seems to me that the trailers failed to capture and convey what made the cartoon a hit.

    In short I want to call this a marketing flop.

  2. The Wachowski bros certainly put a lot of effort into making Speed Racer… the movie overall looked and felt like a cross between anime, a kaleidoscope, that Flintstones movie, a video game and the Dukes of Hazard

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