Race (2007) – By Duane L. Martin

Ok, I’m going to start this with a description of the film taken from Hyper Image’s press release, and I’ll explain why after.

Forced from the controls after a horrific crash, former driver, Potter, has returned as a team manager with a burning desire to win without the dubious agendas of corporate sponsorship. Relying on his levelheaded mechanic, Stash, and trying to keep his reckless driver, Trance, under control, Potter had the odds stacked against him.

If that weren’t difficult enough, brewing beneath the surface is danger of an even more lethal kind. Lord Helter, the charismatic leader of Planet Tagmatia, is surreptitiously assembling allies in a bloodthirsty scheme to decimate the peacekeeping planetary Alliance.

When Team Earth stumbles on Helter’s plan, they become caught up in a cat and mouse game as they fight to keep their hopes – and themselves – alive. In the end, the Finals become a mach speed backdrop for a deadly showdown , with the fate of the universe hanging in the balance.
Now, I’ll add a bit of my own description to that.

The Star Car race itself is an anual event to determine which faction / race will control the jump gates that are spread throughout the galaxy. Two aliens from an alternate dimension have entered into the picture though. One is helping Team Earth in an effort to stop Lord Helter from gaining control of the jump gates, because Lord Helter is helping the evil alien to find the lost jumpgate, which she plans to use to bring her kind across into our dimension, where they will wreak limitless amounts of death and destruction.

Now, why did I use a large chunk of the description from the description from the press release? Some people might call that lazy, but I do have a reason for it in this instance. Mostly, it has to do with the fact that this is a sci-fi film, and as such, has numerous, less than common names and terms, some of which were hard to remember after one viewing. Also, there’s a lot going on in this film, and I wanted to make sure that the description touched on most of it.

Now, that said, here’s the review part, which is 100% from me…

This film was in production for a seriously long time. The studio that created this film, Hyper Image, had just finished production on Roughnecks: The Starship Trooper Chronicles for Sony, when they decided to do their own project in house. Unfortunately, their funding dropped, and they basically had to fit production of this film in between their other paying projects. That created staffing issues, delays and more issues that had to be overcome to bring this film to life. It’s really sort of amazing that they were able to complete it at all with so much stacked against them. Their determination is to be admired. Seven years later, the film finally saw the light of day as it made its debut at various film festivals.

Now, as for the film itself, this is a CGI film. As such, there are two key elements aside from the story itself that really determine the quality of the experience. First is the look of the CGI. Now many people might look at the CGI in this film and think, "Man, that looks kinda old school," and they’d be right. It does look kind of old school, but that’s because the project was started way back in 2000, so you have to expect that kind of a look. I’ll tell you right now though, the look of the film, when taken for what it is, isn’t bad at all. In fact, when you think about how much it takes to actually create and animate every little element and detail, it’s really pretty amazing what they did with it. No it’s not Pixar, but it is good, and the next element I’m going to talk about really brings the experience home – the voice acting.

The quality of the voice acting in this film was quite good, though I kept having this nagging feeling in my brain that the voice of Potter, which was done by Wheaton James, sounded an awful lot like Samuel L. Jackson in a subtle way. The whole cast did a great job voicing their characters, but another particular stand out for me was Kevin Lewis as Lord Helter. He had sort of a pleasant lilt to his voicing that belied the cruelty and evil that lay beneath. I always admire people who do voice work, because you have to bring to life an animated character and give it personality. That can be a difficult thing to do, especially when all you have to work with is a script and voiceless character animations.

The story itself is well laid out, though it can be a bit confusing at first trying to piece it all together. As the film progresses however and you become more familiar with who’s who, what’s going on, etc…, it all pulls together into one coherent story. I would however recommend watching the film more than once, for the reason I stated above. Sometimes, names and terminology can kind of become a jumble when they’re unfamiliar. The second time you watch it, you’ll have a full grasp of everything that’s happening, so you won’t have to concentrate so hard on remembering stuff and piecing things together and you can actually just relax and enjoy the film.

The race scenes and other action sequences in the film are exciting and really well done and quite exciting. It was nice to see the heroes struggling with car problems and such, as it created more of an intensity when they were in the heat of a race. There was a battle scene around a jump gate as well that was also very involved and exciting, with large numbers of ships and robots flying around attacking each other. Scenes like that are very difficult and time consuming to put together, but the folks at Hyper Image didn’t skimp on the action. I think the only place I could really ding it on any of the action was the fight between the two dimensional aliens at the end. While it was creative, with one of them turning into a really bizarre creature, the action felt rather klunky. Aside from that however, everything was really well done.

This film is generally geared toward the PG-13 crowd simply because there are scantily clad, non-nude alien women, etc…, but there’s really nothing in the realm of bad language or anything. I personally wouldn’t have any problem popping this in for any age kid, and the best part is, adults will enjoy it too.

For those who have been spoiled by Pixar type CGI films, don’t be too quick to dismiss this one. Race is a fun film with great characters and an engaging story that is sure to entertain.

If you’d like to find out more about this film, you can check out the film’s website at http://www.racethemovie.net.