Friday, July 10, 2015

éX-Driver: The Movie

"Hey, Erik," you're asking, "didn't you just do a blog post about éX-Driver, like, two days ago?"

"Why yes," I'm replying, "I did.  In fact, it was exactly two days ago, so you didn't need to say 'like.'"

"Wow," you're now thinking, "way to take my innocent question and turn into a royal jerk about it."

"Well," I reply, having the uncanny ability to read your mind, "I have a good reason.  It's because we're discussing this, and having rewatched it, I'm in a pretty foul mood."

Have you ever really loved something that was a piece of fiction crafted into a book, movie, TV series, or animated series?

No, I'm not so presumptuous as to simply asked "have you ever loved something," because I may love this series, but I'm not going to imply that it's as powerful a love as, say, true love.  I'm not going to marry a TV show or movie.  That would be silly.

But have you ever had a story you really loved?  Maybe you used to eat, breathe, and dream about Star Wars.  Maybe you just really love a particular Disney movie because it was a big part of your childhood.  Maybe you really, really love the movie Forrest Gump, because you were present at some of those big moments in history, and feel like the movie is really telling YOUR story.

Then, have you ever really loved something, just to have something come along later and taint the whole experience?  Maybe it's commentaries about sand,  Maybe it's those lovable dalmatians suddenly gaining magic powers.  Maybe it's the fact that Forrest was riding in the white Bronco with OJ Simpson.and invented New Coke.

Sure, you can ignore it, but you know it exists, and anybody else who comes upon it will undoubtedly make you remember it exists.  After all, the part you love is no longer a whole unto itself, it's part of something larger.  Something larger that now has a tumorous growth upon it that weighs the whole thing down and everybody tries to avoid talking about.

That's what this movie is.  This movie is a growth upon éX-Driver that I can constantly pretend doesn't exist, but I will know within my heart that it does.

So just what makes this movie so terrible?  Well, here's the plot.

Apparently, each year there's a race between the best of the best  éX-Drivers from around the world.  This year, in Santa Monica, famous drivers once again get together to show off their driving ability and their cars that make it possible.

After helping to stop a runaway car with a strange blond girl in it, the lead characters are promptly arrested for "driving cars with a steering wheel on the left side" and forced to spend the night in prison.  I'll point out that this is apparently illegal despite the fact that 99.99999% of cars on the road no longer have steering wheels.

Then, on the way out from the station, one of the lead girls (who, remember, is still in school) gets molested.  By a cop.

So yeah, that happens.  Then he insults her by saying that now his hand "stinks."  Japan, I don't know what your problem is, but you need to stop that.

Where was I?  Oh, right, at the race, the team is introduced to the man founding the American team (both of the drivers of said team are blond haired and blue-eyed), a former mafioso who won't stop talking about pasta all the time.  It turns out that it was his daughter the kids saved the previous night, and at a dinner to thank them (pasta being served, of course), Lisa (my favorite character) gets upset because the daughter is twelve and has breasts bigger than hers.

The girl, Angela, is attempting to sabotage the race, and after a minor kidnapping with Souichi that pretty much leads nowhere, it turns out she believes her father is caught up in a massive gambling ring involved with the éX-Driver race.  There's also a hidden bad guy lurking in the shadows, hoping to take down his enemies and make off with a massive payday.

Oh, and Lisa gets molested again.  By the same cop.

Thanks, Japan, for keeping it classy.

The whole movie ends with Angela captured on board a massive truck as the bad guy attempts to escape to safety, and the collective group of éX-Drivers from around the world work together to stop him.

This COULD be a great story line (save for the gropings) save for a boat load of issues.

First, all of the characters behave like idiots and stereotypes.  The Chinese businessman funding his own team does karate chops at empty air between every sentence as a means of "calming down."  He's also called "Peking Duck" by the mafioso.  The Italian-American won't shut up about pasta.  The black people all have huge lips.  I could probably have just opened with that last one and left it at that.

The CG work in the movie is extremely dated, and it shows the time that it was create- actually, no, the CG work looks even older.  The movie was released in 2002, and the CG looks like it came out of the 90's.

The characters are flat, the action is okay at times, but the series really built up the impressive driving capabilities of the drivers, where the movie tends to ignore it for the larger over-reaching plot.

It's an atrocious movie, and I really don't think there's anything on this DVD that can redeem it.

Seriously, it's that bad.  Nothing can make this DVD worth keeping.

...well, unless you count the Nina & Rei Danger Zone! special that's on here.

Taking place before the main series when Nina (later the dispatcher for the main cast) and Rei (the over-sexed one from Episode four) dealing with two plots.  One is a stalker obsessed with Nina and a penchant for remote-control model cars (putting me in mind of one of my favorite car chases), and the shadowy figure providing the stalker with equipment in order to keep the two drivers busy while darker plots occur in the shadows.

Nina and Rei are both dynamic characters here, and seeing how they were young compared to when they were more mature (well, by a few years, anyway) is really apparent.  Rei is a skilled mechanic, able to do everything from installing boosters into car engines to building her own foam-firing shotgun.  Nina is probably the more skilled driver of the two, but also softer, less headstrong.  They're very much early versions of Lisa and Lorna from the main series.

The plot is actually pretty clever, with a smart, calculated opponent manipulating a psychopath into keeping Nina and Rei busy while his own plan takes shape.  The final confrontation at an airport is pretty slick and well done, since it involves a race between a plane, Nina and Rei, and an AI-controlled Hummer packed with explosives.

Considering how Rei was portrayed in the series, it's rather surprising that the series spends most of its "adult" focus on Nina, with the stalker contacting her when she steps out of the shower and having a massive collection of "memorabilia" of her.

If this short was the only thing on the DVD, it'd be great.  If this short was lengthened to a full-length movie and the other one was erased from the DVD, it'd be my favorite part of the whole franchise.

As it is, it's one small beacon of light mired in a mess of perversion, stereotypes, and bad plot.

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