Need for Speed is a slow ride
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By Linda Wu, Published: March 19, 2014
Need for Speed is based off the EA racing game franchise, Need for Speed. It stars Aaron Paul, fresh off his acclaimed role as Jesse Pinkman in Breaking Bad, as the movie’s protagonist and hero, Toby Marshall. Dominic Cooper, who recently played Ian Fleming in the BBC America miniseries Fleming: The Man Who Would Be Bond, is Dino Brewster, the movie’s antagonist. Imogen Poots and Michael Keaton round out the cast as Julia Maddon and the Monarch, respectively.
The main issue with Need for Speed is that it’s a movie based on a video game franchise that basically had no plot other than racing. As a result the movie is forced to blend the racing aspect along with having to make up a story to accompany the racing. The end product is a film that relies heavily on cliches, is packed full of one dimensional characters with no backstory or development, and gaping plot holes that become more and more evident as the movie shifts gears from character interactions to the racing.
The plot focuses on the rivalry between Toby Marshall and Dino Brewster and the De Leon, which is essentially the world series of street racing. However, the movie fails to provide any backstory to the rivalry, so the viewer is left questioning why this rivalry even exists. Another glaring issue is the De Leon, which seems to be a race with no monetary prize and a high risk of arrest or death, bringing forth the question “Why on earth would anyone enter this race? And why on earth does it take place every year?” Sadly, those are questions to which you will never receive an answer because the movie pretty much wraps up with the end of the De Leon race.
What the movie lacks in plot it doesn’t make up for in character development. Dino Brewster is as one-note and one-dimensional a villain as possible. His only motivation seems to be his desire to win over Toby Marshall, who doesn’t physically or verbally attack him at all until Dino attacks first, and as a result he is willing to resort to the dirtiest tactics possible. Julia Maddon is basically a damsel in distress. Yes, she can drive, but not only she does spend several minutes screaming and mistrusting Marshall, she also winds up needing Marshall to step in as her knight in shining armor. Not to mention she suddenly throws everything away and becomes a fugitive-aiding accomplice on the run midway through the movie. Marshall’s gang’s only purpose is to serve as comic relief, and as a result, even less is known about them. Toby Marshall is perhaps the most fleshed out character in the whole movie, with at least some backstory provided, mostly to gain the viewer’s sympathy and support.
That’s not to say Need for Speed is the worst video game to movie adaptation there ever was. It may be a heavily flawed movie, but it has its redeeming qualities. It’s packed full of blood-pumping action sequences, all of which are done with practical effects instead of CGI, making for some very realistic car stunts. There is good chemistry amongst the cast, which helps imbue the banter between the members of Marshall’s crew with a sense of real camaraderie and friendship, helping to flesh out the one-dimensional relationships amongst the crew. Last but not least, there is Aaron Paul, who does his best with what he is given, to bring Toby Marshall, who is by all means a paper cut out, to life. He is by far the star of the show, but he even he can’t compensate for the imperfect script.
All in all, Need for Speed is pretty mediocre. It’s great if, for a few hours, you want to just relax and watch some awesome car chases and explosions. If you do choose to go see the film, avoid the 3D. The movie was converted to 3D in post production, and as a result the movie is pretty bereft of any actual 3D.