Apple TV Plus and JJ Abrams to reboot huge movie flop for new series

Speed Racer
(Image credit: Warner Bros)

A new live-action reboot of Speed Racer is on the way from Apple TV Plus. 

According to Variety, Apple is teaming up with JJ Abrams to produce the new show, which has reportedly been in development for some time. 

Speed Racer began its life as a manga series in 1966 under the name Mach GoGoGo, which was then taken to Japanese television in the following year and syndicated to the US under the name Speed Racer. 

The manga and the subsequent series followed a teenager named Speed Racer and his desire to compete and win the vicious Casa Cristo 5000 race in his beloved car, the Mach 5. In his pursuit, he's aided by his father, Pops Racer, a brilliant mechanic, his little brother Spritle and girlfriend Trixie. As he tries to win the Casa Cristo 5000, he constantly faces down the mysterious Racer X, who he may or may not have a personal connection too.

Abrams will executive produce the show, with Ron Fitzgerald and Hiram Martinez on board to act as showrunners. 

Speed Racer has been adapted twice in recent times. In 1997, a new take on the story aired on TV Tokyo, while an English adaptation named Speed Racer X aired on Nickelodeon. That ran for 34 episodes before, in 2008, Speed Racer made its big screen debut thanks to Warner Bros. That did not go well.

Was it a flop?

A big one. 

The movie was written and directed by The Wachowskis. It was the pair's first time directing since the completion of The Matrix trilogy and, as with everything the duo have done since, it had a giant budget. 

The movie cost $120 million to make, not including marketing costs and had a starry cast that included Emile Hirsch, Susan Sarandon and Christina Ricci. Additionally, it was shot entirely against green screen, which The Wachowskisstated would enable them to give the footage the appearance of real-life anime. However, it was panned by critics and failed to attract an audience when it hit movie theaters in early 2008, only scraping $93 million, and costing Warner Bros. a substantial financial hit.

Analysis: Why are Apple trying again with Speed Racer?

According to Deadline, Apple and Abrams are disavowing The Wachowskis' movie and looking to go back to the source material for a live-action take on the original manga series, but that will still be costly. 

This is a bit of a new play for Apple. Thus far this year, their roster has been weighty dramas like The Essex Serpent and Slow Horses. And, while they produce their fair share of sci-fi projects, with a second season of hit fantastical drama Foundation, plus more entries in its highly-acclaimed Severance TV series, on the way, such productions have tended to be more on the cerebral end. 

Speed Racer, with its day-glo comic book origins, promises to be a bright, spectacular action offering, and it could well be that this is a play to attract younger viewers, as well as fans of manga and anime, of which there are a great many. We'll have to wait and see. 

Tom Goodwyn
Freelance Entertainment Writer

Tom Goodwyn was formerly TechRadar's Senior Entertainment Editor. He's now a freelancer writing about TV shows, documentaries and movies across streaming services, theaters and beyond. Based in East London, he loves nothing more than spending all day in a movie theater, well, he did before he had two small children…