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How fast can you solve a Rubik’s Cube? For first-timers it can take up to an hour to complete a single cube, but once you’ve got the hang of it you can probably complete a single cube in around two to three minutes. Think that’s pretty good? Well it may be a bit disheartening to find out that the Rubik's Cube World Record average is 5.69 seconds! So what kind of person puts that much time and effort into solving a cube? Netflix’s ‘The Speed Cubers’ aims to give us some insight into the people who take part in the competitive world of speed cubing.
The story centres on Feliks Zemdegs and Max Park. Hailing from Australia, Feliks emerged as the first true hero of the sport around 10 years ago; he was setting records and then breaking his own records. Feliks is an icon of the sport, now in his early 20s and contemplating life after speedcubing. Max, an American of Korean descent, is the teen challenger who has swept in and seized the mantle. The new champion idolises the master and rather than resent having to pass the torch, the latter treats his newfound competitor with deep kindness and respect.
For Max, who has autism, speedcubing is more than just a game. His parents originally introduced him to cubing as a way to help hone his fine motor skills, and as he began to enter competitions, it became a way of developing his social skills, too. Feliks is clearly an idol for Max – Max’s father recalls that Feliks was the first person Max ever asked for an autograph – and as they keep meeting on the cubing circuit, they become friends. The more they get to know each other, the more nuanced their bond becomes. Their rivalry somehow always remains supportive rather than overly competitive, even as they wind up facing off again at the World Cube Association (WCA) World Championship.
Despite the sting of having Max blow past almost every cubing record he’s set, Feliks still texts Max after every win to congratulate him, and looks after him in person. When they’re all at dinner together, it’s Feliks who makes sure Max is eating his greens. While the show only runs for 40 minutes, it’s still able to paint a telling portrait of these young men by highlighting such unintentionally vulnerable moments. It makes their struggles with envy and disappointment all the more compelling, as those natural feelings butt up against the friendship they’ve built.
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