I don’t think I have ever been as conflicted about a franchise as I am about the Fast and Furious franchise. With the trailer for the newest entry released, I am still divided as ever. What I do know is, Fast & Furious has mastered the art of giving no fucks, literally zero.
You think driving sports cars off a mountain is ridiculous? well wait till we fly a car between buildings, Can’t get more insane than that right? WRONG. Now we’re going to blow up submarines with our cars….IN THE ARCTIC! Do we care that our characters are basically caricatures composed of cheesy one liners and over the shoulder turns? Do we care that each film is filled with Deus Ex Machina and plot armour that makes everyone more invulnerable than Superman? YOU BET YOUR ASS, WE DON’T!
Let’s take a look at the general trajectory of the franchise:
First movie: it’s Paul Walker vs. the Fast Family
Second Movie: it’s the Fast Family minus Diesel (yeah not as fun)
Third movie: Let’s make a spinoff, that we will later use to alter the timeline so we can bring back the one character you really liked plus give a tacked on origin story for a villain we will later use.
Fourth movie: A hesitant Paul Walker teams up with a hesitant Diesel to defeat a common enemy
Fifth movie: Walker and Diesel are back to being bros, but now it’s the Family vs. THE ROCK
Sixth movie: The Rock becomes part of the Family! But wait, former Family member Michelle Rodriguez is back from the dead, and she’s not here for a Family reunion.
Seventh Movie: Ok now the Family’s all together for real, Rodriguez included. But now they have to face off against the big bad Jason Statham.
Eighth movie: Diesel goes rogue. But it looks like the family has a new member: he’s bald, British, and just so happens to be the bad guy from the last freaking movie!
Ninth Movie: The Family take it to the new frontier…. OUTER SPACE, to stop a terrorist from blowing up the moon.
Tenth Movie: Vin Diesel must go back in time to fix save the world from the biggest threat yet…Himself
Okay…maybe I made the last two up but within the realm of the franchise, it really isn’t that far of a stretch.
This may sound like criticism but really its a testament to the franchise’s ability to find a perfect zone between the campiness of early 80s action films and full on action erotica. Through trial and error, they have found an identity, its not one that will see it winning any Oscars any time soon but it is one that attracts a faithful audience. It is a mark of franchise that in discovering its identity has found a level confidence that says to the world “This is what I am, You can love it or hate it, but regardless I’m still coming”
This bravado has brought us here, where the franchise can basically recycle its plot from two movies ago but now has enough cache to bring in Charlize “accomplished actor / Oscar winner” Theron and Kurt Russell. This is the definition of “popcorn flick”, the rallying cry of the “turn off your brain” / film as pure entertainment contingent. I have mass concerns over the state of original cinema in the face of these tentpole blockbusters but give credit where credit is due, they have captured the attention of the general population to the tune of billions worldwide and mastered the art of “mindless” entertainment. Not bad for a couple of street racers who started out in smuggled VCRs. Not bad at all.