A few weeks ago HBO GO sent an e-mail to all of its subscribers that another installment of the Fast & Furious series would soon be available for their viewing pleasure:
I was pumped. Not “get drunk and watch Pacific Rim” pumped, or “get obliterated and watch Pain and Gain” pumped, but better pumped.
So why am I excited for a movie where there’s car fu?
Because, bro, it’s automobile acrobatics mixed with threadbare plot. It is essentially a movie for people with short attention spans who don’t want to think, don’t care about story, who want to see high-octane, badass shit happen.
This is why we have genres, and this is also why I would never ask The Fast and the Furious to reach the same emotional levels of The Green Mile, nor to be as clever as The Usual Suspects.
For what it is worth the franchise has evolved. It started as Point Break with Cars.
There are five sequels to this
animated gif movie. I have only ever watched three of these:
- The Fast and Furious – the first (2001)
- Five Furious – the fifth (2011)
- Furious 6 – the sixth (2013)
This “defense(-ish)” article is like me reviewing George RR Martin’s Game of Thrones but only having read A Feast for Crows and The Song of Swords.
But why do I have to defend it at all? Better question; who do I have to defend it from?
The answer is two-pronged:
The first is from people like me who yearn to work in the industry see movies like this get made, and then piss and moan about how I could do better, as if I had any concept or credibility on the matter.
The second is from the people who know the series, think it’s dumb, and immediately dismiss it. It is the de rigueur and (often) impulsive reaction to say, “Oh that looks awful.”
I was on an avión several years back and with really no other options I watched Fast Five, which required no previous knowledge of the other movies to understand.
Or if I did, I definitely didn’t catch it.
The fifth movie basically takes everything you know about the Fast & Furious and reinvents it, breathing new air into the sails. Although I expected to roll my eyes (which is knee-jerk at this point) this marked the series change up from being Underground Racing Movie to something more akin to Ocean’s 11-meets-The Expendables.
And boy was it fun. Just plain dumb fun.
The premise is that all of the cast from the rest of the previous movies teams up to steal a Big Ass Safe from The Antagonist. They are “off the grid, bro,” and are relentlessly pursued by Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson.
There was a constant need to evade, outmaneuver, and pursue. Conflicts were many and taken seriously: How do we bypass the hand scanner, or avoid the security cameras? Once we get the Big Ass Safe, how the hell do we transport it?
Nobody ever questioned how the hell Kevin MaCallister became an expert at setting up traps, so no one questions here how the gang gets stuff done here. We accept it and go along for the ride.
Fast 5 Furious really made me rethink about the entire franchise. I’ve spoken before about playing with tropes and how movies can either play something straight and serious or they can play as though everyone knows that they’re in a movie so, hell, let’s muck about on set and improvise.
But what Fa5t 5 did was play everything perfectly straight. It Hand Waved everything else that wasn’t important. The pacing was kinetic and frantic.
Furious 6 continues the formula, never stopping to smell the roses. It fears that if you look away for too long you might lose interest, so it makes everything as over the top as possible.
To shift gears, (ha) how do our heroes save the day? They do so with their impeccable driving skills, shooting skills, and amazingly good luck. These people are impervious to pain.
Seriously, they are — they roll at least 30 cars between them from movie to movie, with nary a scratch.
The plot of Furious 6 (rather, MacGuffin) is secondary; instead it’s all about impressive set pieces, putting cars where they shouldn’t be (phrasing), and unapologetically destroying physics.
If I were a physics teacher I suppose I would be a little impressed with the Final Act airplane stunt:
We know it’s bullshit, but goddamn if it isn’t just a ton of wacky, stupid, mindless fun.
The 6th installment takes itself a little too seriously compared to its 2011 predecessor. I chalk that up to the franchise’s obsession to bring characters back from the dead and get a little too self-referential. The Saw franchise did this a lot too, and I could never figure out why. No one is going to remember the flag waver from that one scene in the fourth movie, so movies should stop going out of their way to try to connect all of the dots into a neat little package. It never works and it only complicates the narrative.
There was a lot of overlooked potential in Furious 6, which makes Fast 5: The Furiouser much better. The set pieces in 6 were a lot bigger and badass, but the fun part seemed to be missing in 6, save for Tyrese Gibson doing his best impression of Jar Jar Binks. There’s this overlooked genius of how Dom’s Group and The Antagonist’s group all are mirror images of one another, but this is never played with. The Antagonist and his ragtag group also didn’t leave much of an impact, despite how many people they killed.
This is a defense, yes, but if the Furious films are going to evolve at the birthrate of new Skittle flavors then there need to be some ground rules, like the ones already set: Innocent people run out of the way, a police car is only officially disabled when the siren slows down, and no policemen in those vehicles ever die from all of the crashes.
The killing in Furious 6 left a bad taste in my mouth. It seemed weirdly out of place for the Furious series, (again, this isn’t Saw).
Perhaps it is my old age that makes me not-ok with this. After all, I hardly play Grand Theft Auto the same way that the people these movies are aimed at would.
Although our main characters in Furiou6 care deeply about one another, no one is screaming “No!” when this tank flattens, crashes, or blows up all of these cars. Maybe this is the Editor’s Fault, or maybe they never shot reaction shots, but what results is the main characters look…kind of like assholes. They do try to take some attention off the civilians, but by that point so much damage has been done.
Smokey and the Bandit and Cannonball Run were all about smashing cop cars and crazy stunts, but none of these movies ever killed anyone.
Did you think that airplane from the gif 30 minutes ago had no pilots?
There is severe dissonance in putting Serious Vin Diesel and Slaughtered Lambs back to back. There can be fun without having all of the murder. Having both is weird.
Paul Walker death in November of last year will not stop him from being in the next installment, then having his character retired, but the series will still go on. Now that Jason-The Transporter-Statham has joined the cast you can expect things to get a lot more F8th & Fur10us .
If the franchise wants to keep evolving and getting better here is what I would suggest it should do:
- Turn the Good Luck around: The good guys always tend to improvise and, through sheer good luck save the day with their plan going off without a hitch. What happens when you turn the tables and every step of the plan goes horribly awry? Mission Impossible 4 did this, and the result was actually a solid, decent movie. More conflict. More improvisation. Smarter writing. Scott Thompson!
- Subvert all expectations: Take what we know and what we’ve come to expect and FLIP MY FRANCHISE. Vin Diesel in the Oscar Meyer truck chases Statham in a Snowcat. On the moon. Pursued by The Rock on the Jade Rabbit.
- Cast Tom Hardy as Paul Walker’s kid all-grow’d up: Or Cillian Murphy. Or Jason Ritter. Or James Marsden. They all are typically referenced for their eyes. You want to make the movie about the next generation of Torettos and O’Conners? There’s your list. You’re welcome. Now pay me.
- Reboot it in the 1920’s, have Baz Lurhmann direct: Did no one think the car shots in Great Gatsby were awesome? Were they not?
These cars can get souped up quite delightfully, chaps, and indeed you’d have naught a thing to do with those fancy computer-doohickeys and internet-what’s it’s in 1925. Why, this period in time eliminates all of the pseudo tech jargon. Any sort of work or set up would need to be meticulously planned without fanciful technology.
Why they’d be like savages they would!
- If you’re going to have a top-tier cast make sure they can be there: There are a lot of cast members to juggle with The Expendables 4: Fasterly & Furiously. It would be in the franchise’s best interest to have them on the same set at the same time. Otherwise you get weird-ass shots like this…
Plain dumb fun is great, but it can always aim to be better.
That’s all for now, folks. TL;DR. Until next time.
Edit: Since P.D. Montgomery never used fucking tags I didn’t even realize this existed on our blog. Here’s a pingback, ya jerk.