Newest “Fast & Furious” is a mindless joyride
The Santa Clara
April 20, 2017
America’s favorite street-racers are back. Again. For the eighth time. Because there aren’t enough testosterone-filled explosions out there.
In the latest installment of the “Fast & Furious” franchise, the crew is trying their hand as globe-trotting spies reeling after the betrayal of their leader. Under the manipulation of super-hacker genius, Cypher (Charlize Theron), Dom Toretto (Vin Diesel) turns his back on his friends—sorry, his family—in a plot to steal a Russian submarine carrying nukes.
“The Fate of the Furious” took in an estimated $532.5 million globally over opening weekend, beating out “The Force Awakens” for the worldwide debut record. However, the film’s U.S earnings went down, opening at a $100.2 million compared to the $147.2 million debut of “Furious 7.”
Despite lower domestic numbers, audiences are clearly still feeling the need for speed. The triumph of the franchise has left many wondering what the key is to its success. After all, action flicks featuring muscled men in formfitting wife beaters threatening to beat each other up rarely have such mass appeal.
However, the series has an extra turbo setting revving up its engine: diversity.
There’s been a lot of criticism over whitewashing and lack of representation in Hollywood recently. But amidst this, the Fast & Furious crew show a surprising and organic cultural richness. From its list of directors (most recently, “Straight Outta Compton’s” F. Gary Gray) to the soundtrack’s Latin jams, this movie series speaks to cultures rarely showcased in blockbusters. In turn, those audiences have gone out in droves to support the series. Even those who aren’t action enthusiasts are still fans partly because it has an earnest charm that goes beyond car chases.
The running theme of family likewise appeals to people of all ages, but in this film the theme of brotherhood is subverted as Dom goes to the darkside. It’s a plot point that on paper aligns with Dom’s values once it’s revealed why he betrays them, but it makes for frustrating instances of miscommunication.
Dom’s proclamation of “I don’t have friends, I have family” has become a running joke because it’s a statement that gets at the heart of the story, but because of the physical separation between Dom and his crew, the film struggles to find its sense of community.
On top of this plothole is the reality of the Paul Walker-sized hole created after his tragic passing. His hypnotic baby blues were the emotional backbone of the series and actually pulled some human emotion out of Diesel’s monotone delivery. Without him, even Michelle Rodriguez’s Letty fails to be Diesel’s moral compass.
That being said, the film does a good job of acknowledging his character without letting his death wash over the whole film.
Still, it’s Walker’s absence that makes it abundantly clear Diesel is no longer fueling the engine— the “Fast & Furious” motor seems to be running on Rock now. This latest film has hit its stride in finding lightness and humor and the Rock seems to be the go-to joke machine. The focus on his and Jason Statham’s character would bring into question the future of Diesel’s involvement in the series (especially after the ending) were it not already confirmed he’s signed up for two more sequels.
As for Theron’s villain, she’s about as vague and pointless as Dr. Evil trying to scam a million dollars. Charlize Theron’s believability as a sociopath remains untapped, as she’s largely confined to trite monologues about choice. It’s quite disappointing for a series with typically great villains and strong female characters.
So the film is not free of flaws and the reviews reflect that. But, also, who cares?
“The Fate of the Furious” is meant to be a fun joyride, no pesky laws of physics required. This is a series that knows it’s ridiculous and knows that all it needs to satisfy its fans is to follow a high-stakes action scene with a solemn diatribe about family. And on that front, they always deliver.
Anyone claiming the franchise is losing momentum needs to check their speedometer. These claims have been made once before, after “Tokyo Drift” tried—and failed—a noir rebranding without the original cast.
But ever since Justin Lin brought his unique directorial style to the franchise and saved it from the junkyard with “Fast and Furious 6,” it’s been a powerhouse. The next two installments are already on the Universal release schedule for 2019 and 2021.
It doesn’t really matter that the reviews weren’t as great as last time. As long as the films keep pulling in diverse, global audiences, the series will live on to destroy flashy cars in exceedingly exotic locales. So far it’s still fast, it’s still furious and its fate is solidly kicked into high gear.
Contact Perla Luna at pluna@scu. edu or call (408) 554-4852.